Translator: Hanna K.
The second day of the war in Gaza.
The presence of the army/police is felt.
A demonstration at the Huwwara CP.
13:50 - Habla CP – The gate is open and there is a sparse traffic of people who cross and are being checked in the rooms. Vehicles are checked separately by the soldiers. The gate will be shut at 14:15.
14:20 - A military vehicle is parked near the entrance to Azzun.
14:21 – three attached military vehicles pass in front of us (road no. 55) .
14:30 – At the entrance to Immatin – there is a military command-car parked. An armed
soldier is outside the vehicle.
14:35 – Jit Junction – a police vehicle is parked perpendicular to the road.
Yasam policemen (Yasam – a special patrol unit of the police) check two Palestinian vehicles.
14:45 – Huwwara CP – There are very many soldiers and military vehicles
at the CP: opposite them youngsters
demonstrating, holding Palestine banners
. A soldier told us that the demonstration
is in support of Abu Mazen, and his
endeavour to pass Palestine as an
observer state in the United Nations. We are told that the demonstrators arrived at the CP at 13:00 hrs. During the demonstration there is no disturbance to the traffic of vehicles to and from Nablus.
15:00 – The demonstrators return to Nablus. We see that soldiers run after
them. One stone is thrown.
15:15 – Awarta CP – The iron arm is shut and locked.
15:20 – Beit Furik CP – there are no
soldiers.We were told that yesterday at half past four
in the morning settlers tried to enter Nablusfrom here, and that the army and the police
15:25 At the exit from Nablus, north of the
Huwwara CP' as an aftermath to the demonstration,tires are burning on the road.
Translation: Suzanne O.
Unbelievable –the yellow barrier which blocked the road from Awarta to Nablus is open.
A very short queue at the exit, less than twenty people, in spite of the fact that only two checkpoints are functioning. As already noted, two additional positions have been prepared. The renovations continue. The electronic turnstile is not working and the labourers cross via a new gate beside it which is wide open. It will be possible for women or those returning to pass through without the need to open the gate for vehicles.
The awnings to protect from the weather have not yet been installed. That's probably why it isn't raining yet.
Reservists are here and working efficiently. There was also an additional group of soldiers who came to check that everything is as it should be. We asked what was going on with the binoculars reported on last week. They answered that it was before they arrived and, as far as they know, the binoculars have not been found.
There are no police at the exit from Israel.
We didn't see soldiers in the positions; there was a soldier in the lookout tower.
There was a lot of traffic on the way up the hill.
There is no military activity.
There are no soldiers. There is no flag flying.
We visited the village and asked about the municipality election results. It appears that in Beit Furik the official candidate of Fatah was elected. But what is no less important – more than a third of those eligible to vote did not do so because they are in favour of Hamas.
Halleluiah – The chain that locked the yellow barrier is gone. The iron barrier is now open and vehicles can cross to and from Nablus. We asked one of the taxi drivers how long since the change and he said about two days. He was not sure that the army did it (?!) and he fears that the people from Itamar will soon lock it again. (As we have already said they are the Lords of the country.) He asked us to act to ensure that the way will remain open because it saves both time and fuel.
We didn't see any soldiers in the lookout tower. However there are green and Israeli flags flying.
On the way up to Bracha – we didn't see any soldiers.
There is no military activity.
There are no soldiers in the positions; there is still heavy traffic on the main road. Two soldiers armed to the teeth guard a young woman settler at the hitchhiker's station on the way up to Ariel.
At Shomron Crossing there is no queue and the examination is, as usual, superficial.
Translator: Charles K.
Za’tara checkpoint/Tapuach junction – 11:30
No inspections. We also saw nothing unusual when we returned at 16:10.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – 11:45
Two soldiers behind the buildings. No inspections. There were no soldiers when we returned at 16:10.
The cultivated fields between Gittit and Mechora - leased by a resident of Tel Aviv. The activity at the packing house increases from visit to visit. A shipping container has been added (apparently as a storeroom). We wonder whether he received a building permit. Were he a Palestinian, it would have already been demolished. Irrigation sprinklers revolve at midday in the Jordan Valley. The water is sold to Jews cheaply (NIS 4 per cubic meter. I pay twice as much for my garden at home).
Broad plowed fields in front of Mechora.
Hamra checkpoint – 12:15
No vehicles at the checkpoint most of the time.
