Afternoonshift, 2:30 till 5:00 PM. Nice weather, one day before Christmas. Christians are trying to get permits in order to visit their relatives in Israel.
3:00 till 3:30 PM, Etzion DCL: today the situation is different from other visits at the same place and the same time. Today there were many more cars than usual ( 11 cars with Palestinian numbers , one with TV equipment, and one with an Israeli number ), all parked in the parking lot. Inside the building in the big and heated waiting room (with an open door) were 2 Palestinians waiting for their permits to visit Israeli relatives during Christmas. All the other claimants were invisible and could not be heard. It was as if they should be hidden from the eyes of observer.
Because of this situation we did not help anybody as we could not see any passers. The soldier behind the turnstile greeted us in a friendly manner.
Nuaman (Mas Moriah or Maavar Har-Homa): we were the only car crossing the checkpoint at about 4:00 PM.
4:20 till 4:50 PM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: workers were going home (almost no tourists at the checkpoint). Four counters were open and the soldiers were working properly.
At one counter the people were showing their papers by entering them into a slot, got them back from the slot. No soldier was visible. I wanted to see how this was working and peeked into the cabin. There was a soldier almost lieing on his seat so that he could not be seen from outside. When he noticed that I was observing him, he got angry, called a guard and asked for my identity. I told him that I was from Machsom Watch, but had forgotten my tag. I gave him my ID. He ordered me to leave immediately the building, which I did.
From 2:00 till 5:00 PM
A cold day, with a sand storm.
Since there were four of us at today’s shift we split up and our twofriends went to Qalandia, while we took the South.
Nuaman (Mazmoriya): we asked for permission to enter Nuaman (Mazmoriya) before going intothe village and only proceeded after we have received it. However, then, as wepassed the checkpoint for pedestrians by car the loudspeaker was screaming atus and we stopped. After having explained that we were doing nothing illegaland after the shouter had verified our intentions at the main checkpoint, we wereallowed to continue. Three girl students wanted a lift, but we couldaccommodate only one. She had to get to the last house in the village (andprobably her grandfather was the man killed on the donkey by the Border Policesome two years ago). She told us that she walks all the way to the University inBethlehem. Shestressed how beautiful Nuaman is, we agreed.
Beyond the Herodion we continued to look at expansions of the hilltopsettlements Sdeh Bar and Havat Eldad. We noticed that they had grown since welast passed there, but we saw no heavy construction vehicles.
Etzion DCL: there were quite a number of cars at the parking lot of the DCL, butinside there were not many people – on Thursdays’ the place closes early. A manwhose sister died in Beit Hanina and wanted to attend the funeral had come witha stack of requests from four of his female relatives to enter Jerusalem to attend the funeral which was dueto take place at that moment. He had been refused on police grounds and wasunable to rectify the problem with Maher, who had been unwilling to assist. Thewomen, one of them 65 years’ old, had no magnetic cards and could therefore notbe helped.
We called Hanna B. who informed us that NO ONE can get anywhere nowadayswith a magnetic card and that in emergencies, such as this one, the n\cardcould be issued fast. However, they would have to apply in person after theweekend.
It was explained to him that they could apply on Sunday morning for amagnetic card (which costs money and which they had never needed, because theydidn’t leave their village - Batir) and would then be issued with a permit toattend the mourning. But the mourning period would be over by then.
A few minutes before 4:00 PM people came in to get permits for hospitalvisits and were allowed to enter. There were hardly any cars left when weexited and the waiting room was empty too.
Bethlehem - Rachel Terminal: it was a real rush hour at the Rachel Terminal. Employers who haddropped off their workers tried to make a U-turn near the vehicle entry to Bethlehem, where therewas a long line of cars. We decided to enter the terminal first and wereliterally blown inside. The plastic sheeting over the entrance was partly tornoff by the wind and caused a rattling noise. Inside too the wind whistledthrough the roof and we wondered how waterproof it would be once the promisedrains started. Four windows were open and the soldiers were leaning back eyingtheir screens while the returning workers wriggled their hands in the machines,but all in all the wait was not long. Two tour guides waited for their touristsand called frantically on their cell phones to verify what was holding them up.
