11:45 Bezeq CP
We went through.
Alon Road - Road 578
The embankment is in place. The Gukhia Gate is not there.
12:00 Hamra CP
It is hot and dry and deserted. Four reservists and two women soldiers ask us what we want and offer us water. For the most part workers coming back from work are going through in minibuses.
12:35 We left.
13:05 Tyasir CP
Soldiers are in maneuvers in the area north of the road leading to the CP. There are signs of a big fire in the area. Traffic on the road is very thin and so is the traffic through the CP, which is manned by reservists. One of them approaches us and asks us to wait until he gets his orders about how to relate to us. We continued walking up to the post. He returned to his three friends. All four stood at the post and told us that throughout the whole month that they have been here, and maybe even before that, the sleeve for pedestrians has not been in operation.
There are no pedestrians in Tyasir. Everybody goes through in vehicles. And indeed, the post, the turnstile, and the sleeve look deserted.
13:20 We left.
113:45 Bezeq CP
We went through.
It’s a gray, hot, hazy day; the world around us seems to have passed out…
13:00 Tapuach Junction checkpoint
Unmanned. On our way back, at 17:30, still unmanned, but 3 Border Policemen sit there, openly bored.
13:20 – Maale Efraim checkpoint
Unmanned. In the afternoon, at 17:15, 3 reservists man the checkpoint but cars pass unchecked.
15:00 and 16:45- Hamra checkpoint
Manned by reservists. Passengers in both directions are not required to disembark. This is a relief, that can be repealed at any moment as we saw on March 19, when in the morning people could cross in their cars and in the afternoon they were forced to disembark and cross the checkpoint on foot.
Cars traveling to the Jordan Valley are checked, their driver made to disembark and stand beside the car. Cars traveling into the West Bank were not checked.
On March 23, the checkpoint was closed for about 3.5 hours (according to a phone report). It was evening and the soldiers directed the Palestinian vehicles to the fields south of the checkpoint and instructed them to bypass it, unchecked. A bus load of school children on their way home from a school trip was not able to manage the dirt road and the children had to sit still inside the bus for all of 3.5 hours. Around 8 p.m. the checkpoint was reopened for traffic. A phone call to the DCO produced the following answers:
1. A Palestinian reached the checkpoint and tried to attack the soldiers.
2. (later) An explosive charge was discovered in his things and they were waiting for a robot to come and detonate it.
Before the checkpoint was reopened a blast was heard.
Talking with a Palestinian today, we heard there’s a rumor about that a 15-year-old boy was arrested following the blast incident and passed on for interrogation to the Palestinian security services. Admittedly, this is but a rumor and has not been verified by anyone.
15:30 Tyassir checkpoint
Here too, the soldiers are reservists, friendly and smiling. The traffic is scant and passage swift. Passengers cross inside their cars, wave to us in greeting and say that crossing this morning was alright, too.
Generally speaking, things are calm, we saw no army forces on maneuvers, and the presence of soldiers on the ground was relatively scant. The Palestinians also report an easy day at the checkpoints, and that they’ve suffered no extraordinary violence in the past few days. Just plain old quiet routine oppression.
Translator: Charles K.
12:00 Bezeq checkpoint. We crossed. The green landscape is fading away.
Alon Road. The earthen berm is still in place.
12:15 Hamra checkpoint.
A military vehicle stands at the junction, next to an Israeli car missing two wheels and without a driver. Is the IDF guarding a stranded vehicle? Perhaps! We didn’t ask.
Reservists. Only black/red banners (MP’s). Light traffic. The soldier approaching us (reservist, armored corps) explains that they – and also soldiers doing compulsory service - shouldn’t have to serve here so frequently. We showed him where we intended to stand; he didn’t argue, didn’t object and went on his way.
12:35 We left.
13:05 Tayasir checkpoint
Strong winds, dust and haze.
Light traffic on the road and at the checkpoint. Reservists (infantry) at the checkpoint. One approaches us, wants to know who we are, why, he never saw or heard about a group like us. The soldiers stand with their weapons as if ready for battle. We asked why; they said that’s the correct way to stand with a weapon. He said they’re very polite, don’t stop anyone, say hello to the drivers and allow them to continue.
They’ll celebrate the seder at the checkpoint.
