Identification Cards (ID)
freedom theatre in the jordan valley
jordan valley solidarity and freedom theatre bus building a school
Zaatara checkpoint - passengers taken off a bus on thier way home
The Freedom Bus (of the Freedom Theatre, Jenin) goes down to the Jordan Valley;
Don’t discard me when I get old – the elderly couple whose home was demolished on January 24th, 2013, what is happening with them now?
Dog trainers practicing at Tapuach Checkpoint – at the expense of Palestinians.
10:50, Tapuach Checkpoint – unmanned,
but two bored Border Policemen are busy sitting and eating at the roadside. On the hill overlooking the roundabout, a single soldier stands next to the watchtower.
11:10 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint- manned by 3 soldiers checking vehicles entering the Palestinian Jordan Valley.
11:35, Hamra Checkpoint – cars traveling in both directions are allowed through without passengers having to disembark for
inspection. The soldiers attempt to force us away from our usual (distant) spot, we insist on staying, they give in. Even when cars are not inspected, every car that arrives is required to stop about 50 meters before the checkpoint and await the soldier’s slight gesture signaling it to approach. How do the Palestinians know they must stop? There is no sign instructing them to do so. Just like the apartheid roads, here, too the instructions are kept unwritten, so as not to be photographed and seen publicly, but they are the law and woe to any who dares overlook them.
12:10, Gokhia Gate – a single soldier with lots of gear and five submachine guns pointing north, stands by the closed gate, waiting for his unit. When it arrives they will cross the gate east-bound for another series of maneuvers (a few days ago the inhabitants of Ras Al Ahmar were forced away from their homes for 24 hours, for the sake of these maneuvers).
A Palestinians arrives at the gate from the Jordan Valley side, to pick up his brother. They tell us that the gate is never, ever opened. Neither at 3 p.m. nor at 8 a.m. (when it is supposed to be opened at their disposal, as agreed upon at the Red Cross’ demand). Neither when Palestinians show up nor when they don’t. The occupier has decided to forego even this faint illusion of passage and now it is official – the prison that is the Palestinian Jordan Valley is closed.
12:40, Tyassir checkpoint – scant traffic, fast passage, no delays. The passengers are allowed through inside the vehicles, without disembarking.
Fighter planes and distance explosions resound throughout the afternoon.
We stopped at Hamam Al Malih to see the elderly couple whose hovel had been demolished twice (the second time, January 24th, 2013, the tent supplied by the Red Cross and all their effects were taken as well). The woman, N., came out to greet us from their neighbors’ tent, where she and her husband have been dwelling since the demolitions. They are prevented from returning to the place where they lived for years (I personally have been their guest often in the past 6 years), where they raised their children who have long since flown away to live elsewhere. In their advanced age, the two have become homeless. N.’s arm is still very swollen since she did not get medical treatment for injury, fearing she couldn’t afford such care. Only yesterday she finally went to have it examined and was informed that her shoulder is fractured and forearm badly bruised.
13:30, Samara (south of the Um Zuka reserve) - members of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, founded by Arna Mer and her son Juliano, have come out on a wondrous journey to visit the brave residents of the Jordan Valley who are holding on to their land steadfastly in both the Palestinian Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills (the bus will be visiting there next week). In daytime the young actors keep the children busy with games, singing and dancing, and in the evening they perform for the adults. In between they sit under a tree and play music – strumming the oud, drumming the darbouka, playing the accordion and other instruments whose names are unfamiliar to me, but their lovely tones float up in the warm breeze above the reddish hills of the Jordan Valley and carry a message of freedom and rectitude. Next to them a group of youngsters from Finland, Wales and even Majdal Shams has joined the activists of Jordan Valley Solidarity in order to build a schoolhouse for the children of the region, out of mud bricks.