The checkpoint commander says residents of the West Bank can freely cross in vehicles they own. Palestinian Israelis may cross only from Area A (the West Bank) to the Jordan Valley, but not in the opposite direction. A month ago they told us that it was possible to cross in both directions. Making frequent changes in the rules, without informing the people who go through the checkpoints, is an old, familiar policy. Vagueness and confusion create uncertainty and make planning ahead impossible.
Many signs before the settlement of Bequa’ot announcing a gathering of the Nahal brigade; a route has been opened to the east to the site of the gathering, which isn’t visible from the road.
Next to the settlement of Beqa’ot we met six guys who live in the Jiftlik and work in Beqa’ot. They finished working and are looking for a ride home. They receive NIS 65 for 8 hours of work, beginning at 5 AM. That includes transportation, and no benefits.
Tayasir checkpoint - 14:15
A Palestinian who sued his employer in the Jerusalem Labor Court for not paying his wages can’t get to the court because the DCO refuses to give him a crossing permit to Jerusalem. He asks us to help.
The Palestinians at the checkpoint say that for about two months vehicle owners from the West Bank have been allowed to cross to the Jordan Valley. The soldiers at the checkpoint refused to answer our questions about it.
S., a member of the Darajmeh family, about whom we reported on 23.10, who was issued a demolition order which is in effect an expulsion order from the area, hired an attorney in Israel to file an appeal. Who know how much it will cost him, and how he’ll manage to pay.
Large trucks carrying heavy armored vehicles stand in the fields bordering the Beqa’ot settlement to its north.
Translator: Charles K
* S`, from the Darajmeh family, which lives next to the Maskiyot settlement, received a demolition order for his encampment and a notice to leave in three days – he, his wife, his ten small children and his flock - his source of livelihood. He’s lived there since birth, leasing the area from a church group in Jerusalem which owns it. The legal grounds are that it’s a “firing range” and their presence is not allowed.
All the areas in the northern Jordan Valley inhabited by Bedouin have been turned into firing ranges. Why have they chosen S. to pick on? Dafna believes he’s first in line, and afterwards similar orders will be issued to all the Palestinians in the area. We’ve seen this trend for a long time, removing the Bedouin from the Jordan Valley - first those living near the settlements (and, of course, long before the settlements were established).
According to what we’ve tried to find out, there’s no way to help them and prevent the evil decree from being carried out. That’s the law in the occupied territories, determined by the GOC who’s sovereign here.
There’s a family whose encampment has been demolished and who’s been expelled a few times. Suing didn’t help. The homes are demolished, and then they return to erect them again.
* A resident of Tel Aviv leases agricultural land in the Jordan Valley between Gittit and Mechora; details below.
11:05 Za’tara checkpoint/Tapuach junction
Eight Palestinian cars detained, including two taxis and a truck. Border Police soldiers collect ID’s for inspection. They take the young men for interrogation by the Shabak on the other side of the white fence in the middle of the plaza. People say they’re detained for 30 to 60 minutes. The policeman says it’s only for a few minutes. The guys waiting to be interrogated say that the Shabak tries to enlist them as collaborators. Before entering “interrogation” the policeman searches them in a structure in the plaza that resembles a solitary confinement cell.
11:40 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. 3 soldiers on the West Bank side of the checkpoint. No Palestinian cars crossed when we went through. Soldiers were also there when we returned.
New cultivated fields between Gittit and Mechora
They’re being worked by a Jew from Tel Aviv who leases the fields – from the Israel Lands Authority, he says. The laborers say he leases them from the Gittit settlement, and also receives a generous allocation of water (at NIS 4 per cubic meter), while inhabitants of the area receive no allocation and pay about NIS 15 per cubic meter. Last year’s lessee went bankrupt and also quarreled with the foreman. The new lessee apparently treats the Palestinian laborers very fairly, in comparison to what’s customary in the area: he pays them NIS 150/day (of course, without any benefits), while the settlers pay NIS 50-70/day. He also employs Bedouin, unlike the settlers. Later we’ll meet K.’s son who works at the Na’ama settlement and earns NIS 50/day for grueling work in the greenhouses when it’s more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) outside.
12:25 Hamra checkpoint – Sparse traffic at this hour. Residents of the West Bank also cross toward the Jordan Valley. Family visits have already begun for the Eid al Adha holiday which starts this weekend. Schools are closed this week. People go through the checkpoint quickly.
At the Kahabaneh family’s encampment
Soldiers train on the other side of the road, about fifty meters away,using live ammunition.
