Ordinary day of occupation. The children are on "vacation" as there is a strike of the employees of the Authority, the teachers and many others. This is because they did not receive a salary last month.
On the way, we saw a lot more use of donkeys than in the past. Even on highway #55, in the area between Eliyahu gate and the gas station of Alfei Menashe, there were a number of wagons with passengers and donkeys pulling them.
06:20 'Azzun 'Atma
Many are already waiting outside, but the line has about 70 people or more, even though the inspection is quick - 30 people went through in 8 minutes. The building of the checkpoint is proceeding at a good pace and every time something new has been added "to the advantage of the residents". Now it is a kind of divider, half transparent, between the vehicles lane and the inspection lane for pedestrians.
06:45 Tamar gate
We travelled by way of Oranit. Also, on this side of the road which leads to the gate, there is an additional gate, which cuts off the road coming from the Tamar gate. Pedestrians arrive and form a line between the gate and the fence. One can also pass through the gate if you push with both shoulders, but, in principle it is locked and there is only the hole in the fence. On both sides of the gate they are working on the new fence. It looks as though it will increase the amount of land returned to Palestine on one side but, along the road to Oranit it will decrease the space. There is also a lot of work on the south side of the road to Elkana - are they continuing the fence to there?- we'll see.
There is no one in line, even though the gate opened at 06:30; it is not usual that 45 minutes after the opening there is not yet a line. The children didn't cross because of the school strike. People keep arriving, but go straight through in both directions.
Eliyahu gate- 3 vehicles for inspection, no pedestrians waiting in line; there is a new shed in the pedestrian area, but not near the inspection booth.
We traveled to 'Azzun to our friend, Z., to bring things for his store. It is pleasant to report that he is enterprising and intends to open another store, so he will sell men's wear alone and his wife will sell the women's wear. However, his medical situation has not improved.
Quiet as usual; vehicles go through, tractors and donkeys. All of them with children - vacation, so they can help with the work
09:30 Jabarra checkpoint
Quiet, only a few people going through but the checkpoint still exists. According to the soldiers, they will dismantle it in another 1-2 months; a Palestinian said in another 20 days. So we decided to go and check how the fence is coming along. We went up to Ar Ras (next to the mosque) where there is a very good lookout. We saw that the fence is far from being completed (in the area under the rocks), and it doesn't look as though the Jabarra checkpoint will be dismantled. We will follow up.
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.
Visits to the villages in the seam zone and conversations with the residents about the difficulties concerning getting permits to work their agricultural lands shows a situation where there is no charity and no hope for the Palestinian villages. They have to prove their ownership and their connection to the land which they have worked and the documents and details which are checked to the finest detail by the authorities. And on the other hand it is better for them that there should be no young people who are physically more able to do the hard work as they are of necessity a security risk. They have little chance of getting to the land. If they manage to get over these obstacles and the permit has been signed by the conqueror they are chewed up in the teeth of the Palestinian corruption and are forced to oil those wheels so that the law of basic survival and of making a living can be applied to them.
Az Zawiya gate/Dan shield gate #1565 -
Between the fence to road 5 are agricultural lands to which the approach to them is through a small gate which is next to the Dan Shield gate #1565. It is years since this gate has been opened and the villagers were not allowed to get to their lands. Two days ago it was opened for the first time. Is this a bird which promises well?
Until today of the 10s of requests which were submitted to the IDF received only 5 were granted permission and actually the harvest has already begun.
Ar Ras/gate 753/Jubara gate/the children's gate -
There were 130 requests and only 10 permits were granted, mainly for small children.
The village of Tsur/gate #839 -
There were 80 requests and only 37 permits were granted.
At Masha -only 20 permits had been issued and in Jayyus only 5.
The Palestinians complain mainly about the lack of response.