Two of Samara’s inhabitants approach me, seeking help. M. and his brother graze their flock, and at the end of summer when the grass is scarce, they enter that miserably neglected place which the occupier has named “Um Zuka nature reserve” in search of food for their livestock. Every time they are caught there with their flock, they are fined thousands of shekels. They say they have documents proving their ownership claim to the land inside the reserve from those days when the region’s people were allowed to make their living out of the valley’s growth. They have consulted with a lawyer who told them there was nothing to be done. On the other hand, while a nature reserve, the area is also a “firing zone” for the army (the two signs stand next to each other…) and the army’s maneuvers often set the reserve in flames. M. and his brother tell us how on different occasions they recruited their extended family to fight the flames, as none of those authorities who so hastily fine them for grazing there never came to the rescue… They are seeking some protection, help against this abuse.
15:00, Hamra checkpoint – 4 Palestinians are standing at the side, detained 15 minutes for inspection. As soon as we showed up, their papers are returned to them and they get on their way. One of them wants to go back to Nablus but does not know the way. He tries to walk back, but the soldiers run towards him to prevent this and make him get on the road. He goes around the fence and proceeds towards the soldiers on the road, but then they remember there’s a special track for pedestrians bound for Nablus, except that it means going back 50 meters to the junction and that is where they send him. The man, embarrassed and rather scared, signals to the soldiers that his leg hurts. They relent and let him use the road.
Unlike this morning, now all those arriving from the West Bank hills are required to disembark about30 meters before the checkpoint, cross on foot and wait for the vehicle on the other side. Everything, after all, depends on the whims of the soldiers manning the checkpoint. In the middle of the checkpoint a military vehicle stands, blocking the road, so no car is able to get through, for about 20 minutes. When the cars begin to cross, every driver is asked “Where to? What for?” as if that should be the soldier’s business…
16:30, Maale Efrayim Checkpoint – manned, every car entering the Jordan Valley is checked.
16:45, Tapuach Checkpoint at Zaatara Junction - a bus is parked in the lot, having brought a detector dog unit to the checkpoint. Every female soldier-trainer has a dog. 3 cars stand parallel to each other, a dog is made to enter each, climbing on the front as well as back seats, salivating and sniffing. About 10 meters to the back stand the passengers in a straight line, looking on with disgust, having been ordered by the soldiers. The dog is an unclean animal in Islam and the Palestinians have a very hard time with having dogs introduced into their cars. The large number of trainers attests to this being no security matter but rather a training practice for the soldiers and their dogs. I believe that only a security need of the highest degree might be an excuse to hurt people’s religious feelings so severely. The practice should be done some other way…
The dog trainers don't like our photographing the situation and summon the policeman to order us away. The obedient policeman tells us to keep our distance and not take pictures, claiming it's forbidden. We explain we're photographing from behind but he is not convinced. Finally the practice is over, IDs are returned to the Palestinians standing in line, and they angrily get on their way. The trainers continue hanging around the checkpoint, each with her dog.
In the meantime we notice that on road 60 vehicles bound for Nablus are being stopped. We didn't notice this before because the inspections are usually held in cars coming from Nablus and heading south, and the whole structure of the checkpoint is built accordingly. But this time, "to confuse the enemy", some Border Policemen stand on the north-bound lane, and have stopped a red car and a bus full of youngsters heading back from a demonstration in Ramallah. The passengers of the red car disembark and the car is thoroughly checked, as if the soldiers have some kind of information on it. 15 minutes later it is released. THe soldiers order all male passengers off the bus, while the women remain inside. 25 young men stand on the sidewalk, their IDs taken. "Photograph this!" they say. "Take a picture of the driver!" they laugh, and he, a jolly chubby type, poses for us, sporting his paunch with a good natured smile, and everyone has a moment's relief in this imposed halt...
