Sansana (Meitar Crossing)
Translator: Charles K.
06:30 Most of the laborers at the Sansana checkpoint have already crossed to the Israeli side; dozens still wait for their rides. Next to the revolving gate we meet a CPT representative. He says about 4,000 people crossed this morning, without any unusual incidents. A short distance along Highway 60 we see a large sign by the roadside: “Welcome to Har Hebron – Come to visit, come to connect, come to stay.”
We turn onto Highway 317 and…”Fulfill your dreams in Sussiya,” flags of the homeland waving gently along the road in the morning breeze. The highway is empty, deserted, as is the little village of a-Taywwani. We stopped next to the “archaeological excavations” carried out about a year ago. We looked around – the excavations are fine! And the landowner, who wanted only to lay a water line in order to have flowing water at home was”granted” a dubious structure for his sheep. But water? Nope.
We wanted to accompany the children on their way to school but it was too early so we drove on to Hebron.
We passed the Carmel settlement where a sign proclaims “Carmel’s new neighborhood – 13 housing units;” construction is well-advanced. Just this morning Ha’aretz reported that the Americans gave their tacit consent to construction “only in the large blocs.” Is Carmel also in one of the “large blocs”?
We drive on. Poor villages line the road. A woman carries a pail of water on her head and holds a second in her hand, just like in the … 16th century… Along the road, before Zif junction, dozens of children walk to school.
The Ja’abari family built an additional house near the beginning of the Kiryat Arba –Hebron road. We hope it will stand a long time.
On the upper road past Beit Hameriva/Hashalom is a roadblock where some Palestinian cars whose drivers have crossing permits are allowed to stop, the driver may lift the roadblock, go through, then replace it without having to “bother” the soldiers guarding the house, and thus be able to use the road. But they’re only a chosen few. Most have to take a detour on a bumpy road restricted to Palestinians…
“There’s no limit to idiocy,” Yael says.
CPT women at the Pharmacy checkpoint tell us that Issa was arrested the day Obama met Abu Mazen and has been in jail since. They don’t know what happened to him. They also said children told them that in a booth at one of the crossings where they’re often stopped to have their schoolbags inspected there are photos of children on the wall and many times they’re asked to identify the children in the photos and asked their names. We promised to try and find out what’s going on. They also said that during 65 days, 45 children had been arrested! We later phoned a local acquaintance to find out where Issa is. It turns out he had been held for two days and then released without having been charged with anything.
We saw new signs at Tel Rumeida (only in Hebrew, of course) directing visitors “To the tombs of Yishai and Ruth – to Admot Yishai.”
There’s also a large new sign on Shuhadah Street (“King David Street,” according to Anat Cohen) at the corner of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood: “The ancient Jewish Quarter Avraham Avinu Synagogue.”
At 7:30 an the Meitar checkpoint is clear but many workers are waiting on the Israeli side for their transport. Two luxurious buses are also waiting, presumably for prisoners' families (from information received the process of check visitors at the Sharon women's prison has been tightened and the visiting time thus reduced. (See: Women`s Organization for Political Prisoners (WOFPP)
Hebron and K Arba are dozing in a post-Pesach stupor. New banners invite participation in the settlement adventure. We want to visit the boy's school and maybe meet one or two the little guys who were arrested last week ( Btselem report 20/03/2013) but the school is off on an outing. At the Pharmacy checkpoint a Druze officer is more or less friendly while his Jewish colleague looks grim. A shiny white vehicle pulls up with an officer and cohorts, smiling broadly he tells us that only internationals are permitted to observe at the checkpoint and we are holding up the traffic. Netanya points down the deserted street and asks whether he thinks this is Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. Back in Beer Sheva the Palestinian prisoner Maiseer Abu Hamtsa died of cancer this morning in Soroka hospsital, which may account for the strange assertion of the Border Policeman in anticipation of possible protests, which according to the press do indeed occur. However, we see no reinforcements of army or police so this is just a guess, fired by hindsight (no pun intended!).
Guests: Two tourists from the US accompanying Netanya
Translator: Charles K.