We went to check the Tamar Gate, from the direction of Oranit - the gate on the road was closed but, before the turnoff to the Tamar gate, about 20 Palestinians were sitting by the side of the road, watched over by 2 soldiers. Apparently these were illegal entrants who had entered through holes in the fence. The soldiers were getting them up and marching them toward the Tamar Gate. We continued to 'Azzun 'Atma and saw that the Gate in the direction of the road to the Tamar Gate from 'Azzun was already open.
There is work going on in the area, apparently preparations for moving the fence, which was ordered by the High Court.
06:20 'Azzun 'Atma
The line was quite short, since there is usually a line of 50-60 people here; three inspection points and, by 6:40, the line was completely gone. In reponse to our inquiry to Palestinians and soldiers whether there was a decrease in people going through because of Ramadan, we were told that this is not the case.
Four Palestinians were sitting on the side, facing the fence and not the checkpoint - illegal entrants who were caught going through a hole in the fence. Not clear why the holes are not fixed instead of sending soldiers to hunt down Palestinians - it is terrible.
No one is waiting at the checkpoint. We went to the Tamar Gate which was still open (although supposed to close at 06:45), since there were a lot of people and the soldiers said that they would let everyone through. It seems that recently a lot of people prefer the Tamar Gate since there are always long lines at 'Azzun where one has to wait a long time (not today, surprisingly). Those going through mention that, in the afternoon, they return through the gate at 'Azzun Atma. A wagon with a donkey goes through, a car, and finally a herd of sheep.
The gate is already open and about 30 people are still waiting. Lots of arguments about the line; whenever it becomes threatening, the soldiers intervene; they have to settle things themselves. The passage is much slower than at 'Azzun, we don't know why. This magnometer is not something that takes a lot of time, but neverthless, only 20 people go through in 10 minutes under one inspector, and that was the height of speed at this checkpoint by my calculation. At 07:35 there were 10 people left in line, though others join sporadically.
07:45 Eliyahu Gate - no one in the pedestrian line, silence.
A herd of sheep and goats is just going through the checkpoint, going to the west, with a donkey and the lame shepherd. It was amazing to see how the herd stood still for him in silence and waited until the shepherd went through the checkpoint. In fact, the whole checkpoint here was isolated and seemed very strange in this environment - in the middle of Nowhere. The soldiers were sleepy. A vehicle arrived from the East and passed through, after inspection.
Everything is functioning normally, quiet. We came in order to see what is happening with the new fence, and indeed one can see the workers on the route which is alread encompassing Jabara and continues between Sla'it and Kfar Sur. We went up to El Rus in order to see better - the view is beautiful, if only it weren't cut through the middle. What is not clear is how the people of Jabara, El Rus and Kfar Sur will get to their olive orchards which remain outside the fence from their point of view. Will they make a new gate nearer to their lands? Moving the fence this way certainly did not solve their problem of access to their lands, onlly changed it a bit.
Back to Eliyahu Gate with flags - they asked where we were from and then detain us and talk with whoever is or isn't in charge on the telephone. The traffic behinds us gets annoyed and they finally let us through - thanks to the police of the borders for their alertness in preventing harm to the State by 2 elderly women.
Eliyahu gate10.10 - We park the car in the parking lot and walk toward the new installations on the other side of the road and the new parking lot. On the way, we see how people who have a permit to move about on their own lands and nurseries within Israeli terriitory are processed. We saw how they emptied everything out of their cars and taxis into shopping carts and in addition their dog was inspected. Ran, the checkpoint commander, hurries over to us and informs us they we are allowed to stand and observe them only from the area of the bus stop, about 500 m. away. What could one see from there? We try to have a conversation with him. We received an explanation of how the inspections are carried out, also for people going through the checkpoint. We were pleased to hear that he reads our reports
The seven villages of the "Baladia" of Zibad 11:00 - we travel by way of Jayyus, amazed at the new roads and the impressive signs in three languages. We continue to the village of Jamal and hear there, from several youths, that everyone in the village received a permit to harvest their olives. We looked for the village head in the "municipality" building, but he wasn't there. We looked in the sewing workshop of N., who found her father, who told us that everything was going well: in another week, all of the olive grove owners would received permission to go to the harvest from 07:00 until 15:00. After drinking some cold and very good water, we were told that there was no water shortage and that their village has a partnership in a well which also provides water to the nearby settlement of Sla'it.
