Translator: Charles K.
06:33 We drove from Shokat junction straight to Hebron to arrive on time to see the children walking to school.
A military vehicle waits at the fence near Kramim for people in Israel illegally who are clearly visible on the opposite hill.
We didn’t stop at the checkpoint because from a distance it appeared empty; only the last laborers were crossing.
Three buses transporting relatives of prisoners passed us going in the opposite direction.
A soldier at the Kvasim junction walks a kindergarten girl across the street.
Leah, who’d come from Jerusalem, joined us at the Kiryat Arba gas station. The military unit stationed at the Federman farm has been relieved; the new flags fly in the wind.
Curve 160 is full of military personnel.
We stood for about half an hour at the Pharmacy junction with the four foreigners who also observe the pupils crossing. One is a Palestinian Moslem who used to live on Mount Scopus and emigrated to the cold lands. While we were there a bus transporting settler pupils drove by, bearing a sign reading “In IDF service.”
Giv’ati soldiers man the Tarpa”t checkpoint. Since we didn’t recognize them by their caps we asked one of the soldiers which unit they belonged to. He was pleasant and replied, which greatly annoyed one of the other soldiers who’d just returned from a patrol, so when we returned that soldier stopped us and asked for our driver’s ID card but firmly refused to receive ours.
A convoy of water tankers was leaving Kiryat Arba to deliver water to the area around Hebron.
On our way back we saw an archaeological salvage excavation near the Ma’on settlement, and stopped. It turned out that there’s a “Greater Ma’on” outline plan, so the Civil Administration archaeology officer is undertaking a salvage excavation, the second one, about one kilometer above Ma’on. The archaeologist told us that the Tawwani excavation was also a salvage operation since there’s an outline plan for Tawwani as well. He said it had been developed jointly with the residents (do we know anything about that?). The excavation will continue for 10-14 days. The diggers are Palestinians with “settlement” work permits.
We promised to return next week to see the finds.
Translator: Charles K.
06:30 Most of the laborers at the Sansana checkpoint have already crossed to the Israeli side; dozens still wait for their rides. Next to the revolving gate we meet a CPT representative. He says about 4,000 people crossed this morning, without any unusual incidents. A short distance along Highway 60 we see a large sign by the roadside: “Welcome to Har Hebron – Come to visit, come to connect, come to stay.”
We turn onto Highway 317 and…”Fulfill your dreams in Sussiya,” flags of the homeland waving gently along the road in the morning breeze. The highway is empty, deserted, as is the little village of a-Taywwani. We stopped next to the “archaeological excavations” carried out about a year ago. We looked around – the excavations are fine! And the landowner, who wanted only to lay a water line in order to have flowing water at home was”granted” a dubious structure for his sheep. But water? Nope.
We wanted to accompany the children on their way to school but it was too early so we drove on to Hebron.
We passed the Carmel settlement where a sign proclaims “Carmel’s new neighborhood – 13 housing units;” construction is well-advanced. Just this morning Ha’aretz reported that the Americans gave their tacit consent to construction “only in the large blocs.” Is Carmel also in one of the “large blocs”?
We drive on. Poor villages line the road. A woman carries a pail of water on her head and holds a second in her hand, just like in the … 16th century… Along the road, before Zif junction, dozens of children walk to school.
The Ja’abari family built an additional house near the beginning of the Kiryat Arba –Hebron road. We hope it will stand a long time.
On the upper road past Beit Hameriva/Hashalom is a roadblock where some Palestinian cars whose drivers have crossing permits are allowed to stop, the driver may lift the roadblock, go through, then replace it without having to “bother” the soldiers guarding the house, and thus be able to use the road. But they’re only a chosen few. Most have to take a detour on a bumpy road restricted to Palestinians…
“There’s no limit to idiocy,” Yael says.
CPT women at the Pharmacy checkpoint tell us that Issa was arrested the day Obama met Abu Mazen and has been in jail since. They don’t know what happened to him. They also said children told them that in a booth at one of the crossings where they’re often stopped to have their schoolbags inspected there are photos of children on the wall and many times they’re asked to identify the children in the photos and asked their names. We promised to try and find out what’s going on. They also said that during 65 days, 45 children had been arrested! We later phoned a local acquaintance to find out where Issa is. It turns out he had been held for two days and then released without having been charged with anything.
We saw new signs at Tel Rumeida (only in Hebrew, of course) directing visitors “To the tombs of Yishai and Ruth – to Admot Yishai.”
There’s also a large new sign on Shuhadah Street (“King David Street,” according to Anat Cohen) at the corner of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood: “The ancient Jewish Quarter Avraham Avinu Synagogue.”