13:30 We left.
freedom theatre in the jordan valley
jordan valley solidarity and freedom theatre bus building a school
Zaatara checkpoint - passengers taken off a bus on thier way home
The Freedom Bus (of the Freedom Theatre, Jenin) goes down to the Jordan Valley;
Don’t discard me when I get old – the elderly couple whose home was demolished on January 24th, 2013, what is happening with them now?
Dog trainers practicing at Tapuach Checkpoint – at the expense of Palestinians.
10:50, Tapuach Checkpoint – unmanned,
but two bored Border Policemen are busy sitting and eating at the roadside. On the hill overlooking the roundabout, a single soldier stands next to the watchtower.
11:10 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint- manned by 3 soldiers checking vehicles entering the Palestinian Jordan Valley.
11:35, Hamra Checkpoint – cars traveling in both directions are allowed through without passengers having to disembark for
inspection. The soldiers attempt to force us away from our usual (distant) spot, we insist on staying, they give in. Even when cars are not inspected, every car that arrives is required to stop about 50 meters before the checkpoint and await the soldier’s slight gesture signaling it to approach. How do the Palestinians know they must stop? There is no sign instructing them to do so. Just like the apartheid roads, here, too the instructions are kept unwritten, so as not to be photographed and seen publicly, but they are the law and woe to any who dares overlook them.
12:10, Gokhia Gate – a single soldier with lots of gear and five submachine guns pointing north, stands by the closed gate, waiting for his unit. When it arrives they will cross the gate east-bound for another series of maneuvers (a few days ago the inhabitants of Ras Al Ahmar were forced away from their homes for 24 hours, for the sake of these maneuvers).
A Palestinians arrives at the gate from the Jordan Valley side, to pick up his brother. They tell us that the gate is never, ever opened. Neither at 3 p.m. nor at 8 a.m. (when it is supposed to be opened at their disposal, as agreed upon at the Red Cross’ demand). Neither when Palestinians show up nor when they don’t. The occupier has decided to forego even this faint illusion of passage and now it is official – the prison that is the Palestinian Jordan Valley is closed.
12:40, Tyassir checkpoint – scant traffic, fast passage, no delays. The passengers are allowed through inside the vehicles, without disembarking.
Fighter planes and distance explosions resound throughout the afternoon.
We stopped at Hamam Al Malih to see the elderly couple whose hovel had been demolished twice (the second time, January 24th, 2013, the tent supplied by the Red Cross and all their effects were taken as well). The woman, N., came out to greet us from their neighbors’ tent, where she and her husband have been dwelling since the demolitions. They are prevented from returning to the place where they lived for years (I personally have been their guest often in the past 6 years), where they raised their children who have long since flown away to live elsewhere. In their advanced age, the two have become homeless. N.’s arm is still very swollen since she did not get medical treatment for injury, fearing she couldn’t afford such care. Only yesterday she finally went to have it examined and was informed that her shoulder is fractured and forearm badly bruised.
13:30, Samara (south of the Um Zuka reserve) - members of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, founded by Arna Mer and her son Juliano, have come out on a wondrous journey to visit the brave residents of the Jordan Valley who are holding on to their land steadfastly in both the Palestinian Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills (the bus will be visiting there next week). In daytime the young actors keep the children busy with games, singing and dancing, and in the evening they perform for the adults. In between they sit under a tree and play music – strumming the oud, drumming the darbouka, playing the accordion and other instruments whose names are unfamiliar to me, but their lovely tones float up in the warm breeze above the reddish hills of the Jordan Valley and carry a message of freedom and rectitude. Next to them a group of youngsters from Finland, Wales and even Majdal Shams has joined the activists of Jordan Valley Solidarity in order to build a schoolhouse for the children of the region, out of mud bricks.
Two of Samara’s inhabitants approach me, seeking help. M. and his brother graze their flock, and at the end of summer when the grass is scarce, they enter that miserably neglected place which the occupier has named “Um Zuka nature reserve” in search of food for their livestock. Every time they are caught there with their flock, they are fined thousands of shekels. They say they have documents proving their ownership claim to the land inside the reserve from those days when the region’s people were allowed to make their living out of the valley’s growth. They have consulted with a lawyer who told them there was nothing to be done. On the other hand, while a nature reserve, the area is also a “firing zone” for the army (the two signs stand next to each other…) and the army’s maneuvers often set the reserve in flames. M. and his brother tell us how on different occasions they recruited their extended family to fight the flames, as none of those authorities who so hastily fine them for grazing there never came to the rescue… They are seeking some protection, help against this abuse.