Two of the youngsters have no IDs, they've forgotten them at home so they are made to stand apart. A third young man is led to the shack in the middle of the road and is held there, with the soldiers trying to turn him around so he wouldn't "observe" them, but this is rather impossible for he can "observe" something from every angle. They give up. The youngster looks stressed. Finally, after 220 minutes, he is allowed to get back to the bus. The soldiers check the ID numbers one by one on their radio. They even bother calling the homes of the two ID-less persons, asking for their numbers to check their legitimacy. When the soldiers are finally satisfaied, half an hour later, the bus continues home to Tul Karm.
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.
Translation: Naomi Gal
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300, 06:45: five windows are open. The passage is swift. Outside they already told me that today is "relatively good". In 10 minutes there are no more people in the hall, waiting to see what will happen next.
Meanwhile, some workers are returning, probably the workers of contractors that canceled today’s work because of the rain (which is not that hard!)
07:00 AM: a new group arrives and passes quickly. The women with children on dialysis are here and are waiting inside for a ride since outside is bitterly cold.
Someone comes up to me with a story: in a village close to Bethlehem (I did not catch the name) the army arrested in the dead of the night a relative of his nephew. Following the arrest, the army entered the house of the nephew and confiscated the ID of this man and his wife's. It was in 05/03/13 and the IDs had not been returned yet. I sent him to Hannah B.
Another man complained that a relative of his, 22 years old, whose leg was amputated at the age of five following an accident, was treated all these years at Hadassah Hospital. He had an appointment there a few weeks ago but did not get a permit because of "security prevention". He went again to ask for a permit but again did not get one. I gave him the phone number of Yael S.
At 7:30 I returned home. I didn’t feel like going to the DCL on my own. Maybe the cold weather prevented many people from going there today.
The Military Police dictates fashion rules to the Palestinian Farmers
05:55 A'anin CP
At this CP, Palestinian farmers from the village of A'anin (on the West Bank), holding permits for agricultural work in the seamline zone (that is to say, for working on their own lands which are separated from the village by the fence), go through, as well as others who have permits to work in the seamline zone.
The gates are open. The first person goes through. Inspection is done near the middle gate. We approach and are courteously banished. The passage is very slow. A few are not allowed to go through. Two of those going through tell us that some people were returned to the village because they did not have a valid permit. and others were turned back because their clothes were too new and too nice(!) - not suitable for agricultural work, according to the soldiers.
One of the people going through offers us coffee that he pours from his thermos.
A father is not allowed to take his 12-year-old son with him. The military policewoman says that heis not his son, and the proof is that the father does not know his son's I.D. number by heart! The man has eight small children, all listed in his identification card, and unfortunetaly he can't remember all those numbers.
We call the DCO (the civil administration that manages the Palestinians' lives) in connection with the limitations on Palestinian men's fashions; The DCO advises us to ask at the brigade. In the brigade they say that it is a matter for the military police and they will ask about it there.
In regard to the father's short memory, not remembering his sons' I.D. numbers, the DCO tells us that it is possible to demand that the father remember his children's names, but not their I.Dsnumbers. The father left on his way quickly and did not wait for our information. He sent his son back to the village immediately.
The Bedoui children come up to the CP from their encampment and wait for a ride to school. We leave before the passage of A'anin residents ends.
07:05 Tura-Shaked CP
School children, students and adults are going through from the seamline zone (the area imprisoned between the separation fence and the green line, Area C) to the West Bank. Many are waiting near the turnstile at the entrance to the inspection hut. Here, too, the passage is slow. One person tells us that he does not feel well; he told this to a military policewoman and she told him to bring a note from a doctor. In the end, she gave in and let him go through without stopping in the inspection hut and she also was willing to give up on the doctor's note (the nearest doctor is in Jenin....).
07:50 Palestinian side of the Reihan-Barta'a CP
We do not want to get stuck in the big parking lot, the one close to the CP, because it is full and bursting at the seams. We park in a private lot (usually for a fee) which is about half a kilometer further on as the road rises, and we are given the privilege of parking without paying.