We sit in the family’s tent with them and across the road, like in a movie, soldiers run, drop to the ground and fire. And we hear the rat-tat-tat. To think what could happen if someone shoots the wrong way…
Their sons live in Auja in the southern Jordan Valley and are employed in agriculture in the settlements for NIS 50/day.
14:55 Tayasir checkpoint
We tried to find out more about the order that only residents of the Jordan Valley are permitted to enter with their vehicles, as part of the policy of cutting off the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank. Two weeks ago newspapers reported that the order had been cancelled. But the situation in recent weeks has been unclear – there are differences among the checkpoints, as well as from week to week. The soldiers at Ma’aleh Efrayim and at Hamra refused to answer our questions. At Hamra we met people from the West Bank who’d gone through the checkpoint with their vehicle. The soldiers at Tayasir said that it was “permitted,” but people at the checkpoint said “forbidden.” Perhaps it’s due to the frequent changes, when no one bothers to inform the local population.
The Palestinians also told us that sometimes people’s names come up in the computer; they’re then detained and handcuffed for two hours and later released. The soldiers say that if someone’s name comes up on the computer that means he did something, and then he’s detained until he receives a summons to meet with Tomer (who’s apparently from the Shabak).
The checkpoint was empty during most of our stay. Those coming through said they weren’t detained for long.
17:15 Za’tara. Empty
Translator: Hanna K.
A hot and humid day
A considerable presence of military vehicles
During the night a few constructions were taken off from one of the ridges which was taken by the settlers of Yitzhar
13:45 Habla CP – Sparse traffic of passers by. All are being checked in room, vehicles are checked first by the soldiers, then the driver goes to be checked in the room.
14:00 Eliyahu CP – Many vehicles are waiting in the queue to enter Israel.
14:40 Huwwara CP – A lot of vehicles coming out of Nablus. There are no soldiers at the checking posts. From the CP building soldiers come over to us. To our question why there is such a load of vehicles coming from Nablus the answer is: "We work here, we perform all kinds of tasks". But the load breaks quickly up. In the tower near the hitch-hikers station of the Beraha settlement there is a soldier as well as in all the hitch hikers stations.
15.40 Za'tara CP. – A soldiers is posted at the
checking post but he is not checking the
passersby. There are soldiers at the guard tower.
Banners by the settlers are everywhere at the
16.05 Azzun Atma – Palestinians worker returning from work.
Translator: Charles K.
“Checkpoints bring peace”is the sign inside the new structure at the Azzun Atma checkpoint.
06:15 Azzun Atma: We were last here a month ago; the construction and roadworks at the checkpoint are almost finished. Today, because of the holiday, only one inspection station operates. There’s no line at all, the few laborers arriving at the checkpoint cross without problems. A group of laborers gets out of a contractor’s vehicle after a night shift; the morning shift hurries to take their place.
A huge red sign is posted on the concrete slab at the entrance to the checkpoint: “This road leads to a Palestinian locality. Civilians entering could be in danger.” The reservists don’t allow us to stand near the inspection booths and there’s certainly no possibility of them allowing us to enter the dangerous village.
The outer gate leading to the agricultural gate is padlocked.
Shomron gate: No police at the exit from Israel.
06:50 Za’tara/Tapuach: We saw no soldiers in the positions or in the observation tower.
Yitzhar/Burin checkpoint: No military activity.
07:20 Beit Furik: No soldiers.
We went through the village and saw photos of the candidates for municipal elections adorning every wall and a multitude of flags decorating the electric poles. There was no point asking who won because Hamas boycotted the election and it was essentially a struggle between the veteran and new Fatah leadership (sound familiar?).
07:25 Awarta: The yellow iron bar is still locked, blocking the crossing.
07:50 Huwwara: We saw no soldiers in the tower.
A soldier at the road up to Beracha. We saw no soldier in the tower opposite the hitchhiking station.
Burin/Yitzhar: No military activity.
08:15 Za’tara/Tapuach: Border Police soldiers in position, few cars crossing. Two cars detained off to the side for inspection, not interfering with traffic.
No line at the Shomron gate; inspections are superficial, as usual.
We drove from Kafr Qassem toward Hars, through Kifl Hars, Qira and Zeita. We saw children and youths returning from school. Shops are closed, no traffic, the adults are at the olive harvest.
The road in Jama’in is crowded; much vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Einabous and Huwwara, shops open, the town is bustling
Three soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint warn us that it’s a dangerous area. They occasionally stop and inspect vehicles coming from Nablus.
