An especially difficult day.
09:30 Departure from Rosh Ha'Ayin.
10:00 Arrival at Dir Balut. We were supposed to begin a session with a group of women, as was agreed with them last week. The feeling is festive. To our surprise, a lad arrives from the council house and informs us that the women will not come. Without prior notification, without explanation. Nadim calls Nivin, the organizer. At first she is evasive. And bit by bit the truth is exposed: one of the council memebers opposes our activity and under his influence it was decided to cancel our activities.
How can such a step be explained? One reason which, as far as we are concerned, it is easier to digest is – "the conservative men don't want to expose the women to "modernity". A more difficult reason – "we don't need your favours". Be it as it may,the fact was that we were kicked out. Sad.
10:15 Departure for a tour.
As we had time on our hands, we decided to make it an expanded tour. We didn't imagine that we would find ourselves in the heart of a terrorist attack which would develop into Price Tag. On the way to the Tapuah junction we already saw more military vehicles that usual. At the junction itself. Near the bus station, there was a big gathering.
Policemen, soldiers, armed settlers. We approach and try to find out what has happened. It turned out that around 09:00 hrs a Palestinian fatally stabbed a settler from Yitzhar, snatched his weapons, and tried to get away. Soldiers shot at him and wounded him. He isn't around anymore, was evacuated by ambulance to the hospital.
A woman settler tells us assuredly that the assassin is from Kafr Yassuf, near Yitzhar. Later it transpires that he came from afar: from the village of Shwayka near Tul Karem (it may be hoped that at least for the moment Kafr Yassuf is saved from a retaliatory act…).
We tried to extract explanations: what led to the stabbing? After all it is not logical to assume that a person looking for revenge would choose such a long trail so far from his home (which makes his rescues in a hiding place more difficult) just in order to stab somebody? Just like that? What was the trigger that cause the violent outburst? Was there a prior acquaintanceship between them? What inflamed the atmosphere between the settler and the Palestinian prior to the stabbing?
We didn't get any answers to our querries. Will the investigators eventually try to find out whether the stabber had a motive? This remains to be seen.
While the military Zaka people (a religious organization of volunteers for finding and rescuing people injured in a disaster) perform their work, young people who fit according to their looks the description of the Youth of the Hills arrive from nowhere and the atmosphere becomes heated. One young man tries to shoo us away. "Who are you, are you the police?" we ask. And the answer, directed at Natalie is: "If you weren't a woman, I would crack your skull".
11:00 We leave. On the radio we hear the details of the event. Military jeeps patrol along the road. Every 100-200 meters there is a group of soldiers who block with spikes vehicles which drive in the direction of the Tapuah intersection. We, driving in the opposite direction. Pass without being checked.
All along the way, at the entries to each village, there are road blocks. Nobody can enter or leave. We arrive at Huwwara. Surprisingly the main road is lively. But in sporadic conversations with people it transpires that they are aware of the going-ons: "There is a mess". And indeed there is.
Ambulances pass with sirens, driving at high speed in both directions. And that's the reason: at the exit from Huwwara, at the roadside, there is a parked bus which drove girl pupils from their school. The front window is smashed. Wounded girls are transferred by ambulance for medical treatment. The price tag has begun its activities.
At the order of the border policemen we turn around and go in the opposite direction. Large groups of settlers, some of whom are armed, are seen along the road. How did they manage to pass through the police and army checkpoints??
12:30 Back to Rosh Ha'Ayin, to another reality, to another country. The news announce that the price tag activities which we witnessed are only the beginning.
Translator: Charles K.
There were 42 participants and two guides (50 had registered; 8 cancelled prior to the tour).
We covered the “classic loop”: Highway 55 from Qalqilya, Highway 60 to Huwwara, Highway 5 to Elkana.
The Alfei Menashe seam zone, including the Habla gate checkpoint and the view from Alfei Menashe / Jayyus / Qadum / Huwwara checkpoint / Huwwara village / the Elkana seam zone including the Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s home.
The tour left Tel Aviv at 11.15 and ended at 18.30.
We stopped on the Green Line near Qalqiliya, on the bridge over Highway 6. From there, near Alfei Menashe, we observed the fence blocking the villages of Ras a-Tira and Wadi Rasha from accessing their lands. We then continued to the Habla checkpoint / agricultural gate.
Although we arrived at the Habla checkpoint during the hours it was to have been open, we weren’t able to see it in operation. It was locked because the army hadn’t come to open it. We telephoned the DCO, who told us they were aware of the delay. Don’t worry, the soldiers will arrive. When? Not clear. We waited 20 minutes and left. And thus we experienced what happens to Palestinians at this supposed crossing.