By the time we left there was no longer a queue in front of the vehiclepassage.
2:30 till 4:30 PM
General remark: winter weather with fog and rain. Chrismasis coming closer. Christians are applying for new magnetiic cards and permits inorder to visit family in Israel.
3:00 PM, Etzion DCL: on the parking lot a bus, 6 private carswith Palestinian numbers. All the cars and the waiting hall are empty. The roomwas heated and the entrance door stood wide open. The soldier behind the turnstile was wawinghis hand to me.
All the people who came with all the cars seemed to behidden somewhere, where at least noobserver could observe.
After we had waited some time an older gentleman was comingin. He was a Medical Doctor and got sent to the Shabak promptly. A monk orpriest was entering the hall. He was immediately let behind the turnstile.
Maz Moriah - Nuaman: on our way to the checkpoint Bethlehem we were crossing the checkpoint MazMoriah. For the first time we had to wait. Two cars in front of us were checkedthoroughly.
4:15 PM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: about 50 workers, ordered in two lanes were standing beforethe door. The soldiers at 4 counters were working fast so that the workers hadnot to wait for a long time. The civil guards seemed friendly. One of themis accompanying a man into another room behind closed doors. After 10 minuteshe is coming back smiling. The two womenwho are with him seem to feel relief.
2:00 PM till 4:15 PM
General remark: a second person from Machsom Watch to join this shift was not available.
2:50 PM, Etzion DCL: one Palestinian car, hall empty, later one young man with somebody sick wants a permit for Jerusalem. The soldiers are letting him in. We don't learn if he is going to be successful.
Maz Moriah - Nuaman: some soldiers at the CP, no Palestinians around.
3:50 PM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: four counters are open. At each one about 5 persons waiting. Some Arab women and tourists are standing around. The soldiers are working fast.
2:30 till 5:30 PM.
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: new building sites surround the neighborhood of Har Homa and its skyscraper is reaching completion in record time.
Nuaman: someone must have read our report, because we were allowed immediately to enter Nuaman (last time we had been refused for no apparent reason). The place looked like a ghost village. There was no one outside, but two donkeys. It is clear that there is much more agriculture and in addition to newly planted olive trees, the number of hothouses has increased and large plots of ploughed land await the seeds and winter rains. New swings and a slide have been installed, probably a gift from some benefactor.
On the way to the Etzion settlement bloc we saw Palestinians harvesting their crops of cabbages and tomatoes.
Etzion DCL: a man with a grin on his face exited, he was pleased and told us that everything was OK. There was no one inside. We left.
There were no soldiers near Al Aroub and the cabs parked right in front of the grocery store across the watchtower. We bought some vegetables and saw that our friend Abu Nassim had added a storey to his house.
Across El-Khader there were a lot of parked yellow cabs awaiting returning workers after their first day after Ramadan and the closure.
At the tunnel CP there are two lanes for people who look like Palestinians on the the right. Those who `by mistake' take the left lane are also directed for further scrutinizing to the right. The wait was not longer than five minutes and even a bus which had to be inspected after all the passengers had gotten off, was sent on its way after less than ten minutes. The soldiers in charge of the checking were not bothered by our attendance.
The stretch of the road between the two tunnels is now completely closed off on the eastern side, making it even more claustrophobic than before.
We thought that it must be Rachel's yahrzeit again, but it falls only next month. We could hardly get close to the CP because of the number of busses with Haredim, maybe the ten days till Yom Kippur are also dedicated to visits to the tomb. We parked in the official parking lot which was almost empty and noted that the metal gates on both sidewalks are closed forcing us to walk on the street.
There were three windows open and people passed quickly. The civilian guard explained to us how important the checkpoints are and was not convinced by our arguments.