In photo: flying checkpoint in Dahariyya.
There are no more people crossing on foot when we drive away and vehicles cross quickly, without problems.
A flying checkpoint at Dahariyya – reservists, very strict, stopping almost every car – it’s not clear why. One man waits a very long time because he doesn’t have his ID with him. Annoying…
In general, almost no military vehicles.
Much less military presence than last week. Nor is anyone detained. The road on the worshipper’s route has been repaired.
Two occupation stories:
1. The carpenter living on the Tzion route (below Beit Hameriva) who wants a permit to bring his vehicle in (40 Palestinians already have such a permit) has been refused for more than a month…He asks us for help – Captain Amir puts him off, sends him hither and yon…He notices us next to Beit Hameriva and asks for our assistance – we gave him Chana’s phone number; we hope she can help him. His family and his pregnant wife who can barely descend the stairs down to their home past Beit Hameriva wait in the car…
2. A Border Police soldier in the parking lot opposite the Cave of the Patriarchs is “nice” to us until he realizes we’re a left wing organization, and stops talking to us. He also yells at an Arab tour guide from East Jerusalem with a blue ID card who wants to park next to ‘Abed’s shop – you’re an Arab; you can’t park here.
Apartheid and the occupation routine. One of the tourists who’s with us says, “it’s a ghost town”…and I have nothing left to say.
Translator: Charles K.
06:00 We left Yeruham; it’s raining.
06:45 At the turn to Sansana (left, three minutes south of the Meitar checkpoint) a checkpoint has been set up to catch people illegally in Israel.
07:00 Meitar checkpoint. It’s empty. According to the EAPPI, 5000 people crossed beginning at 04:00, without incident.
07:35 We stopped at Tawwani to see the children from Umm Tuba cross.
On Saturday the Italians erected a tent on the hill for the children from Umm Tuba (so they could be sheltered when waiting for their military escort), but the army demolished it, claiming it was a military area (see photos, attached).
We stood with the Italians next to the fence; the children arrived at 07:58, an army jeep following them.
After the children arrived we continued on our way.
We reached Hebron at 8am; the streets are quiet because of its raining; Curve 160 is also quiet.
Translator: Charles K.
Curve 160 checkpoint in Hebron – small stones the children threw
Soldiers who came from the Jabel Juhar neighborhood (Area H1, which is supposed to be under Palestinian control)
Helmets sitting on the concrete barriers instead of on the soldiers’ heads.
The pillbox on Highway 60 at the Dura – Al Fawwar junction.
The sign warning it’s dangerous to enter Area A, soldiers alongside.
Yesterday a Palestinian youth was killed by live fire at the Dura Al Fawwar junction on Highway 60. And today?! Today everyone’s on alert, sad, with heavy hearts. If you read the entire report you’ll agree with me that Edmond Levi is wrong – there is in fact an occupation!!!
What we did on today’s shift (tales of the occupation)
By 06:45 all the laborers had crossed and wait for their rides…the earthworks continue and the rubbish is still there.
Highway 60, Southern Hebron Hills
Khirbet Tawwani – The soldiers escorting the children walking to school from Umm Tuba arrive on time this morning. The Palestinians have asked us to try to arrange for the children to be driven to school. The Civil Administration representatives have thus far refused – we asked our attorney, Gabi Lassky, to write some letters. We’ll see what happens. The children have been walking to school with a military escort since 2004. Wouldn’t it be easier to find the hoodlums from the Ma’on Farm and get rid of them? They’re on privately owned land; cf. Talia Sasson’s report.
Zif junction – We see here for the first time the army’s heightened preparations – vehicles for dispersing demonstrations, Border Police vehicles and a squad of soldiers at the checkpoint – no one is crossing and there’s very little vehicle traffic.
Kvasim junction – Border Police soldiers standing under the pillbox stop a Palestinian motorcyclist, check him and release him immediately when they see us.