12:00 - we continue on the new road to the impressive "Baladia" building of Zibad. This is a kind of local council which represents 7 villages: Jubara, a-Ris, Kfar Tzur, Kfar Jamal, Zibad, Kfar 'Abush, Kur. The mayor was not available, but he had a substitute. Also R., from a-Ris was there, and the same relaxed atmosphere as N's father was reflected in Kfar Jamal. It turns out that the IDF's programs which they had told us about during our first visit in Zibad in March are already in operation. The people of a-Ris will get their lands, which had been closed off within the territory of the fence of Jubara, and the residents of Jubara can get to their lands, which are in the territroy of a-Ris, with a daily permit. Of course, not everyone is happy with this news: the people of Jubara had figured out how to benefit from their position within Israeli territory, and the residents of Kfar Tzur are in fact worried that they might lose part of their property which is within a-Ris. In any case, there was a feeling of satisfaction which we never had in previous visits in other villages in the nearby area. Perhaps because of the special relations which the residents of Sla'it managed to create with their Palestinian neighbors? The people of this settlement actually come during the olive harvest to help out the nearby villages. Maybe the new roads reflect another contribution which they are receiving from the European Union? And perhaps the promise of a Palestinian State and the intervention of the UN arouse optimism? From the usual cliches about the state and about peace in the future it is impossible to understand their actual thoughts.
Qalqilya 14:00 - Everyone is passing through in both directions. No soldiers, no checkpoint.
06:30 Eliyahu crossing. About 30 people are waiting to enter; a few vehicles waiting in line. "Development works" continue at the checkpoint, apparently in order to turn the checkpoint to a crossing maintained by a private company and to channel people from the agricultural crossing at Habla to this one. (cf. last night's report by Dalia G. from Habla.
06:50 Jayyus. The gate is open, no line, immediate entry and very quick processing. A small number of tractors go through and a horse and wagon.
07:15 The crossing is closed. We return to the main road and travel toward the crossing at Falamya.
07:25 Falamya. No one is going through at this hour. The soldiers are gathered in the shade of the guard tower.
07:45 The village of Falamya is totally quiet, no one outside. We continue to the village of Jamal and, at the entrance, turn at the first road to the left, travel along the twisting road alongside the village up to a stop sign; then ascend to the excellent road toward Tulkarm. We pass by the turnoff to Kfar Sur and Aras and arrive at the Jubara checkpoint.
08:00 Jubara. Three cars are parked outside the fence; there is no one going through now. We walk around, return and continue in the direction of Tulkarm (from the turn where there once was the check point of Aras). On the left, on the hill side beneath Jabara, a large bulldozer is working. We hope/imagine that this work is connected to moving the fence around Jabara. We travel beneath highway #557 and see, on our right, the house of the village of Izbet Shufa next to the road and, to our left, the structure of the Teenim checkpoint. We stop next to a taxi waiting for passengers. He suggests that we continue, but we decided that was enough and turn back. We return to the roundabout and turn toward Funduk. On the way, we pass a new, modern chicken coop that, according to the driver of a tanker working there, was built 8 months previously by the owner of the large feed factory (silo) next to Kfar Sur.
08:35 We pass Hag'ah, which looks a bit less sleepy, and ascend to highway #55 by way of Funduk.
08:40 We see the first military vehicle. Right behind it, between Kedumim and J'it junction a civil police car stops a Palestinian car. Beyond J'it junction, a military vehicle is parked, but there is no checkpoint.
09:00 Dir Sharaf. It is very quiet.
