Habla and the roads leading to Dir Sharaf and 'Anabta
06:45 Agricultural Gate, Habla
The Palestinians report that the gate opened on time, at 06:30. Very rainy and muddy. The crossing is quick, one group of 5 waits at the turnstile and another leaves the building after about 2.5 minutes.
One man goes through and there are no more waiting. A slow dribble of people and a dribble of rain. In a conversation with a Palestinian who was going from Habla in the direction of the nurseries, but was waiting, we found out that he was waiting for his grandson, who was supposed to bring some special tools for work in the hothouse. The grandfather had already risen at 3 AM and had taken care of the flock of valuable sheep which he has in Habla (his sheep do not go out to graze), but now he is angry with his grandson who is keeping him waiting. He hopes that there will be livelihood for all, and doesn't enter into politics...
Two buses of children arrive, the drivers get out to have documents checked, meanwhile the soldiers open the gate for a wagon coming from Habla.
The buses leave. 3 vans, full of small plants, leave Habla, inspected and passed. The elderly guard of the nursery arrives in his nephew's car, they go through quickly.
07:45 Eliyahu Gate
At the police station, at the entrance to the checkpoint from the direction of Israel, there were a number of trucks standing and it seemed as though their documents were being checked. The crossing point of the workers was empty and in the area of vehicles' inspection we saw only 2 cars.
At the isolated house, which used to be called "Shvut Ami" (my nation returns), one could still see Independence Day decorations. Is that a sign of something to come? At the turn in the road before Kedumim there was a military vehicle.
One armed soldier was guarding the hitchhiker's station of Kedumim.
Opposite the entrance to the village of J'at there a military vehicle was parked. At the crossroads itself, there wasn't any IDF.
Beneath Kedumim, they are paving a new road which seems to be preparation for further expansion.
We traveled in the direction of Dir Sharaf and went onto highway #60. Opposite the remains of the checkpoint which had been there at the turnoff to the village of Nakura, there was a military jeep. Further along highway #60 (in the direction of Jenin) there was a street sign, "National Park of Samaria, Sebastia".
The question should be asked, who is allowed to go to this "Park", since, at the turnoff, there is also a red sign saying that it is forbidden for Israelis to travel on this road, since it leads to the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority...
We traveled to Dir Sharaf to visit our old friend, the shop/bakery owner. We stopped for coffee and falafel and a talk about what's happening...his son finished his second degree, with distinction, at the University in Nablus and was accepted for further studies in Germany towards his doctorate. It turns out that all of his children, including those who help him all the time in the shop, are excellent students and his wife also completed her second degree at the University, but doesn't work outside the house. He is the only one in the family who didn't study, but provides very well for his family. He told us that, during the closure, "in honor of your holiday", there were a lot of soldiers and military vehicles everywhere, as though they were just waiting for something to happen.
Again, there was a conspicuous lack of compatibility between the abilities of people to adapt themselves to every situation and the existence which they are forced to endure.
We traveled to the checkpoint of 'Anabta, where he reported that there were exchanges of fire 2 weeks ago. (we also read about that in the paper).
09:20 'Anabta checkpoint
At the entrance to the turnoff, there was a large sign warning Israeli citizens, in red letters, that the road leads to areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and the entrance is forbidden for Israelis.
An Israeli flag was flying on the guard tower, and there were soldiers there who didn't come down, even when we approached in our car. There is an endless stream, undisturbed, of Palestinian cars going in both directions. We didn't see that the road to the village of Ramin from this crossroad had been fixed or renovated as had been promised a few months ago.
We continued on highway #557, in the direction of Jabara. All the turnoffs to the villages on the way had the same large red signs warning Israelis not to enter the villages (demonization?), which, of course, were not named.
On the contrary, the road to the village of Shufa was renovated and there is a sign with the village's name in Hebrew (before the turnoff to the settlement of Avnei Hefetz). We turned off toward Avnei Hefetz, to check if the blockage before Izbat Shufa had really been removed permanently; we were happy to see a lot of traffic of Palestinian cars as well as Israeli Arabs passing through there with no problem. We continued in the direction of Avnei Hefetz and met up with a military jeep observing the road. We continued to the checkpoint of Te'enim and saw the new fence being slowly constructed around the house of the late Abu Hatam.
The soldier at the checkpoint asked us where we had been, and we answered that we had been on the roads and at the checkpoints and inspected them. Without any answer, he opened the checkpoint for us...
I lengthened this description because I always feel that everything is fine, while really everything is not fine; so very not fine, but I can't get this feeling across...
09:40 We stopped at the Palestinian workers' crossing at Irtach. It was empty and quiet at that hour. It was also dirty with lots of trash strewn around.