Translator: Charles K.
Southern Hebron Hills
We went through the Meitar checkpoint at 10:30, toward Umm Faqra on Highway 317 which is deserted. On the way we saw settlers hanging a very large sign at Carmel: The new neighborhood will be built here soon (for Obama’s visit?). The roads are empty all the way to Hebron.
Two serious incidents in Hebron, at the Cave of the Patriarchs checkpoint:
A settler throws coffee at a Palestinian and flees. The Palestinian starts chasing him, and in response to shouts from the settlers the soldiers chase the Palestinian and politely ask him to calm down. The Palestinian then approaches the soldier to explain what happened, the soldier apologizes, says he didn’t see the settler throwing coffee, and that’s why he simply tried to calm things down.
A settler in a white car sped past the checkpoint and hit a 4 year old Palestinian boy, injuring his right leg. We called the police; by the time they arrived (in 3-5 minutes) a paramedic had recommended an x-ray. The police officer handled matters politely and conscientiously; he contacted the Red Crescent to continue treatment.
Since no one had recorded the license number of the car the police will examine security camera recordings at the time of the incident to identify the vehicle’s owner.
‘Abed is worried about the difficult economic situation, and about Abu Mazen who isn’t looking out for his people, and about Hamas creating tensions.
Guests: Two tourists from the US accompanying Netanya
Translator: Charles K.
In photo: flying checkpoint in Dahariyya.
There are no more people crossing on foot when we drive away and vehicles cross quickly, without problems.
A flying checkpoint at Dahariyya – reservists, very strict, stopping almost every car – it’s not clear why. One man waits a very long time because he doesn’t have his ID with him. Annoying…
In general, almost no military vehicles.
Much less military presence than last week. Nor is anyone detained. The road on the worshipper’s route has been repaired.
Two occupation stories:
1. The carpenter living on the Tzion route (below Beit Hameriva) who wants a permit to bring his vehicle in (40 Palestinians already have such a permit) has been refused for more than a month…He asks us for help – Captain Amir puts him off, sends him hither and yon…He notices us next to Beit Hameriva and asks for our assistance – we gave him Chana’s phone number; we hope she can help him. His family and his pregnant wife who can barely descend the stairs down to their home past Beit Hameriva wait in the car…
2. A Border Police soldier in the parking lot opposite the Cave of the Patriarchs is “nice” to us until he realizes we’re a left wing organization, and stops talking to us. He also yells at an Arab tour guide from East Jerusalem with a blue ID card who wants to park next to ‘Abed’s shop – you’re an Arab; you can’t park here.
Apartheid and the occupation routine. One of the tourists who’s with us says, “it’s a ghost town”…and I have nothing left to say.
Translator: Charles K.
Three buses with relatives of prisoners, a new fence in the shed where Palestinian laborers wait on their way to the revolving gates and the fenced corridors that finally lead them to their work day in Israel. Rubbish fills the parking lot; a stench rises from the valley of Hebron’s stream; the bathrooms are in an acceptable condition. Never-ending earthworks move sand around. Five trucks in line ahead of us. One attractive Palestinian woman and a merchant are the only one’s crossing while we’re there – everyone says things were ok this morning. But one person again complains he’s been blacklisted by the Shabak and can’t earn a living.
There’s nothing new under the sun – no horror stories, just the terrible ugliness and the a-priori demonization.
Routes 60 and 317
Very few military vehicles. Many red signs warning against entering Area A. The cantonization system, inherited from South Africa, reducing the size of Area A, defining regions within it in order to expropriate all the rest… (that’s what happens under the influence of “the lords of the land”)
Five vehicles belonging to the Israel Electric Company are parked at the Kiryat Arba gas station for a briefing by DCO representatives before driving in a convoy to Hebron through the barrier at Giv’at Ha’Avot – they have a big job and “benefit” from military protection. We didn’t ask what the job was.
The army patrol leaves Beit HaMeriva. The remaining checkpoints are manned by the Border Police. A Palestinian near Beit HaMeriva tells us about difficulties organizing family reunifications between refugees in Jordan and Palestinian citizens. We asked him to call this evening to provide more details – we may be able to help.
The new apartheid fence next to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Again we show this town’s horrors under the “bloodless” occupation that has made all its residents almost indifferent…
The only remaining evidence of Friday’s large demonstration at the Beit Haggai checkpoint are the empty tin cans the soldiers left behind.
An ordinary day’s little horrors.
in the photos:
1. Israeli police detaining an israeli vehicle at the enterance to Yatta, in area A, where Israelis are prohibited to enter.