15:00, Hamra checkpoint – 4 Palestinians are standing at the side, detained 15 minutes for inspection. As soon as we showed up, their papers are returned to them and they get on their way. One of them wants to go back to Nablus but does not know the way. He tries to walk back, but the soldiers run towards him to prevent this and make him get on the road. He goes around the fence and proceeds towards the soldiers on the road, but then they remember there’s a special track for pedestrians bound for Nablus, except that it means going back 50 meters to the junction and that is where they send him. The man, embarrassed and rather scared, signals to the soldiers that his leg hurts. They relent and let him use the road.
Unlike this morning, now all those arriving from the West Bank hills are required to disembark about30 meters before the checkpoint, cross on foot and wait for the vehicle on the other side. Everything, after all, depends on the whims of the soldiers manning the checkpoint. In the middle of the checkpoint a military vehicle stands, blocking the road, so no car is able to get through, for about 20 minutes. When the cars begin to cross, every driver is asked “Where to? What for?” as if that should be the soldier’s business…
16:30, Maale Efrayim Checkpoint – manned, every car entering the Jordan Valley is checked.
16:45, Tapuach Checkpoint at Zaatara Junction - a bus is parked in the lot, having brought a detector dog unit to the checkpoint. Every female soldier-trainer has a dog. 3 cars stand parallel to each other, a dog is made to enter each, climbing on the front as well as back seats, salivating and sniffing. About 10 meters to the back stand the passengers in a straight line, looking on with disgust, having been ordered by the soldiers. The dog is an unclean animal in Islam and the Palestinians have a very hard time with having dogs introduced into their cars. The large number of trainers attests to this being no security matter but rather a training practice for the soldiers and their dogs. I believe that only a security need of the highest degree might be an excuse to hurt people’s religious feelings so severely. The practice should be done some other way…
The dog trainers don't like our photographing the situation and summon the policeman to order us away. The obedient policeman tells us to keep our distance and not take pictures, claiming it's forbidden. We explain we're photographing from behind but he is not convinced. Finally the practice is over, IDs are returned to the Palestinians standing in line, and they angrily get on their way. The trainers continue hanging around the checkpoint, each with her dog.
In the meantime we notice that on road 60 vehicles bound for Nablus are being stopped. We didn't notice this before because the inspections are usually held in cars coming from Nablus and heading south, and the whole structure of the checkpoint is built accordingly. But this time, "to confuse the enemy", some Border Policemen stand on the north-bound lane, and have stopped a red car and a bus full of youngsters heading back from a demonstration in Ramallah. The passengers of the red car disembark and the car is thoroughly checked, as if the soldiers have some kind of information on it. 15 minutes later it is released. THe soldiers order all male passengers off the bus, while the women remain inside. 25 young men stand on the sidewalk, their IDs taken. "Photograph this!" they say. "Take a picture of the driver!" they laugh, and he, a jolly chubby type, poses for us, sporting his paunch with a good natured smile, and everyone has a moment's relief in this imposed halt...
Two of the youngsters have no IDs, they've forgotten them at home so they are made to stand apart. A third young man is led to the shack in the middle of the road and is held there, with the soldiers trying to turn him around so he wouldn't "observe" them, but this is rather impossible for he can "observe" something from every angle. They give up. The youngster looks stressed. Finally, after 220 minutes, he is allowed to get back to the bus. The soldiers check the ID numbers one by one on their radio. They even bother calling the homes of the two ID-less persons, asking for their numbers to check their legitimacy. When the soldiers are finally satisfaied, half an hour later, the bus continues home to Tul Karm.
Translator: Charles K.
Why do the soldiers hate the leftist organizations?
Za’tara/Tapuach junction checkpoint.
Border police soldiers in the booth on the Huwwara side. We saw no vehicles detained or being inspected. We picked up an ultra-orthodox hitchhiker. He was born in Emanuel, and was doing national service in Yitzhar as a janitor in kindergartens and dormitories. His older brothers serve in the army.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint.
