Guest: Ruthi R
Dusty, hot, hamsin day. Long lines at Hamra and Tayasir checkpoints. Soldiers’ terrorising of bedouin at Hamam el-Maliah.
11:25 Zaatra Checkpoint
A soldier stands in the centre of the square, on a concrete block 1.5 metres high. Rifle pointing, he orders a Palestinian crossing the square to show the content of his bag.
Long lines of cars, 14 from the west to the valley, 18 from the east to the West Bank. The first in line have been waiting 40 minutes.
Works at the checkpoint – trucks and labourers: the checkpoint is encircled by a fence on both sides, and has gained in area. The detainees hut is separated behind plastic sheeting. The examination hut is now isolated. A trench has been dug to the right of the checkpoint. Five soldiers standing idly by. Two soldiers checking the cars very slowly, passing a car through once every five minutes. With screeching tires a vehicle with soldiers pulls away, raising a cloud of dust over the waiting people in the desert heat, among them a mother with a newborn baby. It is 25 minutes that they have waited for their car to pass the check. Among them, one tells us that he grew eggplants and tomatoes at Jiftlik, but stopped some time ago because there is no water, and everyone is marketing solely to Nablus and there really is no one to sell to.
A Palestinian cleaner of the checkpoint is eating food that the soldiers gave him. He asks, delicately, whether he can take the remaining bread home, and then later he asks the soldiers why they are passing the transients through so slowly in this heat.
Photo captions: 1. Food strewn in H.’s tent.
2. H.’s tent ripped by officer Yosef.
14:18 Tayasir Checkpoint
On an ordinary day a car comes every 15 minutes. Therefore it was surprising to find eight cars waiting at this hour. After we arrived the soldiers worked fast and the line soon disappeared. The pedestrian hut (passengers forced to cross the checkpoint on foot) was full when we arrived, but emptied quickly after our arrival. On the soldiers’ hut a poster informs about this week’s Bible portion...
It is hot and muggy and stuffy.
The view looks the same as it did two weeks ago. The rain during Purim was timely and the Valley is still green. The daisies' yellow is dominant.
We unloaded packages of clothes near the three entrances to the roads leading to the encampments of tents far from the road.
Quotes: "To me it looks like everything is fine when you are here."
We went ahead toward the post in order to find out about the roadblock. We saw that the block was laid in front of spikes and it is really a bad idea for cars not to pay attention to them. From the soldiers who approached us, we understood that the mechanism for controlling the spikes is out of order and they are stuck and quite threatening. We also understood that from the post that overlooks the road it is possible to lift and lower the spikes as necessary. The soldiers promised us - as if we are the supervisors of the spikes - that the breakdown will be fixed within the next few days. Every car that arrives at the CP -- goes through. There is almost no waiting. From time to time a military vehicle goes through very fast and continues toward the areas behind the sign that says "Area A", the areas that are forbidden to us. About 45 school children go through the CP, happy to meet us. Within 10 or 15 minutes, all of them went through and continued on their way. We met them later when we were on our way to the Hamra CP and they on their way home to their tent encampments.
14:25 Hamra CP - a Swinging Compound
Officer: "You are not allowed to enter the compound. We have to set limits - so that there won't be misunderstandings."
The sign that points in the direction of Tubas is not seen from the junction. It is on the ground -- and we guess it was thrown down intentionally, because all the posts of the other signs were reinforced with new concrete (for the fence that is being extended).
The fence around the tower is now completed. The same soldiers are working today in the area of the exit from the inspection pavilion. One of them is cutting, others are soldering. All the pillars of the fence are already fixed in pits; the posts of the flags saying "Haruv [Brigade] - Great in Small Battles" are fixed firmly. The traffic is moving. There are no delays. The ID inspections of the drivers go on.
The clearing is complete. The uprooted trees and shrubs have disappeared. At the junction traffic of Israeli vehicles is lively in both directions. People emerge from inspection, their belts in their hands, threading them through their trousers as they walk.
15:00 We left.
Translated by L. Williams
The valley is still green, though on the slopes more stones than foliage can already be seen. Flocks of sheep wondrously merge into the magnificent landscape. A lot of chrysanthemums. We unloaded bundles of clothes next to Hamam el Maliah. A woman came from the encampment by the houses, sat on the bundles and refused to let someone else (apparently from another family) to take anything. We tried to mediate. The situation was of course very unpleasant. The distress is great.