Za’tara-Tapuach junction. The positions are unmanned. A soldier stands on the road, guarding the settlers’ hitchhiking station.
Shomron crossing. Many laborers at the Azzun Atma checkpoint returning from work, going through inspection. The gate is open until 19:00. One soldier stands at the entrance. People cross in an organized way.
We took Highway 5 to Za’tara. The parking lot is almost empty; one military vehicle, and no soldiers in the positions.
On the way to Huwwara we saw a military jeep parked before the turn to Yitzhar, but there was no military traffic, nor were there soldiers at the checkpoints and traffic flowed.
The main road in Huwwara is being widened; foundations are being laid for streetlights. Residents told us it’s the municipality’s initiative.
The streets of Einabous and Jama’in are fairly empty; many residents must have gone to harvest olives.
We ended our circuit in the grove belonging to one of the members of the club where we hold classes, and helped a little with the harvest. We’ll now do so every week in different groves.
Translator: Charles K.
We spent most of the time driving through the villages, to show our guests the occupation – on the hilltops, the main junctions, in the Palestinian villages.
11:00 – We began at the southern Azzun Atma checkpoint, where no laborers are crossing at this hour. Like the checkpoints in general, this is also undergoing constant alterations “for the good of” the occupied population forced to cross through it. Sidewalks being laid, canopies erected…
We continued on Highway 5 toward Za’tara. Our guests saw the elevated road restricted to Jews, over the road from Zawiyya to Maskha. Farther on, outposts clinging to the hilltops above Brukin and Kufr a-Dik, biting into the locals’ lands; the Barkan industrial zone continually expanding and, of course, Ariel – the metropolis – a very long, narrow strip stretching to the horizons. We pointed out the guard towers and the metal bars permanently installed at the entrances to the roads leading to Palestinian villages. If the army wishes, the road can easily be blocked. We reached Za’tara, where there’s a flourishing kiosk belonging to the settlers; there are emplacements at each entry/exit of this central road junction. The one overlooking the turn to Highway 505 was manned. We saw no Palestinian cars detained.
We returned to Highway 5, through Kifl Hars, Hars, Bidiya, Maskha, to Hani’s house, penned in next to the settlement of Elkana. Having no way out, the conquered one has developed a sense of humor. So he’s written “The State of Hani” on the wall.
We drove through Kafr Thult and Azzun to Highway 55. It’s afternoon; the streets are filled with children returning from school.
13:15 Habla. A few people wait to enter Habla. They crossed a few minutes after we arrived. People go through in groups of five, “as usual.” A man leaving Habla gets stuck in the revolving gate and must wait for “the finger of God” to release him.
Our guests wonder why there’s a checkpoint separating people from their property (plant nurseries, agricultural land…). Who can explain the occupation’s logic…
13:35 – The school buses from ‘Arab al-Ramadin arrive. Here’s some more “logic” to explain – that young children must wait every day, twice, for an armed soldiers to come into the bus.
13:43 - The boys’ bus goes through.
13:51 – The girls’ bus goes through.
The only creatures thatshow any independence and refuse to obey blindly are the sheep whose owner tries to bring them through the checkpoint. Eventually they do what he wants.
14:06 – No more people are waiting. We left.
Translator: Charles K.
1. Green, well-watered crops at the Ro’i settlement, across from the Palestinians’ yellowing fields and a barrier wall.
2. Signs planted amid the Bedouin encampments announcing they’re on a firing range.
3. A local farmer who tried to transport his produce across the earthen berm was caught and arrested.
4. The Gochia gate is deserted – soldiers don’t come to open it.
Later I realized I should have photographed all the large concrete water reservoirs on the hilltops, built by Mekorot, the Israeli company, that supply only the settlers. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are forbidden to pump water and Israel has sealed their wells. The injustice is obvious to everyone: water is being plundered.
Along one side of the road dozens of dunums of green fields that the settlers irrigate regularly; parched, dry ground on the other side and a steep earthen berm which the army continually rebuilds to cut Palestinians off from other Palestinians and from their lands.
12:20 Za’tara checkpoint (Tapuach junction) – A soldier in the guard tower. No soldiers in the inspection booths. The area
near the booths has been fenced. On holidays there’s an information stand in the parking lot, for travelers – some stand there.
12:40 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – Three soldiers at the checkpoint, pointing their weapons at those who arrive, stopping every Palestinian vehicle. A settler shows up, gives them two bags of chips,tells them “You’re doing a great job.” Says to us, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” Photographs us and our car.