On our way from the parking lot to the CP we pass eight trucks waiting for inspection. The drivers share breakfast on the open door in the back of one of the trucks. They invite us to have pita with humus and beans and a cucumber. We learn from them that inspection of the trucks begins at 08:00 and that two groups of trucks are already being inspected. They have been waiting for two and a half hours. Drivers of the first group who have already entered parked their vehicles here at night.
08:20 We climb up to the parking lot. A bus with schoolgirls from East Barta'a passes the CP and turns into the upper parking lot. The schoolgirls remain in the bus, eating and playing their darboukas (Arab drums). The driver tells us that the girls are on their way to Tul-Karem and they are waiting for an additional bus, which has not received a permit to go through yet.
08:35 The second bus goes through and we go home.
On our way home, we pick up a hitchhiker near Katzir. It turns out that he lives in one of the 'privately-owned farms in Shaked. We did not know such a thing existed. As we drive, Yoaz Hendel speaks on the radio about the implementation of a new right-wing organization which will monitor human rights at the CPs, or as he puts it, under the auspices of Zionist citizens of the state. This, of course, reminds us that on the Left, there are no Zionists.
A fantastic ending to a morning in the occupation.
The occupation routine at 'Azzun 'Atma: hunting people in Israel illegally.
06:16 The road from the Oranit terminal to 'Azzun 'Atma – Some cars are parked on the road; perhaps there had been an accident. There’s also a police car and a car in the middle of the road. It seems strange, until we notice a number of Palestinians and a police officer on the roadside and another who comes running from the road into the field. We stopped and went to see what was happening: a few Palestinians fleeing through the field to the 'Azzun 'Atma fence, chased by a police officer. We hear a shot, but nothing happens as a result. The police officer who ran along the road joins his pursuing colleague. The police officer standing next to the Palestinians is holding something that looks like a shiny, sparkling, silver pistol which he puts in their car. A Taser?
Meanwhile the men fleeing have disappeared into the olive grove, followed by the police officers. The group detained by the roadside (four young men and one older man) is gathered around the police officer, conducting some kind of dialogue with him. One stumbles; it looks like he has trouble walking. At one point he lifts his shirt to show his companion his back. Had he been hit by the Taser?
It’s clear that the young men went through a hole in the fence to the road trying to get a ride to work in Israel, without permits.
After 15 minutes, the pursuers returned empty-handed. A discussion is held with the youths who were caught; they give their IDs to the police officers. We decided to continue to 'Azzun 'Atma, expecting the group to be brought there. Meanwhile all the cars drove away, except for the police car and the one standing in the middle of the road.
06:45 'Azzun 'Atma – Many laborers are waiting outside; the line is short and advances rapidly. The revolving gate is finally working, allowing the soldiers to control the crossing and prevent congestion.
We didn’t see the young men who were caught. When we returned to that spot we saw them still standing there with the police officers.
07:15 Habla checkpoint – Many have already gone through; people cross in record time.
07:25 The children’s buses arrive and cross quickly. There seem to be more people than usual today, but it doesn’t slow down the crossing. Everyone’s smiling, saying hello to us; the occupation routine.
08:00 Eliyahu gate – Cars are being inspected; there is no line at the pedestrian crossing.
08:15 Falamya checkpoint – Quiet. Signs of the fire are still visible next to the repaired gate. A flock of sheep arrives, goes through without inspection. Carpets of hyacinths are in full bloom along the way – magnificent. A constant trickle of people at Central West Bank
For an hour and a half, during the busiest time, the 'Azzun' Atma checkpoint was closed because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
About 90 people wait in a longer line than usual at this hour. The checkpoint commander immediately wants to move us back, but only symbolically. He must demonstrate who’s in charge, and continues doing so later.
The line begins about a meter behind the checkpoint gate; only two at a time are permitted to advance and stand ready to continue toward the inspection point. But, like all lines, it slowly moves closer to the gate, which is an obvious indicator of how far they can go, unlike the imaginary line farther from the gate at which they were supposed to stand because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:20. Nobody goes through! The soldiers close the gate. That’s it! It’s time to teach the Palestinians a lesson.