13:40 Tayasir Checkpoint
A school bus is being checked; the children have crossed on foot. Their hubbub can be heard from a distance. Slowly, slowly they reach us and surround us with questions and wonderment. For some reason we amuse them. Their ages range from 6 to 10, from Hamam el Maliah. They showed us the tattered straps of their satchels, and asked us to bring them new ones. They asked if we had food. Four older girls watched us from a distance. One of the truck drivers who waited next to us to cross, asked the children to act politely. Finally their transport arrived and they left.
After them, three or four more minibuses, one driver noting that this time the crossing was fast apparently because of our presence. Sometimes he waits half an hour, sometimes more... This time two military vehicles were passing westward (into Palestinian Authority territory), and the locals said that there were military places further on: no soldiers circulating in Tayasir or Tubas.
14:30 – the road is empty. We listen to the silence, broken by three fighter planes.
On our way to Hamra Checkpoint we see that west of the Allon Road the earthworks that surround the road are being worked on. Rain and time have flattened the earthen banks and an army bulldozer is raising them, while five soldiers protect it. Guchia Gate facing Ro'i is closed. A UN vehicle comes out of Ro'i. What is the UN doing in an illegal settlement? Interesting!'
15:05 Hamra Checkpoint
A road sign showing the way to Tubas is still lying on the ground. Two weeks ago a tractor pushed it over. The tree trunks and shrubs that were uprooted still lie around, drying out (waiting for some cigarette to set them afire). Someone has scrawled "B Company honour"" on the road sign. The two other signs to Beqaot and Mehola have not been desecrated. A Haruv Battalion flag (bottom half a black triangle, upper half a white triangle with a drawing of wings). A group of soldiers in black t-shirts, with the legend "603" next to the Bobcat logo, are busily erecting a fence that will enclose the dugout position northwest of the junction. Actually the whole checkpoint is now being re-fenced. Around the plaza (paving finished) holes are being dug for posts, a rope is strung and the wire netting lies on the ground. Someone is making money off of this work...
At the junction, lively traffic of Israeli vehicles in both directions. A blue Volkswagen Polo crosses the junction fast, turning left, almost clipping another car coming towards it, and the driver doesn’t forget to give us the finger. People emerge from inspection, belts in hand, re-threading them as they walk.
There are girls with black visor caps. One of them is letting a dog into cars. A passerby says that sometimes the soldiers are nice, sometimes not, and sometimes they are "crap." He lives with his family and his sheep on the hills to the east, and crosses quite often. He says that the soldiers are replaced every week, and notes that there are dog minders here with their animals today.
We saw a brand new Palestinian vehicle with the logo "Beqaot Packing House" travelling westward. Military vehicles also flash by westward, even though the red signs forbid entry to Palestinian Authority Zone A.
15:50 – we left.
On the way we saw the bulldozer working like mad on the earthworks. The blue Polo overtook us fast while the driver exaggerates his movements – this time he is photographing us on his cellphone, from the side, from the front, from behind. He is driving so fast that we could not catch his number.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
11:30 Maaleh Ephraim Checkpoint
The checkpoint is manned by two soldiers in the booth, but there are no Palestinians at this hour.
11:50 Hamra Checkpoint
There are not a lot of cars at this hour and the soldiers are quiet. People pass through very quickly. Cars drop people off 50 meters west of the checkpoint and people wait 50 meters to the east. The men emerge with their belts in their hands. The booth that soldiers were sitting in fore bhas been replaced by a sealed room and the soldiers sit behind a glass window. Cars going in the direction of Nablus are not checked, but pedestrians passing through have to walk through the checkpoint on the road in the sun. A large area north of the checkpoint has been fenced off and the land has been leveled. During the last two weeks the soldiers have discovered explosives almost every day. Is it any wonder? For the past two years no explosives were discovered and now they find them every day. This seems rather unlikely since it is relatively easy to bypass the checkpoint through the open areas surrounding it. One of the Palestinians we know explains that the exaggerated importance of this checkpoint to security is used to justify the intense construction that is going on here that will infringe upon the Palestinians' lives. Perhaps they will even build a terminal here.