2. A new blockage (put only yesterday) on the way connecting the vineyard belonging to the settler Menachem Livni and Bani Na'im.
Translator: Charles K.
Southern Hebron Hills
We drove to Hebron on Highway 317 to meet a man from Yatta and give him a present from our northern colleagues and from me in honor of his son’s birth. He thanks us very much, feels uncomfortable: “Isn’t it enough that you help me; must you also give me a present?”
I tell him that I hope he’ll soon be able to support his family and won’t need our help, but for now we women understand what it’s like for someone who’s just given birth and ask him to buy whatever she and the baby need.
People tell us that the police enter Area A at Yatta, arresting and fining people, even though they’re not allowed to do so. We actually saw them, and asked the police officer whether they’re permitted. “Of course,” they say, “because we’re using a security vehicle; it’s armoured.” So they’re allowed, and anyway “stop bothering us and leave.” An ill five year old boy lies in the detained vehicle. The police officers say he’s ok, they talked and joked with him; he’s pretending to be very sick just because we’re here. We didn’t want to make trouble so we “bothered” them only a little more, and drove away hoping the situation would be quickly resolved. Someone should check with the Israeli police to determine whether they’re outside/above the law and permitted to enter Area A, like they’re allowed to park in a handicapped spot, etc.?!
Beni Na’im, Sa’ir, Kvasim junction, Dura al Fawwar
We drove to the area of the vineyard belonging to Menachem Livni, the settler, bordering the town of Bani Na’im. There’s in fact a new roadblock between them. “There were disturbances yesterday,” we’re told. We saw the rocks and debris left behind by the fury. We wanted to see whether there were any signs on Highway 60, particularly at the entrance to Sa’ir, of demonstrations during the funeral there yesterday of the prisoner who died in the Kishon jail. Other than the military presence at the Beit Anun junction and at the entrance to Sa’ir, all was quiet.
On the way back, at Kvasim junction and at the Dura al Fawwar junction the soldiers who came down from the pillbox appear to have been sent reinforcements. Reservists wander around.
Construction has resumed on Bassam’s roof – Amira Hass wrote about his suffering from the proximity to Beit Hameriva. Let’s home the hoodlum settlers let him be.
A small boy – 12 years old, we’re told – has been detained at Curve 160. The soldiers say he threw rocks. His mother and other adults were talking to the soldiers when we got there. After a discussion the boy is released; he and his mother walk to their home in the Jabel Johar neighborhood. People from TIPH are also there, writing down details of the incident. We tell them we’re afraid that the boy was released because of us, but that they’ll come arrest him at night. We gave them our phone numbers and asked to be notified if that happens.
Soldiers everywhere on Shuhadah Street. There are also police at the cemetery. A funeral is underway; the family “benefits” from a military and police escort. “Why?”, we ask. A veteran police officer whom we recognize tells us that the route is guarded during a funeral. The soldiers call it the Chicago route.
We continued along Shuhadah Street. Two soldiers at Gross Square stop us: “Are you allowed to drive here?”, they ask. “Aways,” we reply. “Why should today be any different?”
“It’s forbidden,” they say.
“And who are you?”, one of them asks, noticing M., our driver.
“I’m a human being,” he replies.
The super-motivated soldier wants to detain M. to check his identity. We inform him there’s no reason to detain or to check him and drive on, to his annoyance. He calls for us to stop; his cries echo in our ears. Someone apparently explained to him that he’d gone overboard. We were able to continue.
Soldiers as usual at all the checkpoints on Shuhadah Street and at Tel Rumeida.
Translator: Charles K.
Today we came via the Tarqumiya checkpoint.
All the laborers have crossed. Many fewer vehicles of all kinds parked here than at the Meitar crossing.
We met an old acquaintance at the grocery at the entrance to Idna on Highway 35. He lost his son, who was shot by our forces a few years ago on his way to harvest olives; he’s joined the organization of bereaved families. He’s older than 70 and isn’t permitted to enter Israel. When he travels to Jordan he’s detained for three hours in each direction and doesn’t understand why. A younger relative of his who attends the meetings told us they asked members of the group for help. I gave him Sylvia’s phone number; according to her, someone his age is entitled to appeal and it’s worth doing.
Two red signs have been erected on the road at the turn to Idna, reading: This road leads to a Palestinian locality. Entry by Israeli citizens is dangerous. That’s different from the version referring to the prohibition against entering Area A, which is illegal. Such signs have recently been erected all along Highway 60, at all the entrances to Palestinian localities. What’s the significance of the different wordings of the red signs? Who knows.
Another red sign very politely explaining the behavior of the soldiers at the checkpoint has been erected next to the regular sign at the turn to the humanitarian checkpoint on Highway 35 at one of the roads to Hebron.