09:10 'Anabta checkpoint Although there are soldiers at the checkpoint, there is free passage in both directions. An officer stands in the middle of the checkpoint and makes lists...On the way to the Teenim checkpoint, we enter Izbet Shufa in order to experience the opening of the road between Shufa and Izbet Shufa. A taxi driver going through there says that the obstacle was removed 14 days ago and, after the holiday, the village head plans to speak with the DCO to request that it be permanently removed.
09:45 Teenim checkpoint. Quick passage, despite the MachsomWatch flags.
Since last week we came across a flying checkpoint at A-Ras, and read in the reports of additional flying checkpoints, we decided to drive along roads where there used to be permanent checkpoints and flying checkpoints. We were pleased that we saw no checkpoints, and hardly any soldiers.
06:40 Eliyahu crossing – About 30 laborers are still waiting to enter.
06:47 The gate is open. There’s no line and people cross quickly. The female MP knows all those coming through. A truck with 4 people and empty crates in the back is inspected quickly and crosses; we see it going up the hill between the fruit orchards. A horse cart, tractor carrying workers, another tractor pass. An acquaintance of ours, who owns the field adjoining the gate, arrives with a horse and cart. He tells us that the field next to the fence on the other side, the fence and the security road opposite the gate and fields on the other side of the fence all belong to him. He has four sons and four daughters, none of whom have received permits to cross, even during the olive harvest, and he’s forced to hire workers and pay them.
07:15 At this moment they close the gate.
07:28 Falamya crossing – The soldiers gather in the guard tower. No one comes or goes.
07:45 No one has crossed, and we leave.
08:05 On route 55, more or less opposite Ramat Gil’ad (just past the turn to Karnei Shomron), on the left side of the road, we saw a large new yellow sign warning of mines (?). We weren’t able to stop and look more closely.
We saw no military vehicles or soldiers along the road.
Some stores in Funduq are open and people are on the street.
Shvut Ami (R.I.P.) and its hills are deserted; no soldiers at the Qedumim hitchhiking station.
Israeli police stop a Palestinian vehicle by the roadside. No soldiers at Jit junction. We drive on the road to Sara that had been closed and is now open and repaved, pass the turn to Sara, continue and at the large junction turn left toward Qusin village. There are new roads and considerable new, attractive construction. We pass by the village which suffered greatly when the Beit Iba checkpoint was operating and reach the ruins of the checkpoint where today shepherds put their goats and sheep to graze.
08:30 We make another left and reach Deir Sharaf. The bakery begins operating only in the afternoon and all night, till early morning.
We drive up to Shavei Shomron; there are no soldiers and we’re pleased to see that the yellow gate opposite Shavei Shomron that for years was locked and blocked access to Naqura and Sebastya has recently been dismantled, and entry is unrestricted.
08:45 At the junction of Routes 57 and 60 we see our first military vehicle, an armored car going up to Shavei Shomron.
At the 'Anabta checkpoint rising for the greater glory of Israel there’s a military command car and soldiers in the pillbox. At the checkpoint we turn around and return.
09:00 We leave the territories for home through the Te’anim checkpoint without being delayed.
06:55 Habla. The gate was already open and the first 5 Palestinians were being checked. The inspection was swift. 21 people went through in 20 minutes. The Palestinians keep the line in order. It seems that there are slightly fewer people than usual. The soldiers are relaxed and willing to talk with us. There is ful and melouchiah blooming in the fields next to the checkpoint.
0 7:25 No change in the problems at Izbet Tabib.
07:30 'Azzun is quiet. It is vacation and there are no school children.
07:40 Falamya .Quiet, few people going through at this hour. Working in the Zatar fields. One youth who is working in the field asks the soldiers to to fill his bottle with cold water. They reply with a smile and flll it.