Meetings with Palestinians:
We weren’t able to meet with Umar at the plant nursery in the seam zone (at the Habla gate) because it was Saturday. But the meeting with Na’im in Jayyus made a very strong impression, primarily because of his personality and the way he presented the information, “spiced” with personal and family stories, and in fluent Hebrew. He accompanied us along the fence and we saw his lands on the other side. We heard about arrests of youths at night, about intimidation and fear, about those blacklisted by the Shabak and the yearning for peace.
The meeting with Sakkar at Qadum was important in order to become acquainted with the fact that although the locality has no fence, he’s prevented from reaching his lands (there’s a virtual fence: starting at a particular post…). He’s also prevented by a checkpoint from reaching Nablus via the shortest route, which he used to take long ago. Because the settlement of Quedumim doesn’t want them nearby, a checkpoint was established (security).
We walked with Sakkar along the route the inhabitants take during their demonstrations – from the village center to that same post beyond which they know they’re not allowed to proceed. The path is black from tires burned by the residents during every demonstration in order to prevent the army from entering the village.
Even though the demonstration is non-violent the army fires tear gas and sprays stinking liquid at them, and sometimes employs dogs. That’s the ritual that’s been repeated every Friday after prayers for two years. Like at Bil’in.
We saw the Palestinian villages along Highway 60 (Asira Qabaliya, Madama and Burin), above whom, on the hills on both sides of the road, are the violent settlements that harass them and their olive groves – Gil’ad Farm, Beracha and Yitzhar (some say the area lives “between a blessing [Beracha] and a curse.”)
We didn’t stay at the Huwwara checkpoint because time was short. We only observed the empty terminal from the bus. A monument to the checkpoint which pointlessly tortured people for six years. Soldiers tried to move us away but we didn’t react because we hadn’t intended to stay in any case. The view from the bus, along with the stories, was enough.
Participants in the tour were amazed by the atmosphere in the village of Huwwara – as if the “conflict” never existed. Everyone was calm. Welcoming us, as is traditional among Palestinians. Falafel, coffee, and – as noted – the overall atmosphere made their effect felt. It’s an experience not to be missed.
We crossed through the Shomron crossing checkpoint without inspection.
And ”last but not least” – the Elkana seam zone:
The Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s besieged home- the entire occupation in a nutshell.
Summary of the feedback we received:
Of the 42 participants (including two friends of ours who came with their families), we received the following responses to questions:
12 were interested in obtaining material from us
15 men and women expressed interest in joining us
15 didn’t respond
How did you hear about the tour?
16 – the ad in Ha’aretz
1 – the internet
10 – from friends (some of them via Ha’aretz)
1 – Psycho Active
Only 3 (unfortunately) from Machsom Watch members
From the feedback we received via email:
Thanks to Dalya for guiding this fascinating and very important tour.
Many Israelis should take a tour like this.
As I always say – Machsom Watch women are the country’s eyes.
Thank you, and best wishes
Buma Inbar 054-767 0511
And from the previous tour on 27.3 with the “Meretz” forum against the occupation
Thank you for the tour and your patient, professional guidance. Many of the participants told me they’d learned much that was new, and some included information from the tour and their praises on Facebook.
Thank you for yesterday’s excellent tour. Even for those participants well-acquainted with the political reality of Israel that life here has inured us to, and who are seemingly very familiar with the praxis of separation and the unbearable regime under which Palestinians in the occupied territories live, the tour was a must.
The tour was excellently planned and carried out. The wonderful and accurate tour leadership allowed participants to learn about the various complex issues which the Palestinians confront. Despite the feelings of anger and frustration accompanying a tour like this, we are proud of Machsom Watch, of its worthy activities on behalf of the Palestinians,but which are also on behalf of our own society.
13:40 Habla gate. The children’s bus comes from Habla to the exit, three girls get off and are taken to the scanner for inspection, the bus awaits them outside. When they came out I asked them why they in particular were taken to be inspected. The answer: they’re older and have ID cards.
Two Palestinians waited under the canopy near the gate. When they saw us they began complaining that they’ve been waiting half an hour and the worker they hired to pick lemons isn’t being allowed through. The soldier told him that “you can’t go through because of the holiday.” I telephoned ‘Adel who didn’t understand what holiday she was talking about. He promised to take care of it. Meanwhile the two men got tired of waiting; they said they wanted to return home before the gate closed and they’d have to wait until evening. I told them that it was being taken care of; they said they’d wait on the other side with their worker. Meanwhile Tedesa telephoned me (after ‘Adel spoke to him); he said he’d spoken to the soldier in charge who told him that nothing like that had happened. Meanwhile I see the three of them approaching the gate and told Tedesa that she’d just released him.
14:10 The Eliyahu crossing was filled with military vehicles; something must have happened, but they wouldn’t answer my questions. We continued; two Hummers were parked opposite the entrance to Ma’aleh Shomron. There were also soldiers at the entrance to Qedumim, and two jeeps. Well, the lords have to be protected, no?
Jit junction. A new military position on the north side behind the railing is manned.
Huwwara is empty.