We went through Te'enim Gate as we noted that Jubarra is completely blocked from that side. There is a new fence that includes Abu Khatem's house. And the old fence is still there also. Double security.
As we drive we note the beautiful almond trees in bloom. Anabta is open and empty. There is a military jeep at the road leading to Shavei Shomron. It's a lovely spring day and we pass a number of shepherds with their flocks of goats and sheep. We have to stop to let them cross the road.
Habla is empty and quiet. At the plant nursery we see many full grown olive trees for sale. We wonder where they came from.
11:00 We left through the Eliahu Gate.
13:00 Habla - A vehicle from the Ta’oz battalion arrives and its occupants get to work. Six Palestinians, a horse cart and a tractor are waiting. The gate doesn’t open because the female MP isn’t able to open the door of the inspection building. We can see 10 people and a number of vehicles waiting from the other direction.
13:08 The staff finally solves the problem and the gate opens. The first five people enter and go through to the village in two minutes.
13:10 The first five coming from the village approach the revolving gate.
A Palestinian living in Jaljulya asks the soldier for permission to cross for a minute to the other gate to receive something from his brother who’s arrived from Habla, without having to go through inspection. The soldier agrees, escorts him. A welcome flexibility; too bad we don’t witness it more often.
One of those waiting says to us: “If we’re a minute late they don’t let us through but they’re allowed to be late opening the gate.”
13:17 Crossing continues with no problems. A large truck carrying two olive trees comes from Habla, followed by a cart and tractor. A flock of sheep, escorted by a shepherd and small boy.
Everyone who arrives crosses without delay.
13:30 We leave.
13:35 Eliyahu crossing – People cross quickly. No lines.
14:00 Azzun – We stop at Z’s shop to leave parcels. He greets us with a big smile, as usual. He hasn’t yet received the results of his tests at Ichilov Hospital.
14:10 Jayyous – A quick stop at N’s house to buy olive oil.
14:20 Falamya – More vehicles than usual, some waiting, others going through. Only those entering are inspected.
A person blacklisted by the Shabak approaches us; we give him Sylvia’s phone number.
14:40 A Palestinian arrives in his vehicle. He gets out, enters the inspection building. He emerges two minutes later. The vehicle is inspected and he drives away. The driver of a vehicle who came to pick up relatives tells us, in English: “You could travel all around the world without finding a place as tough as this. All day long we’re kept busy obtaining permits and being inspected. It’s awful.”
We drive north.
15:10 A bulldozer is working in the wadi on our way from Kafr Sur to Beit Lid.
15:15 Beit Lid – We meet a student from Al Najah in the grocery, who speaks English. He says things are usually quiet. There were problems only during the olive harvest season.
Tractors and bulldozers at work at the exit from Beit Lid, apparently widening the road.
15:30 Anabta checkpoint – Cars pass quickly without stopping. We don’t see soldiers or the coffee-seller.
15:50 Shufa – The checkpoint is open. The huge concrete cubes still lie by the roadside as a reminder of times past. A large red sign was added recently.
16:00 Te’anim checkpoint – Careful inspections of Palestinian vehicles with the help of dogs. I managed to photograph. Earthmoving equipment continues to be busy.
16:05 Efrayim checkpoint – Irtach - Heavy traffic at this hour. Many Israeli vehicles dropping workers off at the checkpoint. Hundreds hurry home. Some of the Palestinians keep asking us to come in the morning. “It’s hard, hard – a real battle in the morning,” they say.
Three empty buses wait. We weren’t able to find out why.
16:30 We leave.
09:00 Since there’s no English lesson in Hars this week either, we leave Rosh Ha’Ayin to visit checkpoints. Our first stop is the Sha’ar Efrayim terminal. We met a very well-dressed Palestinian, beaming happily. He’d received a New Year’s present: an entry permit to work in Israel. H. is 28, from Irtach; he’s been blacklisted by the Shabak for ten years (because of an informer, he says). He speaks fluent Hebrew, from having worked in Israel when he was 13 (!) to 17. During the past ten years he married, had four daughters and barely was able to support his family by meager allowances from the UN and help from his father living in Jordan. Now he has only six days to find a job. And if he fails – he’ll have to wait a few months to receive six more days. If he succeeds, H. will be one of more than 5000 people crossing through this terminal every day from 4 in the morning until 7 in the evening.
One of the guards is a polite young Ethiopian. He’s already met women from Machsom Watch who’ve been to the terminal. It’s good thing, he says. He has very moderate political views: he’s in favor of a Palestinian state. Against a bi-national state. He invites us to return; we leave feeling it’s good there’s someone like him here at this explosive location.