The junction to Kiryat Arba on Highway 60
Palestinian families own land beyond the gas station, below Mitzpeh Avichai and before Giv’at Mamreh – approximately 30 dunums. For thirteen years they haven’t been allowed to reach their land and cultivate it. Today, following coordination between the Palestinian and the Israeli DCO, they came with tractors to try to enter and work the land. They reached the entrance gate; the Kiryat Arba security people didn’t let them through. When we met them they’d already been waiting for three hours, trying every way they could to convince the Palestinian DCO to arrange things with the Israeli DCO, but to no avail. We see the despair and helplessness in their eyes. We referred them to Yesh Din. They talked to M., from Yesh Din, in our presence; let’s hope something comes of it.
We visit the teachers at the Cordova school. The handrail of the stairs has been repainted…giving apartheid a festive air. Again they request what we haven’t been able to implement …Hebrew classes…
The green apartheid fence on the eastern side of the Cave of the Patriarchs plaza sparkles in the sun.
Curve 160 – The occupation’s Rashomon continues. A Palestinian stops us just before the checkpoint. He tells us that five 9 and 10 year old children from the Assissiya boys’ school in Jabel Johar threw stones at the checkpoint. In response, the soldiers entered the school and sprayed tear gas. The teachers then closed the school; they’re now on strike. An ambulance evacuated pupils who were injured.
We reach the checkpoint – the gate is open, three police cars and a military vehicle, senior officers on site – no one wearing a helmet, everyone relaxed, some drinking coffee, a few small stones scattered on the street. We asked how many children were here – 50-100, they reply. (We see almost no children and very few passersby). The gate is still open; two soldiers walked into the neighborhood, stopped past the first grocery store and then came out.
What really happened? You decide between the two versions. On the basis of what I saw, I tend to believe the Palestinians. One of the soldiers checks his iPhone to see whether there were reports on Walla or Ynet.
The occupation routine?
Translator: Charles K.
Three buses with relatives of prisoners, a new fence in the shed where Palestinian laborers wait on their way to the revolving gates and the fenced corridors that finally lead them to their work day in Israel. Rubbish fills the parking lot; a stench rises from the valley of Hebron’s stream; the bathrooms are in an acceptable condition. Never-ending earthworks move sand around. Five trucks in line ahead of us. One attractive Palestinian woman and a merchant are the only one’s crossing while we’re there – everyone says things were ok this morning. But one person again complains he’s been blacklisted by the Shabak and can’t earn a living.
There’s nothing new under the sun – no horror stories, just the terrible ugliness and the a-priori demonization.
Routes 60 and 317
Very few military vehicles. Many red signs warning against entering Area A. The cantonization system, inherited from South Africa, reducing the size of Area A, defining regions within it in order to expropriate all the rest… (that’s what happens under the influence of “the lords of the land”)
Five vehicles belonging to the Israel Electric Company are parked at the Kiryat Arba gas station for a briefing by DCO representatives before driving in a convoy to Hebron through the barrier at Giv’at Ha’Avot – they have a big job and “benefit” from military protection. We didn’t ask what the job was.
The army patrol leaves Beit HaMeriva. The remaining checkpoints are manned by the Border Police. A Palestinian near Beit HaMeriva tells us about difficulties organizing family reunifications between refugees in Jordan and Palestinian citizens. We asked him to call this evening to provide more details – we may be able to help.
The new apartheid fence next to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Again we show this town’s horrors under the “bloodless” occupation that has made all its residents almost indifferent…
The only remaining evidence of Friday’s large demonstration at the Beit Haggai checkpoint are the empty tin cans the soldiers left behind.
An ordinary day’s little horrors.
Translator: Charles K.
We left for the Meitar border crossing at 06:30. Everything there was quiet; even though more laborers are crossing to work in Israel they go through pretty quickly.
Southern Hebron Hills – A Tawwani
We drove to Tawwani to see whether the children safely traverse the road between Ma’on and the Ma’on farm. This is the first time I’ve been there. We arrived at 07:30; the two Italian volunteers showed up around 07:40. We don’t yet see either the children or the military vehicle.