The soldiers don’t answer when Dafna asks who’s permitted to cross. But we didn’t see any vehicles turned back. We pass a large water reservoir, built by Mekorot, the Israeli company, on the way to the Hamra checkpoint - we saw a few like it in the Jordan Valley – next to it an open pool providing drinking water to the area’s flocks. They can quench their thirst from what’s left after Mekorot pumps the water, but three months ago Mekorot shut the faucet and the Palestinians must now fill the pool with water from water wagons they tow by tractor from Akraba, which is far away.
Hamra settlement – Greenhouses and wide, green cultivated fields, for only 28 families. Opposite, to the east: the Jiftlik, where Mekorot is drilling deep wells , taking water used by the Palestinians (who aren’t allowed to deepen their wells), drying up their orchards.
13:10 Hamra checkpoint – It wasn’t congested. We continued to Tayasir; we’ll stop here on our way back.
13:25 A Palestinian encampment on one side of the road; directly across on the other side, very close by, army tents and soldiers. What must a little boy in the family encampment feel upon waking in the morning and seeing an armed soldier right in front of him? I wasn’t able to get a good photo. Too bad. Seeing it is more powerful than any description could be.
Continuing along the road: On one side the products of the Ro’i settlement: fish ponds, organic spices, vineyards; on the other side, concrete posts announce: “Firing range – No entry.” That’s where the local residents live, who’ve been effectively expelled.
We visited the encampment where 16 cows were confiscated because they grazed in what had been declared a nature preserve, which is also a firing range. They told us the army returned only 13 cows and their owners were fined NIS 5000. That’s the encampment in the photo, in front of which is the post with the sign “Firing range – no entry”…not far from the settlement of Maskiyot whose built-up area is expanding toward the encampment.
14:20 Tayasir checkpoint – A vehicle driving west (toward Area A) is carefully inspected, along with its passengers, at one inspection booth. A vehicle driving east – the passengers get out and walk to where they’re inspected. The soldiers tell us that any pedestrian or vehicle can cross here without needing a permit. The Palestinians, on the other hand, say that pedestrians can usually go through without needing a permit, but a car whose driver isn’t registered as a resident of the Jordan Valley won’t receive a permit to enter.
The Palestinians also tell us about many instances in which some of the laborers waiting at dawn at the checkpoint have been pulled aside for an hour or an hour and a half, making them miss their ride and lose a day of work. For families which depend on the few pennies the father earns working in the settlement’s fields, the lost workday is a severe blow.
15:00 Gochia gate – No representative of the army has arrived to open the gate, despite the promises it made.
We met a young Palestinian shepherd who risked crossing the road with his flock, but said that there’s nothing on the other side for the sheep to eat, as we also could see. He asked who we are; when Dafna answered, explaining we’re against the checkpoints and the occupation, he placed his hand on his heart, then raised his hands high and shouted “God is great,” as if he didn’t believe what he’d heard…
15:50 Hot peppers - P., a Palestinian from one of the villages, farms and markets produce. He lives west of the road but tried nevertheless to cross the earthen berm erected by the army to prevent normal traffic across the road by compatriots whose land has been occupied by Israel. He was caught by a security patrol of the Beqa’ot settlement, which summoned the army. He’s already been detained for two hours, waiting for the police. A truck driver and another passenger said that because they’re not residents of the Jordan Valley and are therefore forbidden to cross through the Hamra checkpoint, and because there’s not enough of a market for their peppers on the West Bank, they tried their luck here – and why shouldn’t a merchant from Tamoun be allowed to sell peppers in the Jiftlik? How will that undermine security? We waited with them for about half an hour. They were very thirsty in the heat of the Valley, and feared their entire crop was rotting on the truck. [At 16:45, P. informed us that the police came and let him off with a reprimand.]
16:10 Hamra checkpoint – Vehicles and passengers travelling west aren’t inspected. But they must wait for the soldier’s signal to go through the checkpoint. On the other side, people coming from the west to the Jordan Valley must get out of the vehicle, be inspected one by one and then wait for their vehicle to go through the checkpoint. Again, only a vehicle whose owner lives in the Jordan Valley is allowed through the checkpoint.
16:45 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – The inspection booths aren’t manned. A soldier in the observation tower.
The shifts change, the soldiers go to the guard tower in the parking lot. The inspection booths aren’t manned.