We set out early in an attempt to catch children coming back from school and investigating how they cross the checkpoints.
Driving down through Jebel Mukaber we noted that the garbage strike had ended only as far as Nof Zion which is now being populated. Almost half way down the slope two large schools just ended classes and the street was filled with youngsters. A lot of transits awaited them. Some walked up or down on foot.
In Sheikh Saed we saw one lone girl returning from school. We asked the soldiers who said the children had not come back yet. The transit dropping off two other children stopped far beyond the CP.
The soldiers were not aware whether the children study in two shifts. Two young girls on their way out of Sheikh Saed told us that their school is in Sheikh Saed, but that they live in Jebel Mukaber.
Before sending us off away from the CP, where we were ‘disturbing’ the commander in his work, he told us that stopping near the CP would be a security hazard, even more so if cars stopped near the other side of the CP on the top of the road. He said that they never check children, only those who look older than 16 and try to sneak out without valid papers. He said that he even allows the bus sometimes to stop near the CP to let the children out and that during the first days of school he had allowed mothers of young children to accompany them to school, provided they left their Id’s at the CP for a short while.
We drove through Tzur Bacher to reach the bottom of Har Homa where the construction continues at full speed.
At the CP under Nuaman we asked for permission to continue, since the traffic light was on ‘red’. One of the soldiers advised us against going there for our safety. We insisted that it would be our own responsibility, so the commander of the CP, Sh., called somewhere and was told by his ‘officer’ not to let us through. He was unwilling to listen to any arguments.
By that time it was too late to find any children at another CP so we stopped early with the intention to ‘do’ some further investigation at the Olive Terminal and in Anata during another shift.
Etzion DCL: we started at the DCL, very few people were waiting. There was no one at the window so we called asking for someone to show up and let the waiting people in, since the DCL was supposed to close at 4 PM. Indeed a soldier came and let everybody in. AfterHalf an hour they all came out again since the computers are not working.
One of the people had a medical problem and we called Dalia Bassa for help. She told us there is nothing she can do since the computers don't function for the last two days.When we questioned the soldier why they let the people wait in vain he apologized saying
that sometimes they do work.
El Arub: the Taxis were parked without disturbance and picked up passengers likewise. We drove back via the Lieberman road.
Mazmoria (Nuaman): the two cars in front of us were thoroughly checked and papers both of the drivers and of the passengers were scrutinized. We were let through without any questions.
Bethlehem - CP 300: three windows were operating and the passing of Palestinians was quick.
We decided just to observe some checkpoints as the second observer could not make it because of sickness.
A big part of roaod no.60 is under construction. So it took us more time than usual to reach our goals. .
Etzion DCL: when we were arriving only 2 Palaestinians were waiting for magnetic cards.. After 15 pm they were called up. One was sent home with the order of coming back tomorrow and the other was questionned for a while.
Nabi Yunis: at the coffeeshop we met a taxidriver who was telling us that each morning during the rush hour soldiers were sending him away from the checkpoint Beit Ummar. He is forbidden any parking at the road and taking passengers. I gave him Sylvia's telephone number.
Maz Moriah: there was nobody crossing the checkpoint and the soldiers looked bored.
16:45 pm, Bethlehem - checkpoint 300: four counters were open. At 17:00 pm more Palestinians were coming.. The clearance was fast.
Etzion DCL: empty.
In a shift last week we found on the noticeboard at the DCL confiscation orders for lands in the area of Tekoah and Nokdim. We drew Yesh Din’s attention, but decided to go there and clarify for ourselves. On certain areas alongside the road a fence is being erected by reservists. Yesterday we saw only the placing of support posts as preparation for spreading out the net of the fence. Along the road we encountered a few trucks that appeared to be transporting building materials to various sites. Is another settlement being built there? An expansion at a great distance from existing settlements? Not clear...
A great many caravans in the area, whether as immediate expansion of settlements or whether on the surrounding hills. Farm of an individual settler, apparently breeding horses, spreading over what appear to be a great many dunams.