The Palestinians stubbornly remain standing at the gate. The truth is that it’s very difficult to push back a line of nearly 100 people. And meanwhile more join the motionless line.
The checkpoint commander arrives a few minutes later (he’d been hunting people who were sneaking through holes in the fence – there were more than a few). Now, as at the Habla checkpoint last week, the army begins “educating” the Palestinians. We telephoned the DCO – they said they’d take care of it.
Meanwhile, the soldiers leave the (closed) gate and wander around the checkpoint, chatting. The tension rises among those waiting behind the fence; a few soldiers return to argue with the Palestinians but the situation doesn’t change and nothing happens.
Another call to the DCO doesn’t bring any result. We’re told, “the Palestinians aren’t obeying the soldiers.”
Nevertheless, army personnel arrive, mutter to us “It’ll be ok…”, wander around the checkpoint and… leave, and nothing happens.
Children arrive on their way to school, wait to cross to 'Azzun 'Atma from the “Israeli” side. After a while the soldier with the key to the vehicle gate is located and the children go through.
The checkpoint commander went hunting again, returning with a man who’d gone through a hole in the fence because he had to get to work. His ID was confiscated; he was sent back to the 'Azzun' Atma side.
07:05 The gate opens, two people cross, the gate closes again, two more cross and again the gate closes. At 07:10 the gate closes and doesn’t reopen. We phone A., the DCO commander, who promises to take care of it.
A boy comes riding a bicycle. The soldier who’s supposed to open the gate isn’t there and it takes a while until he appears to let the boy cross to school.
07:30 We contacted Chana B. All this time, the soldiers are wandering around the checkpoint, joking, having a good time, while a mass of people beyond the gate are anxious not to lose a day of work. But no one cares.
07:50 People are getting angry, yelling at the soldiers – the situation is pretty frightening.
08:00 Reinforcements arrive; the soldiers go to the line and try to restore order. Now they open the gate and begin letting people through four at a time, closing the gate after them until their inspection is complete.
A., from the DCO, called us twice to find out what was going on. The first time was after he’d been told that everything was alright, but it wasn’t. The second time there had, in fact, been a change, and people began crossing.
08:25 Habla checkpoint. The gate is still open (it’s supposed to close at 08:15); some cars, a cart and people are still going through, until no one remains and the soldiers close the crossing.
08:40 Eliyahu gate. Everything as usual; no line of people crossing on foot.
We gave a man documents to sign for submission to the court so he could be removed from the Shabak’s blacklist. Then we went home exhausted, sad and angry.
13.40 Habla checkpoint. A bicycle rider next to the entrance at Habla gate waits patiently until he receives a signal from the soldiers that he can come to the checking room to. In the meantime the border policewoman is searching cars, inside and also the baggage compartment.
13.50 Eliyahu crossing….."This is considered a border checkpoint" tell us male and female soldiers who are present. They cast a glance at passing cars without checking them.
On road 55 we counted 3 military vehicles coming towards us.
14.25 Huwwara checkpoint. On the way to Nablus at the circle before the checkpoint (from which one turns to the settlements of Bracha, Yitamar and Alon Moreh) there is a new construction which is supposed to be ancient with new olive trees around it.
At the hiking post in the direction of the settlement of Bracha there is a guard in the sentry tower opposite the post and also a guard sitting at the exit of the settlement.
At the checkpoint there are sentry posts which are not manned.
There is an army vehicle next to the tower. Soldiers are removing food and water from it probably for the soldiers who are stationed there.
There are many Palestinian vehicles in the direction of Nablus as usual on Thursday afternoons.