12:40 – Tayasir Checkpoint
There is very little traffic. The same soldier who sent an elderly woman home last week sent a young man back who had forgotten his certificate at home. All this for the sake of keeping things in order, of course. At 13:30 the children arrive, running happily, but the commanding officer stops them and makes them go through one by one – for the sake of keeping things in order. They pass by the soldiers with suspicious looks until they are at a safe distance. Most of the children greet us happily. Cars that do not have registration of ownership of people in the valley are sent back.
15:00 – Gochia Gate
No Palestinians arrived and consequently no soldiers arrived either.
The road to Hadadya is still blocked by a mound of earth, forcing people to drive around the settlement of Roi. Instead of driving five minutes they how have to drive 20 – a substantial expense for tractor fuel.
16:30 – Hamra Checkpoint
There are no lines in either direction. There is a line of five cars from the direction of Nablus. Cars are being checked in only one direction. We went to see a clinic that is built out of mud bricks and we were received as guests by a family who lived in a house that was built out of mud. We listened to the story of the family who explained that in 2006 and 2007 all the houses on their land were destroyed except for one house that was built before 1967. Since it is impossible to receive a permit to build in area C under Israeli jurisdiction, seven of the nine members of the family lave left to live in the West Bank because they have nowhere to live. The land, however, is theirs and they have a "Kushan" (a certificate of registration)!
Translation: Bracha B.A.
We stopped to talk with one of the residents of one of the tent camps near Tayasir who told us about the fine he received from the Israel Nature Preservation Society for grazing his herds in the area. The cows were walking on unmarked roads. The area was abandoned by a resident of the area many years ago. Since then the settlement of Rotem has been established on the land and the residents often come to bathe in the spring. The native residents are not permitted to enter. Complaints have been submitted to various MKs.
14:13 – Tayasir Checkpoint
The soldier is standing on the concrete platform in the vehicle inspection area. His hand is barely able to reach the documents that people are handing him. He inspects the trunk of the cars and asks the drivers about what they are carrying, where they are going, their origin, etc. An officer named Nadav orders the checkpoint to be closed in order that we leave. After five minutes the soldiers receive orders to open it again.
The soldiers and the Palestinians speak Hebrew with a foreign accent. The children pass through the checkpoint hesitantly with their eyes downcast.
The army has blocked one of the two roads near the settlement of Roi that leads to the land belonging to the Hadidya family. They how have to make a 20-minutes detour with their tractors. The Liaison and Coordination Administration explains that "this is so that they won't bring explosives to the checkpoint." This is nonsense. The real reason is that the settlers don't want the Palestinians driving near the settlement.
15:00 Guchia Gate
The gate is closed. A tractor with seven children and two adults is standing in front of the gate. The gate is supposed to be opened twice a day two days a week for a half hour, but sometimes the soldiers don't come at all.At 15:45 after endless phone calls soldiers arrive in a jeep. "Funny" says S., "If we are five minutes late they don't let us through the checkpoint." The soldiers always check the IDs that Israel issues against the limited list of residents that the army issues who are "permitted" to go through the gate. Today they ask for the children's birth certificates as well. The people on the tractor are surprised at this and explain and ask for permission until the soldiers finally allow the children – most of whom are about ten years old - to go through accompanied by their siblings.
They are building and expanding the checkpoint. 10 cars are waiting on all sides for the heavy equipment to go through and for the soldiers to begin to check. The entire area of the checkpoint is filled with dust from the construction work and a lot of people are walking across. The workers explain that they are renovating the checkpoint. "Otherwise people won't be able to go through – next week they will put up a fence here and a fence there."
The soldiers peek inside people's bags. A soldier makes a veiled woman remove her face covering so that he can let her through.
17:17 – Maaleh Ephraim checkpoint
There are no soldiers around or in the guard tower. A lineup of Palestinian cars formed immediately while the cars belonging to the Jews passed them by. The Palestinian cars have to stop and receive permission to pass. We walked with the first car until it passed through and when the others saw that it had gone through they passed through as well.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
The valley is still green. The wild flowers are colorful, the sheep are enjoying the grass, the Bedouin are gathering plants, and of course, the army camps and fences are still the same. Before we went to Tayasir Checkpoint we stopped to unload winter clothes on the side of the road leading to one of the encampments. Children came to take the clothes and a woman came and invited us to drink. She asked about Dafna and said that Dafna always comes to drink with her and we promised to come again the next time.