There is intensive building of large fancy houses in Tekoah and Nokdim. The water distress in the Palestinian villages is not noticeable here. Everything is green and irrigated, and a large sign at Nokdim announces “Here there will be a park.” The construction is being done, of course, by Palestinian labourers, some of whom we met later as they returned to Palestine through a checkpoint. Did we hear about “natural increase”and “cessation of building”?
Building in Noaman – “informed” sources say there will be another terminal.
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: labourers returning from work. Transit is at the usual pace with no special delays. One of the two employees of Ari Company on the spot apparently got intoxicated with the power in his hands and delayed the entrance of people into the compound, and arranged them in line abreast. Afterwards they showed consideration and did let them in.
One man delayed, in conversation with a policeman: a watch was stolen from a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint, and the man was delayed because “he looked like the thief caught on the security cameras.” Of course there was no foundation to the accusation, but it’s not difficult to imagine his panic in the few minutes that he was held. We asked if the man was told why he was detained – naive question – of course not! The police enthusiasm at grabbing the suspect raised some questions...
A worker forgot, yesterday morning, his magnetic card at the inspection point. When he realised, he was told to come in the evening and the card would be given to him. In the evening they told him to come in the morning. In the morning they said come in the evening... We left a phone number, but heard nothing more from him, so the matter was probably iover.
We left at 18:00 when the traffic was very thin.
14:30 till 18:00 PM
A Machsom Watch member from Tel Aviv and her friend wanted to come with us to find out what is special about the checkpoints near Jerusalem. We therefore decided to give them an extensive tour and we even left the Bethlehem area somewhat; more about this later.
Nuaman: it was early afternoon and very hot. Not a soul was outside. We had already in the past reported on the fact that the inhabitants have returned to an agricultural life and this time we were even more impressed by the amount of tilled fields all around. We continued on the road towards Nokdim and thus were able to show our guests both the pastoral Palestinians villages bathed in colors of spring flowers along de road enclosed by fences and the settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim which stick out with their red roofs.
Etzion DCL: which was almost empty. Two young men stood next to the entrance and asked for our assistance. They were holding a request from their church for a permit to attend holiday services in Jerusalem. When we tried to ask the soldier at the window whether they had any chance to obtain a permit, he replied that in the intermediate days of Passover (Chol Hamo’ed) the DCL only deals with humanitarian issues. As we were leaving we met with a man who was just leaving very pleased since he had just received a magnetic card which had been refused to him for the last couple of years. Now he has to request a permit to go to work and he hopes he will not be considered a security risk and therefore refused. We gave him Sylvia’s telephone number just in case.
We felt very uncomfortable when a cabdriver told us that someone had been waiting for us. We remembered that indeed last week we had promised someone we had met at the Container CP that we would try and intervene with Maher to get rid of the fact that he was refused a permit on police grounds which according to us had already lapsed. Because of the holidays and the curfew we had forgotten our promise. So we called him and told him we would let him know when we would be at the DCL next time. We would not have been able to help him, because Maher was absent, but we still felt very badly.
We continued southward and paid a visit to Abu Nassim who during our last visit had complained bitterly about the behavior of the army, which had entered his house. This time he was his old smiling self again; the soldiers have not harassed him since that last time.
Bethlehem - Rachel Crossing: we returned to the Rachel Crossing where we didn’t see one single worker, only a few tourists entered and exited – a proper curfew!
Sheikh Sa’ad: to show our guest this sad prison.
We were not allowed to go in, according to the officer of the Border Police at the entrance the situation is very tense, because of what had happened a few days earlier in Jebel Mukaber when a driver who suspected of wanting to run over policemen who had come to demolish the house of a terrorist, had been shot dead. His body is still there, a few dozen yards from the entrance to Sheikh Sa’ad.
According to Maya, a MW-member of TA area there is indeed a huge difference between the checkpoints she is used to and the ones she saw with us: “The Israelis and Palestinians live so close together and are entangled together.”