14.40 Beit Furik checkpoint…we saw no soldiers
14.45 Awarta checkpoint. The yellow bar blocks the passage to Nablus.
15.35 Za'tara checkpoint.A small van is delayed by border police and sent on its way as we arrive.
16.15 Azzun Atma CP. Workers are coming home from the week's work on the settlements. They are checked behind an opaque plastic wall.
While we are there the line is not long.
A soldier accompanies two women and
three children who had been caught
going through an illegal passage.
Their IDs have been taken from them.
The commander says the IDs will be
returned to them after an hour
(one of the women says she was told two hours).
We were told that before we arrived some other Palestinians who had also been caught on the same road had been punished by being delayed.
Translator: Charles K.
We drove to the checkpoint after learning on Machsom Watch’s Facebook page about problems there. The checkpoint’s manager insists on calling it a “crossing.”
The checkpoint has been privatized; it’s managed by Modi’in Ezrachi (as are Irtach and Eyal); the Ministry of Defense supervises the security company. There are armed guards at the checkpoint, through which Palestinians cross into Israel. Like other entry checkpoints to Israel in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, this has also been “improved” by a network of entry and exit lanes, inspections, revolving gates, a cafeteria and landscaping which sends the following message: We’re here to stay!
05:20 Nora and Varda arrive. The area is full of minibuses and buses. We manage to find a semi-protected parking spot with the approval of a security guard who shows up immediately to check us (and makes do with Varda’s ID card). A., the checkpoint manager, also comes over, greets us pleasantly and offers to show us the areas to which we’re permitted access.
We entered the sanctum sanctorum:
1. Final identification room, in which a computer identifies automatically the holder of the ID card placed on a surface outside the window, plus biometric identification. After the “OK” a person usually goes through quickly. Four booths are open. One of the employees warns someone in fluent and high-flown Hebrew that the computer has a problem reading his ID, and that he should renew it at the DCO, because it could be confiscated.
2. A room where people are physically inspected if necessary. The manager is proud that a separate room has been provided for this purpose so that people won’t be publicly humiliated.
3. A room where ID’s are taken and belongings go through a scanner – five booths are open. IDs are collected from a number of people and then returned, apparently all at the same time at the end of the inspection. That’s all we were permitted to see. We spoke to the manager in the plaza; he stressed the “Principles of Service” he established; he requires employees adhere to them. He says he checks from time to time, and that not more than five to ten minutes elapse from the time someone enters the facility until they exit. Once it took longer – between 30 and 40 minutes. The comparison to inspections at the airport comes up again and again; we try to explain to A. the real differences between the situations but it’s not clear we succeeded… The comparison has apparently been branded into the consciousness of all employees at these checkpoints/crossings; it’s very convincing and convenient for someone who wants to be convinced.
Anat arrived. We come out to talk in the plaza outside the facility, while A. continues to demonstrate good will (and in fact, compared to other checkpoint managers, he listens and responds politely while emphasizing that he’s aware that those going through to work are human beings…). Anat tells him that we came in response to complaints we’d received; at the same time an elderly man crossed complaining that the crossing hasn’t been easy recently, and that his ID had been taken this morning and he’d had to stand half an hour waiting to get it back. Anat mentioned the dangerous crossing on the main road; A. said that a pedestrian bridge is being discussed.
We spoke to Palestinians near the revolving gate at the exit. They told us that it takesfrom an hour to an hour and a half to go through. But, more important, said one Palestinian: “It’s insulting!!!” (the entire inspection process, he means)
The laborers flow through; the parking lot begins emptying. Workers returning from the night shift also arrive; I wasn’t able to see how they go through. One of the bus drivers explained that he transports all his passengers to Ma’aleh Horon (guess how much construction is going on there).
07:00 We left.
Translator: Charles K.
06:00 Azzun Atma– A man approached us when we arrived. The police don’t allow him to work in Israel; he’s able only to reach his lands. It’s been eight months. We referred him to Sylvia.