14:20 – Tayasir CheckpointWe stood opposite the entrance to the base. A soldier was walking along the fence talking on his mobile phone and announced that a blue Volkswagen was parked next to the fence. We didn't see any schoolchildren because they had returned earlier.
We encountered taxis that had come from the West bank and were waiting for passengers who had gotten out to be checked in the inspection booth. Vans and small trucks were traveling towards the West Bank with workers or cargo. We did not see the unpleasant sight of people lining up to have their IDs checked.
An elderly man who lives in Tayasir in the West Bank has a house and children but he himself lives in Badla in the Jordan valley and is a beekeeper. A worker from the Palestinian Authority tells us in English about his work and about projects for promoting social and agricultural initiatives for residents of the Jordan valley. Today he went with another activist from somewhere else to bring equipment for a kindergarten in Ein El Bida opposite the settlement of Mechola. There are about 2000 residents there. We added a large bag of dolls and asked them if they were aware of the military activity in the area west of the checkpoint. He said that the army was particularly evident during the night, but that they no longer enter people's houses. His son was arrested and in prison in Israel but was freed with the help of good attorneys.
We left at 15:20. On the Alon road we can see the dirt embankments running along the side of the road. The Guchia gate opposite the settlement of Roi is closed.
Hamra Checkpoint 15:40
A woman, waiting on the side of the road, is worried about her husband who is still inside the checkpoint. A dog held by a woman soldier is checking his car. The man arrived angry and agitated about all the items in the car that the dog had sniffed, and now he had to throw them all away. "For us a dog is profane," he explains. “Do they think I have weapons? Is this the easing up of procedures at checkpoints? Anyone who has a weapon wouldn't cross at a checkpoint."
After that we saw another search of a Fiat Uno. Between searches the dog handler has her dog perform jumping tricks. People arrive after being checked with their belts in their hands. "Look what a mess they make here for us."
A grader is working on the concrete area that we saw here two weeks ago, and was later joined by a bulldozer from the army. The soldier operating the grader tells Edna that he knows that we don’t spit on soldiers because he sees us at checkpoints, and wonders how we offer to do our work without pay or without compensation for our expenditures. He asks where our reports go and who reads them. His contractor (from Jerusalem) won the bid for construction in the West bank and he is now hired to pave the area next to the inspection booth. He is waiting for asphalt to arrive and therefore has time to ask questions. Other soldiers join him: one introduced himself as a representative from the Liaison and Coordination Administration and asked about Dafna, and the other was the same rank, and the third has a cap on with an insignia from "Carob", a military unit.
We asked about the dog. The representative from the Liaison and Coordination Administration explained that there was a serious warning issued and that "Here at the checkpoint we don't harass people. We bring them water and they bring us explosives." Only last week we discovered seven grenades." During the usual dialogue about "We have a right to this country and they don't want to make peace" they received an announcement about the killing of a soldier at the Tapuach Junction.
The grader and bulldozer began to move. The grader worked at the crossing next to the signs pointing to Jerusalem and Tuba, and ran into the poles holding the signs as well as the concrete block holding the light pole. The place became dangerous for pedestrians – particularly women and children who were coming out of the inspection booth. The bulldozer repaired the concrete block and returned it to its place and the grader continued with its work as if he were building a new road southward, perhaps paving a platform, perhaps for rest rooms, as the person from the Liaison and Coordination Administration had explained. The bulldozer uprooted weeds and cleared away two trees next to the large garbage bins. It was all right to clear away the litter, but we asked why they were uprooting the trees. We were told that the trees were blocking the view. Throughout the time we were there cars passed through the checkpoint, many of them were new and impressive.
We left at 16:15.
13:10 - Tyasir checkpoint
Small children and teachers return home from school. All go through the pedestrians' checkpoint.
The mini-bus in which they came wait for them on the other side of the checkpoint.
There are 4 soldiers on site.