From the terminal we continue to the village of Tzabara. After the inhabitants refused annexation to Tayibeh they’re getting a fence “of their own.”
The next stop – the Anabta checkpoint, leading to Area A. Traffic here is light; the checkpoint opens only when the occasional vehicle arrives.
11:30 Deir Sharab. There used to be a checkpoint at the entrance to this village where Palestinians were treated terribly. Today the checkpoint is open and not manned. The restrictions on development that were imposed on the village have also been lifted and it’s bustling, many shops are open, there’s a small café where elderly men sit engaged in a lively conversation. A pleasant atmosphere.
Then to Beit Iba. That checkpoint has also been removed; only the concrete barriers remain as souvenirs at the entrance to the village. A refreshing innovation at the exit from the village: a restaurant that provides children who accompany their parents with something to do – a playground with colorful equipment.
12:00 Back to Rosh Ha’Ayin.
The usual situation, very quiet and relaxed, in spite of everything that is happening in Gaza. During our conversations with the local people, everyone says that it is all because of the governments and that the people only want quiet; to live and to work.
06:20 'Azzun 'Atma
A lot of workers outside; a few - maybe 30 - waiting to cross through. The passage is swift and everything is quiet and relaxed. There is still no protection from the rain! Will someone ever do something about it? The Palestinians say that they are all going out to work, no change.
First group goes through, the gate has just opened. Normal passage, about 5 people pass through in 4-5 minutes. There are about 50 people in line, so they will be waiting in line for about an hour.
A bus full of children comes. They let the driver wait a minute until they bring him to have his documents checked. They also check the bus - what could they want to smuggle into Habla, and who cares? but they check. At 07:25 the bus of boys arrives. This time the driver goes directly into the inspection, but they also check this bus.
There are still a lot of people waiting. Wagons with horses and donkeys and cars are also waiting to cross.
08:05 Eliyahu Gate
As usual, there are 4 cars being inspected and about 20 pedestrians waiting to be checked.
We went through Azbet Tabib to see what was happening there. Everything was quiet, the school was open and the protest tents were closed. On the way to the main road by way of 'Azzun, there was business activity, people out in the street and everything was relaxed.
08:30 Shavei Shomron
The gate was open; no soldiers.
09:20 'Anabta checkpoint
Open, no soldiers to be seen in the area.
7.00 Habla. When we arrived the bus with girls was parked and had been waiting a long time.
A tractor goes by with no delay.
7.10The bus with the boys arrives. After a usual check the driver got out very angry. The woman soldier wanted him to wait but he had no problem making it clear that the children could not be late for school. The traffic flow is relatively slow. There are not many people. There are many donkeys.
On the Palestinian side left of the fence a group of internationals are watching. We could not contact them.
8.00We arrived at Beit Iba–Deir Sharafthrough Sara. All is quiet and no army vehicle is to be seen on our way. We stopped to speak to the people in the shop. There is a growth in development but the road is still very bad as always. The plans to improve and widen it have been put aside. (Where did the money go to?). The problem of wild boar has not been solved and they come up every now and again from the wadi.
Shavei Shomron.The traffic flows. The ugly cement blocks of the checkpoints remind as that everything can change in a moment.
8.30 Anabta.The traffic flows with no problems.
8.50 Irtah.There are four buses there (amongst the six of the morning). They are taking the families to visit the prisoners. People kept arriving at the checkpoint and getting into the buses. We spoke to some of them and without taking into account the horrible situation there were no complaints. One of the buses left without being accompanied by police or army. It seems this is the accepted procedure.
13:20 We went through the Eliyahu crossing; a truck had been stopped for customs inspection. The Habla agricultural gate is open; carts, cars and people with children cross to Habla.
14:00 The gate closes.
Funduq – Shops are open, people in the streets.
Huwwara checkpoint isn’t manned; no cars go through.
14:20 Burin – We met the mother and sister of the youth who’d been arrested in his home in the middle of the night, compelled to admit throwing a rock and sentenced to seven months in prison. He’s in the Meggido prison. His parents had also to pay a NIS 5000 fine and hire a lawyer. He was about to take his matriculation exams; now he’s lost a year of school.
A man named Munir tells us how settlers from Beracha and Yitzhar attacked olive pickers, cut down trees and injured people. Residents of Burin complained to the IDF; soldiers are guarding the olive harvesters. A sack of olives on the shoulder, soldiers to the left and right. The settlers are fine.
We were also told about a woman hospitalized after being hit in the head by a large rock. The incident happened in the olive grove next to the road from Burin to Huwwara, near the quarry.
We’re outraged by the Palestinians’ helplessness in the face of harassment by the settlers and the regime.
The streets of Huwwara are filled with people; traffic is heavy.