08:05 A lot of traffic on the detour passes near the checkpoint. One Palestinian returns from the area on the other side of the checkpoint and waits for transportation to Kfar Jamal, so we offer him a ride. We don't see any signs of change concerning the route of the wall in this area. The soldiers say that the work has started near Jubara. Also the Palestinians with whom we talked didn't have any idea of where the new route might be. We wanted to drive from Kfar Jamal to Kfar Sur but we arrived at Kfar Zibad from there we continued to Kfar Sur (on a road which doesn't appear on the new map). There is a lot of paving of new roads and, because of this, a lot of detours. We got onto the paved road to Tulkarm and from there, from above, one sees the wall in all its glory.
08:40 Checkpoint 753
There is no trace of the checkpoint of Ar Ras at the entrance to the road which descends to Tulkarm, and we arrive at the 753 checkpoint which we used to call the Flowers Checkpoint and the Childrens' Checkpoint...This checkpoint is at the entrance to Jobara which is now the only entrance to the village. The checkpoint is open 24 hours a day. A line of Palestinian vehicles is parked at the side of the road, which belong to Palestinians who have an entrance permit to the village, but their cars don't. A car with an entrance permit enters after a short inspection. Sounds good, but this is someone who must go through daily and pass inspection when he arrives home! There is no sign of the new wall on this side and people don't know exactly where it will be, probably between the settlement of Sla'it and the village of Ar Ras. One doesn't know how many fields and olive trees will still be on the other side of the wall... On the way back, we entered the village of Ar Ras and went up to a lookout from which you can see the entire view; we spoke with two cute children and their pleasant grandmother in sign language, and they invited us to drink tea; when we had to refuse, they gave us a branch of marmiya which we could put in our tea at home...We continued by way of the village and went down to the checkpoint of 'Anabta, where there is free passage but the soldiers in the pill box watched us from above.
10:00 Teenim checkpoint We were thoroughly checked by the soldiers and stopped outside the checkpoint in order to look from that side toward the village of Jobara which is closed tightly. Here one can see very clearly the beginning of work for moving the fence. The house of Abu Hatam is decorated with ribbons. Is this in honor of the moving of the fence?!
06:45 Habla Gate
The gate opens on time
06:50 The first people come out; about 20 people went through in 9 minutes.
The new gate near Alfei Menashe/Ras a-Tirah is closed, no activity.
Jayyus, north gate - open on time. About 4 minutes for checking a
tractor, one for checking a worker. Everyone managed to pass trough
by 8, when the gate closed. A truck also passed and went north on the
Falamya. Two trucks passed, a wagon with a donkey, relaxed atmosphere.
'Azzun 'Atma. The gate in the direction of Beit Amin is not in operation
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: We drove along Road 574 and went in to the villages. The main complaint: owners of land on the other side of the separation fence can't work their fields because of the agricultural permits regime. For the villages whose main livelihood is from agriculture, this is a death blow.
The commander at Gate 753 in Jebara sent us by the road into Tulkarm.
A soldier, a native of Karnei Shomron, thinks that we are plunging a knife into the nation's back.
The school bus crosses the gate; we are told that it has been held up for a long time. Palestinians exiting sound embittered. One of them says in Hebrew: "It's better to die than to live like this". Others say that they have waited hours for the gate to open. A shepherd and his herd cross. From a distance it appears to us that there is crowding at the gate because the Palestinians cannot maintain order.
We approach the soldier at the checkpoint and he immediately attacks: "Is there nowhere for you to volunteer rather than sticking a knife in our backs?" He is from Karnei Shomron. A useless conversation ensues. He sees us as worse enemies than the Palestinians and wants to know if we are in the pay of Hamas.
The crossings continue slowly.
We go towards the Bedouin village of Araba-Ramadin to give out the parcels that Rina has brought. A woman asks if we have school satchels.
It is open and the traffic flows. Some of the labourers who work in Karnei Shomron are still waiting by the gate for inspection.