13:15 - Workers who've been working at the Ro'ee settlement (Jordan Valley) begin showing up and now they go to their homes in Tamon (West Bank) together with them come more vehicles and there is no sign on part of the soldiers that someone plan to get them through.
13:27 - After observing that no one is going through Anina asks the soldiers why has passage was stopped.
The explanation: "We are entitled to a lunch break of 20 minutes". But due to the question, one soldier calls for the cars (15 of them) most drivers turned off the switch of their vehicles and got out to hang out. Now each car is inspected thoroughly and slowly; people get off the vehicles and one by one go under inspection. Cars trunks are opened as well as all doors .covers of merchandise are lifted. It seems to us as some sort of revenge due to our intervention.
Teachers returning from Bardale on their way to Tubas greet us. We left when everyone else has left.
14:20 - Hamra checkpoint
Along the way we see herds of sheep and blossoming of wild flowers.
Innovations at the checkpoint: Various tractors and mini-Bulldozer working on site, straightening the Asphalt and cleaning it. Is there a move towards "development"?
14:30 An armored vehicle arrives, drops off soldiers for a shift change. With that group there's a dog with its female trainer. This is the first time that we see a dog on this checkpoint (innovation?). Workers return from their day's work in the settlements; all go through without being inspected. Some are required to present their I.D cards.
Hamra, Tayasir, Sunday, 31.1.10 pm
We set off at noon. The landscape was marvellous, the rolling hills covered in a green and flowering carpet.
At Maalei Ephraim Checkpoint stood two soldiers, but no cars or pedestrians when we passed.
Along the road we saw an Israeli police car escorted by an armed soldier. The policeman was prying into a sack on a donkey’s back while two Palestinian shepherds stood alongside with a flock of sheep and goats. The moment we pulled up, the policeman glanced at us and, with the soldier, got in the jeep and drove off. We asked the shepherds what they wanted, and one said that they are always searched. The shepherds were from Hirbet Tana, by Beit Furiq. They bring the flock to these hills each day, and return in the evening.
Before arriving at Hamra Checkpoint, we passed through a place called Pushrat Beit Dejan. At the checkpoint, a car pulled up next to us and a man called Fathi introduced himself as acting in Maan, a Palestinian grassroots organisation "like yours," active in the north of the Jordan Valley. He saw our car with the MachsomWatch flag and thought it must be Daphna, so he followed us. He invited us to the family house on the hill overlooking Hamra Checkpoint. We drove behind him, and we received with joy and warmth by the family. This is the place to remember that Daphna is well known in every corner of the Valley, very popular and much liked. Before we understood what was happening, a table opened up and we sat with the family, Fathi and another visitor from Jerusalem. We ate lunch and chatted. The head of the family, Zorba, looked and behaved like Zorba, has 12 children and lots of grandchildren and a wife who fends for herself. It seems that everyone knows him, and people come to his door all the time. He told us about the life of the family and of the other encampments in the surroundings. The story included demolition orders given periodically and enforced. Constant destruction of buildings belonging to them. We also understood what Maan does: constant rebuilding with the help of European donations, mostly from the Norwegian government – as is recorded on a large notice at a number of spots in the area. Fathi explained that the objective was to act non-violently against the Occupation. No demonstrations. The sole function being the rebuilding of destroyed houses, and perhaps some multiplication ("for each one destroyed, we build two or three").
Because of the situation, they moved to building from mud and straw bricks, which are cheap and lightweight. In the housing areas can be seen the ruins of buildings and the mud brick houses. The idea, beyond easy building and correct ecology, is to show the occupier that the building is not concrete, and therefore does not constitute a house.
According to him, eight houses were once demolished, rebuilt, demolished a second time and rebuilt. Salam Fayad was there to lay a new brick, and a photo of them together hangs amid a group celebrating at Bilin. The Norwegian Ambassador and many delegations from Europe come to visit.