At 07:50 the military vehicle arrives and the children begin walking down the road to school. The military vehicle doesn’t escort them; the children approach the Ma’on farm alone. Suddenly we see a vehicle coming from the direction of the farm, and then – and only then – does the military vehicle drive down to where the road to the school meets the road coming from the farm, apparently to make sure nothing happens.
As someone there for the first time who notices things that people who’ve become used to the place may overlook, and because I’d read the report Michal sent us two weeks ago, I think we must again demand that a more orderly procedure be established – that the army commit to appear at a set time or, as an alternative, that the children be driven back and forth to school. It’s worth asking Machsom Watch’s lawyer about this.
Translator: Charles K.
All the laborers have crossed. Four buses wait for relatives of prisoners.
Election posters for national-religious parties on every wall and fence in Hebron and all along the way.
Everything’s as usual. We visited the renovated neighborhood opposite the Cave of the Patriarchs (see photo on top, below), around which the apartheid fence is rising on behalf of the Worshippers route.
The houses are lovely, the alleys like those in Old Jaffa. The renovations were carried out by Spanish organizations. But this is area H2, which the Palestinian Authority doesn’t take care of and which the Civil Authority is, of course, neglecting. The stench of urine, garbage tossed everywhere and a feeling of no man’s land surrounding us. The sign reads “Grenada Plaza.” It could look like Grenada, but it doesn’t.
Routine at all the checkpoints. A calm soldier at Curve 160 talks with passers-by. A water pipe burst and they’re all waiting for someone to repair it. Many children carrying pails are on their way to the mosque to get their daily soup.
We were told about demolition of homes in the Southern Hebron Hills, so we drove there.
Southern Hebron Hills
We turned off Highway 356 to the area of Dir’at and from there to a place called Huwwara or, more exactly, “Sha’ab al Mr’ar.” Someone from Dir’at helped us find it. Many people standing around the well and building that were demolished this morning. A building demolished last week is nearby. A UN vehicle arrives a few minutes after us.
This is Area C, remember. People show us their applications for building permits. None were approved. Although it’s their land, it’s too close to the Ma’on settlement; P'nei Hever is visible from a distance.
Like their Jewish neighbors, they’re holding on to the land and trying to create something there, build one house, then another. But they’ll never receive building permits and the state of Israel will embitter their lives to establish more settlements.
“How can you live this way?” a man asks us.
“It’s the Israelis,” he says.
“We’re also Israeiis,” we say, “We came to support you and are ashamed of what our government does.”
“We’ll write about it,” we promise, “and about how strongly we oppose what’s happening here.”
“Thank you very much,” they say.
We also drove to the Ma’on area because they’d been told that the rubble had been brought there.
Many reservists and police at the entrance to the locality checking detainees and their vehicle. No, they didn’t see buildings demolished, they arrived later.
Shortly before we came they’d set up a flying checkpoint and stopped a vehicle and its passengers. They felt something was wrong and called the police to investigate. The reservists express understanding for what we’re doing.
“But I prefer that we’re here and do the job that someone has to do,” one of them says.
“You’re different from other soldiers,” I say.
“Certainly, I make sure to behave respectfully and fairly to those I have to inspect,” he replies.
“Why do you have to do it?,” we ask.
“We’re a democracy,” they say.
“Is this democratic?” I ask.
“We’re a country of laws,” they reply.
“We’re a country of laws, but what about justice and morality?” I ask.
They nod and say something about the difference between their personal opinions and their obligations as law-abiding citizens.
Will we have this endless, pointless argument again? No.
So we drove home.
We had plans to visit more than one village but, as usual, events overtook us
See these pictures, for living conditions in the Hebron hills
This morning we set out a bit later than usual and M suggested we go to two of the Sth Hebron villages in area C.
En Faqqara (which means something like Mother of Poverty and it is indeed very poor) and Um al Hir (Mother of Morning?) although we didn't make it that far.
Here there is a very different reality and I wanted to photograph there. Those who get their ideas about how Palestinians live from the internet, should better take a visit to this village
We stopped at the sheep market at Tzomet haKvassim between Yatta and Hebron to sense the mood. . The Palestinians asked who we were and Natanya told them about MachsomWatch and they found it hard to believe that we were Israeli Jews and not foreigners which is very important.