Genial (to us) reservists explain that the only people not allowed through the checkpoint to the Jordan Valley are Palestinians coming from Gaza (???). There were no soldiers at the checkpoint when we returned.
Ein el Hilweh.
A children’s theater group from Ramallah has erected a tent. The performance will be at 6 PM. There will be an additional show at Hamam el Malih. M.’s two wives said they won’t be allowed to watch it. When we returned we saw many volunteers from Jordan Valley Solidarity and other organizations, as well as the actors (we didn’t stay to see the show…).
A scathing speech from a reservist, a kibbutznik, a leftist who’s against the occupation and the settlements. Why do he and his fellow-soldiers hate all the left wing groups, without exception? He and his friends man the checkpoints unwillingly (no one wants to be there!), but the left wing groups who come to the checkpoints, instead of supporting the soldiers, who are in a difficult position, accuse them of carrying out a terrible assignment, photograph them, take things out of context, and unfairly portray them as brutes. He compared us to the settlers – both of us make his life as a soldier unbearable.
What does he recommend we do to end the occupation? We should focus on convincing Israelis within the Green Line.
Reservists here as well. They say pedestrians are selected randomly for inspection. Sometimes people exit their vehicles out of habit and come to be inspected as they were used to doing in the past. There are no restrictions on vehicles entering from the western part of the West Bank, but Palestinians with Israeli IDs aren’t allowed through.
Za’tara/Tapuach junction checkpoint.
Two cars detained. Border Police soldiers on the road from Nablus directed them to the plaza where they were inspected by a dog. The passengers were required to move away from the cars and waited a few meters away during the entire inspection – they were all young, most of them male. A car is stopped for inspection about every five minutes; the inspection lasts about 10 minutes. Six female soldiers conduct it; one handles the dog and the others inspect the contents of the trunks, instruct the passengers waiting outside and observed the inspection. It looked like a training exercise for the Oketz dog unit, and that the cars had been stopped randomly for that purpose (in particular since the passengers were young men…).
We should note again that, according to Islam, the dog is an unclean animal, and everyone who comes into contact with one must purify themselves.
Translator: Charles K.
Photos from the archives:
1. The remnants of an encampment belonging to a family with five children that the IDF demolished, October, 2012.
2. An earthen berm blocking Jordan Valley Bedouin from moving westward.
3. The Gochia checkpoint – a locked iron gate in the middle of nowhere blocking a dirt road used by Jordan Valley Bedouin.
Tomorrow (4.3.13) the army will conduct maneuvers in the Hamam el-Malih area. All the residents were ordered to evacuate their encampments for 24 hours with their children, the elderly and their flocks. In other words – they were sent to spend the night outdoors. It’s very cold in the Jordan Valley during this time of year. This is a new phenomenon in recent months in the northern Jordan Valley. It happened to the residents of Hamam el-Malih about a month ago; tomorrow will be the second time.
Only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the police eventually come to court. The remaining 97% of the cases are closed, even when there is incontrovertible evidence. Thus the State’s Attorney collaborates with the police, backing the racist policies as part of what’s known as “justice for all” and “equality before the law.” That’s what we learned from “Yesh Din,” which has been following up on the vicious beating last year of M., a member of the D family, last year by D., the military security coordinator of the Rotam settlement.
11:15 Za’tara checkpoint – Tapuach junction
Two loaded trucks detained in the plaza. Another commercial vehicle has been detained and is being checked by a dog. ID cards are taken for inspection. The driver of the commercial vehicle has (apparently) been sent for interrogation by the Shabak on the other side of the white wall at the northwest side of the plaza. An additional car was detained while we were there.
We’ve already seen delays and interrogations of young men at this junction a few times, and heard from those interrogated that the Shabak tried to recruit them.
We gave a ride to a hitchhiker who was born in the Gitit settlement (established in 1975). He said his parents, secular people from Tel Aviv, were sent by state institutions to settle there, were given a house and land at no cost, along with all they needed to farm. He doesn’t view himself as a settler, and it’s clear to him that the Jordan Valley must remain part of Israel forever, for security reasons. We asked about the price of water: NIS 6 /cubic meter for household use, NIS 2 for agriculture. For comparison: K., the Bedouin, pays NIS 20 per cubic meter for water which he gets from water tankers, not via pipes. In Israel we pay more than NIS 9 per cubic meter for household use.