They contend that 200,000 dunams (50,000 acres) of pasture and farmland were taken from the residents of the area by Israel. The family lived on this spot befpre 1967. Under Palestinian custom they maintained life in two locations. They have a house in Tamun, a village ten minutes drive away, where they live in the hot months, and a house in the Valley where they live in the cold season. Since the Occupation upset their lives, and though they have no political involvement of any kind and never interfered or acted against the Occupation, they are subjected to incessant harassment at all levels of their living. Physical examination at checkpoints (including a pregnant woman and children), water problems – they have a container that they fill every fourth day at a distant village. Soldiers don’t allow the young son to sell fruit by the roadside. And the constant demolition orders... At the moment they are summoned to the Civil Administration, to a committee that will discuss their situation on 4.2.10, but they have no intention of attending since there is no chance that their views will be heard.
Zorba speaks a clear and beautiful Arabic, like a poet. He explains that everyone has the right to food, drink, a home, dignity and a normal life. He asks rhetorical questions. We are all in agreement.
We traded phone numbers, and will pass information to the peace fighters who may want to participate with them in building their new houses in the future.
There was no activity when we passed, nor at Tayasir Checkpoint. Somebody who was waiting told us that today it’s all okay. Two men sat waiting for a permit to move a truck with pipes and gas balloons. The soldiers at the checkpoint tried to be unpleasant to us on the orders of the commander.
We passed by another encampment next to Hamam el Maliah and delivered a lot of clothes that we had brought specially.. They were pounced on in a way that aroused compassion. On the way back, we did not encounter any problems at any checkpoint. Little traffic on the roads and no pressure anywhere. Lovely scenery, green hills, depressing reality...
Translation: Bracha B.A.
The entire Jordan valley is green and the furze and Calycotome are already flowering. There are also anemones and alium. The army camps, fences, and checkpoints ruin the pastoral life that could exist here in the Jordan Valley near Tubas and Nablus, without having to stop for a sleepy soldier or for his comrade whose mouth is full of food, taking their time to finally let people pass. The gardens in the "Jiftlik are neglected and the road is still adorned with signs reading "Bring the Oslo Criminals to Justice."
Tayasir Checkpoint, 13:20
The soldiers motioned for us to approach them and didn't know who we are. We drove up to their position. They were eating and they understood why we had come. They opened the gate so that we could turn around and we drove back to the gate of the camp where we stood and watched. It was quiet, and there were a few taxis carrying mostly women and children dressed in holiday clothes. They were taking advantage of the school vacation to travel. The taxis drive through and the passengers are checked in the inspection booth where there is an X-ray machine.
The trucks and taxis that come from the east went through without delay. An army vehicle drives through the checkpoint going west. According to the red signs this is forbidden, but perhaps there is another army camp on the other side.
14:30 – We left and drove towards Hamra Checkpoint. We unloaded winter clothes along the road leading to one of the tent camps. We also passed a driver with a tractor pulling a tank of water and could not believe the price of the water he was carrying.
14:55 Hamra Checkpoint
A truck with a crane is placing metal beams on top of something that looks like a large generator on the concrete area east of the checkpoint. There are two huge army trucks next to it. The two trucks eventually left with noisy squealing of tires. A sergeant asked us to keep away from the construction work for our safety and we backed off.
At 3 in the afternoon a new shift of soldiers arrived. They will have to remain in this cold place until 11 at night. Meanwhile a line of cars has begun to form the east.
The soldiers said goodbye to those who were leaving and took up positions. They did not let the cars pass. We showed them the line that had formed and they went to work. At 15:15 a busload of workers arrived – the only one that we saw.
We left at 15:45.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
Two soldiers approach and want to know who we are. Anina converses with them:Anina: We’re here for you.Soldier: How is it you’re here for us?Anina: From what my grandson told me, there can be problems.Soldier: What problems?Anina: For instance, if you want to do something good and can’t.Soldier: Expresses amazement and returns to his post.Cars come from both directions and all cross after their documents are quickly checked. Students are coming from Bardala in taxis. All of them get out and pass through the pedestrian checkpoint.Three army jeeps drive through the checkpoint quickly, showing everyone who is in charge.
There are new flags of the battalion decorating the checkpoint. There is a young man next to the holding facility who is being detained. We hear from his friends that he forgot his ID card. He was told that he would get through in a short time and after a quarter of an hour he crossed through and left for Jericho with his friends. Cars are passing through in both directions. A soldier is pointing his weapon at the people coming through.Women and children are coming out of the checkpoint. The men are putting their belts back on in the entrance.We left at 14:30.