The “Shimshon” brigade is stationed there now. Israeli flags fly so very festively all along Derech HaBanim. We weren’t able to discover the reason for the party.
Border Police soldiers at the checkpoint on the road next to the Cave of the Patriarchs plaza. A boy about ten years old carrying an electric saw passes by, going toward the Fayha girls school. One of the soldiers wants to detain him. The boy keeps walking, the soldier runs to stop him. “Why?,” we ask? The soldier radios for instructions. A second soldier explains they’re only checking something. Over the radio they’re told to let the boy go, but to keep an eye on him.
Thus it ends, this time. We have the impression our presence influenced the soldiers’ behavior.
A little boy on his way to help someone at work meets, as a daily routine, soldiers who can harm him for the sake of Israel’s security. The chronicle of occupation.
Translator: Charles K.
Our guest is a young theater person from the US travelling around Israel and the West Bank to record people and collect material for a play. As we cross the bridge over Highway 6 I point out the location of the Green Line, the 1967 border. A few hundred yards farther on we reach the turn to the Habla checkpoint, an agricultural gate open three times a week. What’s most annoying these days to people cultivating their land beyond the fence is that the gate opens very late in the afternoon when it’s already dark, and they’re forced to wait a long time after they’ve finished working in order to return home to Habla and Qalqilya.
12:45 Habla. While waiting for the gate to open, A. explains that all the surrounding lands belong to residents of Qalqilya and Azzun who must get special permits which are hard to obtainin order to reach their land. The separation fence has been built on part of their land, robbing them of a large area because it requires a strip 40-60 meters wide that cuts them off from their holdings. He mentions the village of A-Tira which had been in the Alfei Menashe enclave until the High Court ordered the fence route changed so it now adjoins their homes, cutting them off from some of their land. He believes both peoples have a right to their own country, but they also have the right not to be divided from one another.
13:00 Soldiers came to open the checkpoint. A woman from Habla and two young men from Qalqilya are waiting. One of the latter speaks a little Hebrew, explaining he works in the plant nurseries, arrives at 8 each morning, goes home in the afternoon. He earns NIS 70 a day, pays NIS 20 for transportation and NIS 10 for lunch, leaving him with NIS 40. He has no choice; even NIS 40 is more than he could earn in Qalqilya.
Little traffic in each direction, apparently because of the rain.
13:30 We continued toward Alfei Menashe; we showed our guest the new fence mentioned above that had been built so that Ras a-Tira would be located on the other side, and the big gates through which the villagers were supposed to cross, but they’re always shut (except, possibly, for a few days during the olive harvest season). Then, after briefly driving through Alfei Menashe, we reached Arab a-Ramadinto see whether the school is still standing. We saw the start of new construction, in addition to the three classrooms and teachers’ room. Because of the rain there was no one we could ask whether it was still in danger of being demolished.
14:00 Eliyahu checkpoint. No cars detained. They explained that the reason the checkpoint was placed here, a few kilometers from the border, was to take over Palestinian land and to make the residents of Alfei Menashe feel they’re in Israel.
Azzun: We visited Z., who was very glad for all we brought and was willing to be interviewed and tell his story. He had been strong and healthy and worked in construction until he was caught by the police without a permit to work in Israel; they beat him badly in the head and everywhere on his body even though he asked them to stop, that he’s not guilty of anything other than the need to work and support his wife and children. He was jailed for four months and despite his complaints wasn’t permitted to see a doctor. Since his released he’s been suffering from neurological problems that have prevented him from working. He’s been examined many times in Palestinian and Israeli hospitals but they haven’t yet discovered the cause of his illness. He also recounted the time that soldiers invaded his home, broke down the door to search for weapons and saw him trembling. When he explained that he wasn’t trembling out of fear, but because of illness, they told him that since he couldn’t work he was probably dealing in weapons. They came with dogs which frightened the children and defiled the refrigerator.
15:00 We drove to Jayyous to show the road passing under Highway 55, the main highway, on which Palestinians drive north to Tulkarm through all the villages.
We returned to Highway 55 heading east, then south via the settlement of Emanuel to Hars, the settlement of Ariel and the Za’tara/Tapuach junction. This time no soldiers were in position and traffic flowed freely.
16:00 Huwwara. Recently there have been reports that soldiers are stopping and inspecting cars heading toward Nablus. We saw no soldiers this time; cars went through in both directions without slowing. We explained how this large checkpoint far from the border with Israel, separating Nablus from the rest of the West Bank, once operated, forcing people to cross on foot after a long wait in congested lines, and how this “security requirement” that embittered the lives of thousands day after day for years suddenly, one day, simply vanished.