The fields of Gitit settlement, which are worked by two Israelis (one from Tel Aviv and one from Tayibeh) are covered with plastic sheeting. A spectacular sight.
12:30 Hamra checkpoint
A settler from Hamra followed us to the checkpoint, photographed us from every angle and cursed us rudely. Two reservists from the checkpoint came over to see what the trouble was and he disappeared.
13:00 Tayasir checkpoint
Reservists here as well. Very sparse traffic.
The K. family
The four families from Hama el-Malih whose encampments were demolished last month are still living out in the open or in improvised sheds far from their previous place of residence.
About a year ago M., one of the family members, was terribly beaten by D., the Rotem settlement’s military security coordinator, and was hospitalized for two days. A complaint was submitted to the police, with the help of Yesh Din. It now transpired that the police closed the case even though there were witnesses to the beating.
A few months later that same military security coordinator shot and killed three of K’s cows and buried them. They called the police, which found the slaughtered cows. There were witnesses to this incident as well, and this case was also closed.
Yesh Din told us that’s what usually happens, that only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the Israeli police reach the courts. The police and the State’s Attorney collaborate to ignore Palestinian complaints against Jews. Racism has penetrated every organ of the Israeli regime. Jurists are also part of the rot. Yesh Din plans to appeal the closing of the case involving the beating. It will take two years for the appeal to come before a judge.
We gave a ride to a laborer who’d finished working for the day in the Ro’i settlement. He earns NIS 85 for an 8-hour day (about half of the Israeli minimum wage), with no benefits. NIS 10 goes for transportation. Since the residents of the settlements are Israeli citizens, Israeli labor laws apply to them, including minimum wage laws, but who’ll enforce them? And so the Israbluff about the only democracy in the Middle East continues. It’s not surprising that the settlers hold on to what they’ve got – where else could they get such wonderful conditions? Even workers from Thailand are paid more.
16:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers here at this hour either.
Translator: Charles K.
On Thursday, 17.1.13, the army demolished 12 Bedouin encampments at El Malih in the Jordan Valley. Bulldozers destroyed the tents in which the families lived and the sheep sheds, then loaded them onto trucks and left them on barren ground. Since then they’ve been living in the open, in the rain and the cold Jordan Valley nights.
On Saturday, 19.1.13, peace activists tried to come to express solidarity with them (in two buses) but the army closed the entrance to the road from Highway 578 (the Alon Road) all day. A truck that came from the west with tents for the residents was stopped at the Tayasir checkpoint and the army confiscated the tents.
The residents hesitate to re-erect tents, afraid the army will demolish and destroy them again.
09:45 Za’atara/Tapuach junction checkpoint – No inspections.
10:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – No soldiers. Two private cars with Israeli plates parked at the checkpoint. That was also the situation when we returned.
The cultivated fields between the settlements of Gitit and Mechora – These broad fields belong to the Gitit settlement which leases them to various people along with the generous water allocations they receive from Mekorot. It looks as if the settlement received more land and water than it could handle so it makes money from the resources it received for nothing or for almost nothing. While at the same time the Bedouin are expelled from their lands and refused water for household use and for agriculture.
We spoke this time to people working for one of those leasing the lands, an Israeli from Tayibeh. The workers are from Aqraba (Palestinians from the West Bank). They said they weren’t allowed to enter the Jordan Valley through the Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. That’s strange, because there are now no restrictions on entering the Jordan Valley. They were forced to walk a very long way through the hills. Since then, they’ve been sleeping there. Someone brings them food for NIS 30/day, which is deducted from their daily pay of NIS 80-100 (they aren’t all paid the same amount). But it’s still worth it to them to work and walk a long way through the hills because it’s hard for Palestinians in the occupied territories to earn a living.
10:55 Hamra checkpoint – Very sparse traffic.
We saw soldiers training all along the way, also with live ammunition, very near the shepherds and their flocks, and also near the K. family’s encampment, about 200 meters away.
Hamam el Malih – We visited two encampments that the army had destroyed ten days ago. At one we found N., a handicapped old woman, and her two granddaughters. She showed us the remains of the encampment and the sheep pen. Now they sleep in a tiny shed left from the demolition.
At the other we found only signs of destruction. The people had fled down to the wadi.