Za’tara. Manned, inspections underway with dogs.
16:10 A group of soldiers stood at the Hars traffic light on the north side behind the railing. Five vehicles were detained for inspection.
16:20 Azzun Atma. No laborers crossing. We drove to the parking lot opposite Oranit where the Palestinian laborers get out of their transportation. Three laborers were there. They told us they were from Aqraba, planning to walk to the checkpoint and get a taxi from there because there are no taxis to their villages from where they’re let off. It’s so disheartening…
Translator: Charles K.
More military traffic than usual.
13:55 Habla checkpoint
At the last minute the soldiers allow two Palestinians to enter their village.
Although the checkpoint closes exactly at 14:00, two vehicles that had been delayed by an upgrade to the inner gate that was being carried out by workers and soldiers were allowed to cross after the scheduled closing hour.
Bedouin who live nearby invite us for coffee, to tell us about their problems and the difficulties they’re being caused. We promised to come another time.
14:10 Eliyahu crossing
A number of impatient tracker dogs from the Oketz unitare penned in cages on the eastern edge of the parking lot.
14:43 Highway 60 junction with the Huwwara-Burin road.
Four different military vehicles and two police vehicles speed toward the village.
15:00 Huwwara checkpoint
Heavy traffic on the way to the
checkpoint in the direction of Nablus.
It eased by the time we reached the
Three armed soldiers stand alongside
the inspection station at the entrance
to Nablus. A soldier observes from the
15:30 A military jeep is parked in Huwwara. Three armed soldiers stand near the curb, watching the busy traffic.
15:40 Za’tara checkpoint (Tapuach junction).
Many police cars parked there.
A small Palestinian car has been detained. Three guys stand next to it. Soldiers stand not far away, their weapons pointed at them (see photo).
16:00 Shomron crossing
A very long line of cars waiting to leave Israel.
Two command cars are parked there; police vehicles inspect private minibuses transporting Palestinian laborers.
16:05 Azzun Atma checkpoint
The line to enter the checkpoint isn’t crowded
An Israeli taxi has been detained. The soldiers took the (new) driver’s keys because he’d driven Palestinian laborers to the checkpoint. The soldiers asked whether the Palestinians had permits; the taxi driver asked them in Arabic and they said no. The soldiers detained them and the driver for three hours.
16:15 Oranit terminal
Members of Machsom Watch, along with members of Yesh Din, Lo Metzaytotand Kav LaOvedarrived today to demonstrate because on Thursday afternoons the police at the Oranit terminal are in the habit of removing Palestinian passengers from bus no. 286 from Tel Aviv to Ariel.
They’re returning home after their
work week in Israel. All of them
have Israeli work permits.
The police didn’t show up today
after two weeks in which we’d
documented them making
Palestinians get off the bus.
photographer: Esti tsal
We came to demonstrate against the police removing Palestinians from the buses, taking their ID cards and making them walk three miles to the Azzun Atma checkpoint where the soldiers detain them as they see fit, and only then can they catch expensive jitneys for a roundabout trip to finally get home after working in Israel for a week. Were they to continue on the bus on Highway 5 directly to Ariel they’d arrive in 20 minutes at the cost of an inexpensive, subsidized bus ticket (that they already bought and paid for) to this location.
The demonstration is against Israel’s apartheid policy,to arouse public opinion in Israel and abroad against Israel’s actions in the occupied territories.
Even though the police hadn’t shown up today (the demonstration was aimed at them in particular), settlers nevertheless reacted to our demonstration. Miki Fisher documented on video what the settlers yelled at us and Esti Tze’al took photographs.
A Palestinian laborer we’d met last time when he was made to get off the bus saw us today and telephoned to thank us for being there.
Translation: Suzanne O.
On the radio they talk about the budding Intifada – around Nablus only the almond trees are in bud.
'Today the roadblock is not good' say the labourers. It turns out that one of the computer stations is not working and the exit queue moves very slowly. Tens of people crowd around the turnstiles. According to the labourers the waiting time is over an hour. The soldiers are not prepared to put in place someone to take notes manually. According to them their business is to take care of security and order not the welfare of the labourers.
At the entrance to the roadblock there is a new red sign. It does not prohibit the entrance to the village, just warns that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter. Is this not pronouncing a verdict?
There is no police presence at the exit from Israel.
There are no soldiers in the checkpoints.
Almost without our noticing it the settlers' buffet in the car park, which has been there for years, has been dismantled. One of those waiting for a lift says it has been removed because it had no licence. Has the law of the land reached settler country?
There is no military activity.
A military vehicle is parked at the side but does not interfere with the flow of traffic.
In the village itself the children are on their way to school. They have not heard on the Israeli radio that no schools are open on the West Bank so that the children are free to throw stones.
The yellow barrier still bars the crossing.
The roadblock is not staffed.
On the way up to Bracha – a soldier.
Heavy traffic of lorries exiting.