15:00 Deir Sharaf – Stone cubes remain on the road where the Shavei Shomron checkpoint had been located.
Anabta-Te’anim: Soldiers in the tower; no one around.
Jubara checkpoint: An armed female soldier asks for IDs. We’re in Israeli territory.
9:00 am: Tamar is a new member of MachsomWatch and this was her first tour as an observer.
We went through the Eliyahu gate, into Azzunand under road 55 toward Tulkarem. We passed Jayyus, Kafr Jammal and A-ras.We noted that as we went further from Qalqiliya the hills were barren. There were fewer and fewer olive trees. We speculated that lack of water was the reason.
We were looking for olive harvesters but saw almost none. The olive harvest is not yet in full swing.
By the Te'enim gatewe met Abed for whom we had brought forms to sign. We saw the empty checkpoint inAnabtaand went on to Dir Sharrafsay hello to our old friend, Jammal, at his mini market. We visited the area where the Beit Ibacheckpoint had been, and explained to Tamar how it had once worked. Tamar also saw the beautiful wall surrounding an olive grove and Shavei Shomron settlement. We drove through Al-Fundukand Nabi Elyas, and left by the Eliyahu gate.
We visited the Habla gatethat was closed at that hour, 11:00 am.
Translator: Charles K.
We were mistaken to think that each person knows his place in the spectacle of the occupation, and that the “occupation routine” continues unchanged on a humid summer day. The occupation doesn’t stand still. For example, an article published on ynet on July 17, 2012, connects the announcement that the Ariel University Center will become a full-fledged university with the expansion of building in the town: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4256792,00.html.
Here’s what we ourselves saw and heard:
The crossings checkpoints are becoming more permanent, with more and more seedlings being planted.
10:29 A pillbox proudly stands at Anabta. Cars cross without stopping.
11:30 We visited G., an old acquaintance, in Deir Sharaf. Commercial activity has begun around the junction opposite the curve of Highway 60; another grocery, another café. On the other hand, it’s increasingly difficult to make a living from agriculture. This year G. is allowed only 3 or 4 days to harvest the olives from his grove adjacent to the old turn to Shavei Shomron. He’s forbidden to work the grove during the year. He doesn’t even know whether there’s any fruit on the trees. He’s waiting for a permit from the Civil Administration, but even when he’ll finally be able to reach his land it will take him an hour to walk there because he’s not allowed to drive in a vehicle.
Not far away new buildings are rising in the Kedumim industrial zone, gnawing away at the land and at the skyline.
During the conversation that develops we learn from G’s brother about the strike by Palestinian taxi drivers that will begin in the afternoon and continue tomorrow in protest against the deteriorating economic situation. A man who lives in the area joins the conversation; his solid economic status and his ability to manoeuver between Jews and Palestinians are expressed by his sarcastic question to us – what “occupation” are we referring to? It seems that some people manage to benefit…
11:55 We continued to Huwwara. Cars cross in both directions without stopping. The observation tower stands in place, the sheds, fences, netting that’s still in place – all that once appeared irrevocable – is silent, leftover testimony to the human rights violations that occurred at the checkpoint. There’s a small sign in English and Arabic just before the plaza where the road to the Har Bracha settlement splits off from the turn to Awarta and the road known as the Madison Route, whose literal translation is: Palestinian vehicles are permitted to turn left only to Awarta.
12:05 Za’tara. A line of about 20 Palestinian cars (and one with a yellow license plate whose driver apparently isn’t aware of the privileges granted to Israelis – to bypass the line) because of a taxi stopped at the sole inspection booth in operation. After the taxi drives away the other drivers slow but don’t stop. Another taxi stops, a Border Police soldier opens the doors, peeks in and the taxi continues.
12:15 Hars. The yellow bar which, according to the will of the occupier, can block entry to the village, is open. A few people seated in a vehicle tell us that at night the bar does block this entrance. One of them also complains of the noise from the construction in the Revava settlement. “We can’t sleep at night,” he says. He rejects our suggestion to put him in contact with Yesh Din. Where we’re standing is under observation by the tower rising nearby; he doesn’t want them to see him talking to us.
Another man is blacklisted from entering Jerusalem. We gave him Sylvia’s phone number.
From there we crawled along Highway 5066 to Highway 55, behind an Israeli truck loaded with construction material for foundations.
At the Habla checkpointthat opens and closes at set times we watched, from 13:00 to 13:45, Habla residents crossing to and from the village; pupils from ‘Arab a-Ramadin returning from school -the routine broken “only” when the soldiers at the checkpoint list by hand the names of those entering the village. The listing takes about 20 minutes, after which the routine returns to its proper place – that is, back to the inspection station.