We met Amira Hass there, people from B’Tselem and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
13:30 Tayasir checkpoint – We chatted with a few particularly nice reserve officers.
15:30 Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint - Two Palestinian taxis detained in the fenced plaza, the drivers’ IDs taken to be checked on the computer. They were released shortly after we arrived because the computer wasn’t working. We couldn’t stay to see whether the Border Police are again sending people to be interrogated here by the Shabak, as we’ve seen in the past.
Translator: Charles K.
The Jordan Valley is green and remarkably beautiful. Water flows in the canals and the sheep can eat their fill. A marvelous sight.
A conversation with Mr. Zuaba’a Bisharat
The photo: Only the settlements are green – this is a photo of a new shed at the Tomer settlement. We turned onto an unpaved road up the hill to where the extended Bisharat family lives. Mr. Bisharat is active in Jordan Valley Solidarity. His compound comprises tin shacks and areas covered by plastic sheeting and netting. He recently was connected to the electric and water grids with the help of the new governor of Nablus, a Christian from Tubas living in Ramallah who is very desirous of developing the region. He gets water from a well which had been destroyed by the Civil Administration and then rebuilt.
Participants in the meeting included the householder, his wife, one of his daughters, one of his sons and his son’s friend. Bisharat has eight sons, some of whom moved to Tubas, three daughters and 46 grandchildren.
The discussion began with complaints about recent difficulties when crossing through the Hamra checkpoint. The reservists now manning the checkpoint may be the source of the problem. Inspections that haven’t been conducted for months but have been reinstate make crossing difficult and, according to the complaints, the soldiers behave very rudely.
The family has lived here since 1967, cultivates about 70 dunums on which they grow wheat. Mr. Bisharat says the land has been registered in the tabu since Ottoman times. Prior to 1967 (the Six Day War and the capture of the Jordan Valley), Jordan began surveying and registering the land, but the war’s outbreak interrupted the process. Mr. Bisharat emphasizes that he possesses an extract from the land registry books. He says the Palestinian Authority is helping him much more than it did five years ago. Mrs. Bisharat, on the other hand, said that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t help at all. Mr. Bisharat said that many notables visit him, including Salam Fayyad, foreign ambassadors, etc.
They say the Kingdom of Saudia donated $100 million to the Authority.
Mr. Bisharat said that in the past month many demolitions had been carried out in the area because winter is the season for army maneuvers. In the past the residents were sent away during maneuvers and were allowed to return after they ended, but recently they haven’t been sent away but instead their residential compounds and animal pens are demolished completely to prevent the Palestinians’ return. He said that in the past he’d been offered money if he would allow the army to establish an observation post on his land, but he refused. He claimed that he was offered $1 million for the deal. He and his neighbors are determined to remain under any condition, despite all the difficulties.
Photo: Three detainees in the checkpoint’s shed.
We planned to stop briefly to see whether there had been any significant changes in the checkpoint’s procedures. As soon as we arrived we learned of four detainees who had been “waiting for the Shabak” for hours. One of them had forgotten his ID at home, and the three others weren’t told why they had been detained. We contacted various offices to find out what was going on and speed their release. Only after an hour and a half, after we went “upstairs,” were they released five minutes later. And we wonder: What would those men have done had we not happened to stop there, and what changed in the five minutes during which the senior command staff intervened?
With respect to the complaints we heard: The pedestrian crossing has in fact been moved from one side to the checkpoint area. Men in a bus from Nablus on a pilgrimage to Mecca had to get out and cross on foot; the women were allowed to remain in the vehicle. We saw no other changes.
The construction boom in the settlements and the visible expansion of their cultivated area makes clear which way the wind is blowing. Large areas have been declared firing ranges; we saw soldiers training at many of them. The Palestinians’ living area here shrinks from day to day, as well as their ability to earn a living.
Almost no traffic at the Tayasir checkpoint, manned by reservists. They came over to find out who we were, offered us chairs to sit on (a hint that we’re ancient???) and suggested we park the car inside the base. Their enthusiasm might have diminished had they realized we were a mixed Palestinian-Israeli group!
Summary: Would that were I a goat or sheep in the Jordan Valley these days. They’re the only ones who have freedom of movement, a warm coat and a full stomach!