Translator: Charles K.
All the laborers have crossed. Four buses wait for relatives of prisoners.
Election posters for national-religious parties on every wall and fence in Hebron and all along the way.
Everything’s as usual. We visited the renovated neighborhood opposite the Cave of the Patriarchs (see photo on top, below), around which the apartheid fence is rising on behalf of the Worshippers route.
The houses are lovely, the alleys like those in Old Jaffa. The renovations were carried out by Spanish organizations. But this is area H2, which the Palestinian Authority doesn’t take care of and which the Civil Authority is, of course, neglecting. The stench of urine, garbage tossed everywhere and a feeling of no man’s land surrounding us. The sign reads “Grenada Plaza.” It could look like Grenada, but it doesn’t.
Routine at all the checkpoints. A calm soldier at Curve 160 talks with passers-by. A water pipe burst and they’re all waiting for someone to repair it. Many children carrying pails are on their way to the mosque to get their daily soup.
We were told about demolition of homes in the Southern Hebron Hills, so we drove there.
Southern Hebron Hills
We turned off Highway 356 to the area of Dir’at and from there to a place called Huwwara or, more exactly, “Sha’ab al Mr’ar.” Someone from Dir’at helped us find it. Many people standing around the well and building that were demolished this morning. A building demolished last week is nearby. A UN vehicle arrives a few minutes after us.
This is Area C, remember. People show us their applications for building permits. None were approved. Although it’s their land, it’s too close to the Ma’on settlement; P'nei Hever is visible from a distance.
Like their Jewish neighbors, they’re holding on to the land and trying to create something there, build one house, then another. But they’ll never receive building permits and the state of Israel will embitter their lives to establish more settlements.
“How can you live this way?” a man asks us.
“It’s the Israelis,” he says.
“We’re also Israeiis,” we say, “We came to support you and are ashamed of what our government does.”
“We’ll write about it,” we promise, “and about how strongly we oppose what’s happening here.”
“Thank you very much,” they say.
We also drove to the Ma’on area because they’d been told that the rubble had been brought there.
Many reservists and police at the entrance to the locality checking detainees and their vehicle. No, they didn’t see buildings demolished, they arrived later.
Shortly before we came they’d set up a flying checkpoint and stopped a vehicle and its passengers. They felt something was wrong and called the police to investigate. The reservists express understanding for what we’re doing.
“But I prefer that we’re here and do the job that someone has to do,” one of them says.
“You’re different from other soldiers,” I say.
“Certainly, I make sure to behave respectfully and fairly to those I have to inspect,” he replies.
“Why do you have to do it?,” we ask.
“We’re a democracy,” they say.
“Is this democratic?” I ask.
“We’re a country of laws,” they reply.
“We’re a country of laws, but what about justice and morality?” I ask.
They nod and say something about the difference between their personal opinions and their obligations as law-abiding citizens.
Will we have this endless, pointless argument again? No.
So we drove home.
Because of the weather we left Beersheva at 7:30, Meitar checkpoint saw just a few stragglers still crossing.
fairly quiet, a few trucks the odd private and army vehicle.
At the entrance to Kiryat Arba, (the settler's checkpoint) a hostile guard demands ID's and informs M that he won't let him pass because he is an Arab. M gives him a piece of his mind and after a cursory check of the vehicle the surprised guard slams the door hard and lets us go. We've rarely seen M lose his cool, but it was right on the mark this time.
deserted except for children making their way to school on foot in the rain. After an explanation that this demonstrates the lack of public transport and/or the prohibition of Palestinian vehicles in the city, several willingly pose for photographs (to be forwarded separately).
Opposite the upper entrance to the Worshippers' Alley, a platoon(?) of soldiers in full battle gear, several jeeps and an armed personnel carrier are hanging out. We brave the rain and cold to ask what occasion this marks and to our surprise the soldiers are all smiles and tell us that its an exercise and why aren't we staying indoors in the warm.
A small boy collecting sacks in a nearby store-room seems unperturbed by this military presence, until we ask after his well-being (n Arabic(, when the poor child becomes quite alarmed! The soldiers disperse and we continue our round of the ghost town, all the checkpoints are empty, except for the un-staffed blockades.
The flooded streets reported yesterday are now clear. We note that the separation fence near the Border Police post at the Machpela Cave which yesterday had an opening wide enough for a human being, a pram or a wheelchair, has now been closed with bright yellow blocks of concrete.
deserted, near the illegal outpost of Avigail there seems to be some building going on near the road. Beersheva is dry but cold. Home sweet home.