We went into Sir and stop by a family sitting on the pavement by their house. A conversation develops: they have a problem with agricultural permits to work their land on the other side of the fence. They have a relative in Jius village who owns a grove on the other side of the fence. He is old and it is hard for him to work his land so he is forced to lease it to someone from Kalkilya, but is concerned that they are not working it efficiently. He is under pressure to sell to the person from Kalkilya but he is sure that in this way the land will pass into Jewish hands. His sons have not received permits to cross the gate. Another difficulty is that wild boars are destroying the irrigation pipes.
In the main the village is profitable. The Authority has built a new road and a secondary school. Half of the village residents work abroad and send money home. A housewife comes out with a tray of coffee. Her husband tells us that in 2005 his nephew, a student in Nejach, was arrested at Beit Iba roadblock, handcuffed and put in a cell in the sun: he got heat stroke and died.
We stop by the grocery shop whose owner spent years in Saudi Arabia and he speaks English. From him we hear that two young men were arrested in the village last night, aged 22 and 25. He doesn't know the reason. He is 54 years old, he worked for years in Israel and would like to visit the places he knew but he cannot get a permit.
He tries to contact someone who speaks biblical Hebrew, reads and translates poetry and literature, by telephone. His name is M. S., a name we must know. Unfortunately there is no reply.
Gate no. 927 is open. We are told that it opened late this morning, at 5:25 instead of 5:15 a.m. Two soldiers are in the peripheral checkpoint, eating their breakfast and they happily talk to us. The gate is supposed to be open continuously for 12 hours from 5:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. In the past reservists were stationed here and they did not open the gate on time so the residents turned to the High Court. After the High Court verdict regular soldiers were stationed here and the gate opened on time.
We drive up to Palmia village by a narrow, winding dirt road. We stop for a chat with the owner of the grocery shop. He complains that business is bad. The residents' lands are on the other side of the fence and they can't get permits. He works the well and is responsible for sharing the water out. Mekorot allocates 175,000 cubes of water for the whole village. Many of them are forced to rent out their lands because they are getting old and can't get permits for labourers to work the land.
Education: children go to school until they are 15 years old. Further education takes place elsewhere. University graduates and professionals usually go to work in the Emirates.
We drove via Jemal and Sur villages.
We arrived at the school just as it was break time. The pupils are in the playground in their uniforms, eating pita.
We met the head teacher and the mayor and his deputy who had come to visit. They claim that Jebara gate causes a lot of problems because quite often it doesn't open on time and the children are forced to wait over an hour in the school bus. Each pupil has a crossing permit plus a photocopy of their father's ID card.
Meanwhile we are served with sweetened tea. There are 250 pupils in the village and for the first time 16 pupils are taking matriculation exams; 5 girls and 11 boys.
Pressing problems: there are not enough permits to work the village lands on the other side of the separation fence and there are many people refused entry by the Shabak who cannot get permits. An elderly man enters the room and tells us that no one from his family can get a permit (even his 80 year old father is refused by the Shabak). I give him a MachsomWatch card.
Gate 753 (the northern gate) is open.
The soldiers refuse to let us through. Rina gets out the permit from the General in Command. The commander goes to telephone his superiors.
Meanwhile a number of vehicles behind us are held up. A pick up truck loaded up with grocery produce crosses. We are refused. The roadblock commander sends us to the road leading to Tulkarm (the one which goes under Road 557). In effect he sends us into Area A. He says we will be allowed to cross via Te'enim Crossing. Nadim confirms that during Ramadan the crossing to Tulkarm was open to Israelis.
The gate in the direction of Tulkarm is closed. From afar a soldier motions to us that there is no entry. We contact Tami Cohen who says that she will check with the brigade commander. Meanwhile the roadblock commander, a second lieutenant, realises that we are from MachsomWatch and he goes to bring the key, he also says that we can enter Jebara via the gate opposite.
We do a short tour of the village and shop at the local grocer's.
Back to the locked gate, waiting for the soldier to come with the key.
Together with Abu Roatem, the owner of the solitary house and 2 women who are with him, we cross the gate and drive on to Road 444 back to Kfar Sava.