Translation: Bracha B.A.
12:15 – We crossed the Bezek Checkpoint. The Jordan valley is now green.
Alon Route – A dirt embankment is blocking the sides of the road, and the rain has eroded it in some places.
12:40 – Hamra Checkpoint
The checkpoint is manned by reservists. There are blue and red flags belonging to the military police. There is very little traffic. Local families are coming back from worship carrying bags of groceries and cartons. . Small cars are driving west towards the West Bank, and some are carrying workers. Other workers are walking towards the tent encampment near the checkpoint.
We left at 13:15.
13:40 – Tayasir Checkpoint
The road leading up to the Tayasir checkpoint is getting more disrupted every day. There is little traffic on the road and through the checkpoint. The almond tree on the south side of the road is in full flower and is completely white. The soldiers at the checkpoint are reservists. An officer and soldier approach us and inform us that we are in a military zone and must not disturb. We gave our usual response and proceeded to our usual lookout point. Another reservist soldier approaches. He explained that they receive orders from the regiment commander of the Jordan Valley. These orders include making us leave and specify who is to cross and who is not. He offered to bring chairs, tea, and cookies as well as a Shabbat meal that was prepared by two professional cooks. We declined all the gestures as well as the occupied territories.
We left at 14:15.
14:30 – We were asked if everything was OK at the Bezek Checkpoint and crossed.
Translator: Charles K.
09:55 Za’tara checkpoint
10:10 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers. Two cars with yellow license plates are parked inside the checkpoint; they were also there when we returned.
10:35 Hamra checkpoint
Palestinian residents of the West Bank are allowed to enter the JordanValleyin their vehicles. Also, Palestinian Israelis are allowed through the checkpoint in both directions after the soldiers ask them for the purpose of their trip.
We ask the same questions every time we arrive at a checkpoint, because the rules change daily. Two weeks ago, for example, Israeli Arabs weren’t allowed through. The rules at the Tayasir checkpoint will be different from those at the Hamra checkpoint, even though both have the same purpose – to separate the West Bank from the JordanValley.
There was no traffic at the checkpoint while we were there.
10:50 Gochia gate
The gate is open! Someone broke through it. A fragment of chain remains, without a lock. We entered to find out why. No one at the first tent encampment knew who’d broken through, or why. They said it must have been the army. Such things happened recently when tanks broke through the gate to conduct maneuvers, and residents were also made to leave their homes.
They tell us the gate is usually locked. Whoever approaches is observed by the army’s cameras and a military vehicle shows up, but the gate is opened only for someone having a special permit to go through it. The person we’re talking to, who lives near the gate, doesn’t have a permit. He doesn’t know the criteria used to grant permits. It’s clear that the entire procedure takes a long time. People cross there to get to work. And anyway – why should there be a gate here, other than to embitter the lives of the residents? Nothing unusual occurred during the time the gate was wide open.
Soldiers training opposite the Ro’i settlement. They don’t enter the settlement’s cultivated area; they’re on the narrow path between the vineyard and the road. Last week all the residents of Hamam el Malih were forced to leave their homes for two days when the army conducted exercises among their tents. But to bother settlers – that's inconceivable.
We saw many soldiers training wherever we passed.
12:10 Tayasir checkpoint
Reservists on duty. They welcome us. West Bankresidents can come through with their cars. Israeli citizens aren’t allowed through.
Visit with D.’s family
We asked about their connection with this place. Their clan has lived here since Ottoman times. They used to migrate during years of drought when there was no grass for the sheep, even as far as the coastal plain, but have always returned because the land belonged to them. Part of the clan has fled to Jordanin 1967 and they were not allowed to return. They’ll come back when there’s peace, ‘insh’allah.
15:00 Za’tara junction (Tapuach)
A police car and two Palestinian cars parked in the plaza. They were stopped because one of the drivers had no license. His car was impounded and would be taken to Vered Yericho. He’ll have to pay a bond of NIS3000 until the trial. On the face of it, everything’s in order – he broke the law and has been punished accordingly. But there’s only one little problem – it’s an Israeli law, and the fines are set according to economic conditions in Israel. The economy of the occupied territories is that of a third-world country. The average daily wage is NIS70-80, less than half the Israeli minimum wage. NIS3000 represents a month and a half of wages, at least.