The checkpoint “under development” is partially blocked by two concrete barriers. When we entered an MP tried to make us leave. After an argument he agreed we could stand beneath the guard.
About 70 people on line. A woman stands to the side. She tried to go through the fence; now she’s waiting for her ID.
07:00 Habla– Few people on line, as well as a tractor and wagon.
07:35 A bus arrives with children. The driver enters to be inspected, returns to the vehicle, drives through the gate, opens the luggage compartments. Then a female soldier boards to check within.
08:00 Arab al Ramadin– We learn a school was established in the village for the little children who were afraid to go through the Habla checkpoint.
We met Himam, the principal. She lives in Qalqiliya, speaks English fluently. She described the humiliations the teachers undergo on their way to the village. Sometimes they’re forced to undress completely.
The school has 23 children in three classes – first, second and third grade. It’s “constructed” of tents made of heavy plastic sheeting.
Oranit Bus Depot, Thursday 4:15 p.m.
2 minutes after we arrived at the site, a police car came and 3 black-clad policemen disembarked.
A minute later, bus no.286 arrived, coming from Tel Aviv's central bus station, destination Ariel colony in the West Bank. The bus stoped at the station. One of the policemen got on through its front door, another through the back, and then, slowly, Palestinians began to disembark - one, then another one, and another... about 20 men. Some take out their bags from the luggage compartment, others carry their ragged plastic bags.
A policeman lines them up in front of him and orders them to show their IDs and permits. I ask whether he is the one who took the Palestinians off the bus. He affirms. "Why?" I ask. "To check whether they have entry permits into Israel".
The other passengers, the privileged, members of the Chosen People, some wearing skullcaps (yamulkas), others in the uniform of the 'most moral army in the world', some secular women, others Ethiopian Jewish women with headscarves, watched the show indifferently. They do not see human beings who have worked hard all week and are dying to put their feet up at home with a little child in their lap. They see "Arabs". It does not concern us... Well, perhaps a bit - now there's more room to stretch our legs in the bus, it's less crowded... And anyway, "they" could even blow themselves up inside the bus, God forbid...
The bus drives off and I ask the policeman how these people are going to continue their journey, after all they had bought a ticket. He told me not to worry, while one of the Palestinians gestured a walking man with his fingers...
When I tell the policeman that he is committing an unlawful act, he angrily orders me to show him my ID, and if I don't shut up, he'll detain me. All the Palestinians wave their entry permits, and the policeman says they now have to come with him to "Yoav Crossing", several kilometers further (the checkpoint blocking the village of Azoun Atme), for they were supposed to exit Israel through the Eyal Crossing, where they had entered. One of the men shows the policeman his permit, which specifies they mustenter Israel at Eyal, but not a word about their having to exit there as well (or any other specific checkpoint). The policeman, however, ignores him and silences him roughly. Another bus arrives, destined for Ariel, but the policeman tells them they cannot board another bus because "this is a border crossing, and like any other border crossing, you must not cross it!" He collects all their IDs and permits. All the while, another policeman stands by him, his gun pointed, and another policeman remains seated inside the car.
I called Ofra and loudly asked her to alert the media. The policeman hastily finishes his ID check, returns the documents to their Palestinian owners, and within minutes he boards the police car, and disappears.
The Palstinians remain standing at the depot. It is already dark and cold. I offer them a ride to "Yoav Crossing", a short drive away. Some of them join me, others prefer to try their luck with the next bus. When I return to the depot and my friend says they must have boarded a bus. We head for Tel Aviv. On our way, about 200 meters from the station, in the direction of Tel Aviv, I see all the Palestinians who had been forced off the bus earlier, marching back east-bound towards the bus depot - apparently (I'm only guessing!), under pressure to get home and fear they would not be allowed to ride, they never noticed they were boarding the 286 bus going in the opposite direction - to Tel AViv. When they realized their mistake, they must have stopped the bus, descended, and begun to march back towards the depot, not at all certain whether they would make it home tonight.