From there, we moved on to a very different story: an arid poverty stricken scene (for which, see photos), where the family we visited lived during the recent snow in a cave. You can get a sense of how cold the area is. Here in Jerusalem the snow has mostly melted but there, even along the way to Hebron, the fields were still covered with snow. So nice to get out of your warm car and take some photos while you shiver, then get back into the warm car and know that at home, you have your warm bath and heating waiting. The water was even dripping down from the roof of the cave on to the tangle of electric wires. Of course it looks a mess. One wonders how house-proud a person can be under such circumstances. Muhammed said that they had sat there with the family and how miserable it had been. And you can see the house they are building now and how 'huge' it is…it would probably fit into the average Israeli flat, but is still now awaiting destruction as it was built without a permit......which of course cannot be obtained.
From there, we took a woman and her three sick children to A-Tawanni where we stopped at the clinic. It was packed with people, mainly women, at least 50, in a building maybe as big as an average Israeli flat, MAYBE, and only one doctor there. This I did not photograph as I think it would have been insulting to do so and did not even ask permission to photograph. We couldn't find out reliably who runs the clinic. Operation Dove, the Italian volunteers think it is either the Palestinian Red Crescent or something called Medical Care, but the service is not provided by Israel who, as the occupier, actually has responsibility for the well-being of the people living under occupation, according to the many conventions to which Israel is a signatory.
The 3-5 km road between the two villages is unbelievably bad. Even M in the van said had he known how bad it was he would not have gone on it. But the villagers have no choice as the good road on top is only for the Lords of the Land. As we left the village we saw that a border police patrol had blocked the entrance and there were about 7 of them there. We never found out why. We saw that there was Nasser from Btselem (who lives at Sussiya) being checked on his way into the village, very odd... I smiled through the window at one of the border policeman who looked at me and spat on th e ground very obviously. So we got out and the soldier was very rude and did not deny that he had spat but said that if we wanted to make a complaint we could do that. I said to him that we had not given him any reason to act like that and that his behavior had been disgusting. The other soldiers just kept trying to get him away and avoid the incident. We noted the number of their car, which was a civilian vehicle with civilian license plates. The situation was very unpleasant but the more you ignore or upset this kind of behavior the more the soldiers will allow themselves to act in that way. We will write to the Border Police command and complain.
On Route 317 going to the villages we noticed a military patrol marching along intently, to no apparent purpose, maybe looking for a place to set up a flying checkpoint. On the return to Beersheva (Yehudit and M only), there was a slight argument with the woman on duty in the budke and she purposely detained us, calling the shift leader to 'interrogate' us. Fortunately he knew MachsomWatch and after a short discussion told us we were free to go since it was clear there was no reason to hold us. While it is important to challenge the 'security forces' when they are rude, obstructive or aggressive, it is more effective to address the higher ranks, either on the spot or in writing afterwards. Cerrtainly not to get in arguments with them. The guys (and girls) on the ground won't back down and the power struggle is not worth the effort and counterproductive to our work which is watching and reporting. (last bit written by Yehudit).
Translator: Charles K.
A lovely, sunny day. The remains of the snow are visible on the Hebron hills…and in Hebron. But the beauty doesn’t conceal the ugliness of the occupation.
The back-to-back truck transfer area at the Meitar crossing is being expanded. On our way back we see a Border Police pickup truck next to the crossing which is “hunting” people in Israel illegally…four are seated on the ground and waiting for others to come. Only on Friday a Palestinian who just wanted to earn a living was killed – someone was trigger-happy.
The National Road Company, which maintains the roads, is painting traffic markings on Highway 60, guarded by soldiers. An accident involving two Palestinian cars near the village of Abda’a; an ambulance from the Hebron Hills Regional Council and paramedics who are settlers assist the injured … (a shared “fabric of life” among unequals).
There’s a flying Border Police checkpoint at the junction between 9 and 10 in the morning…binoculars, drawn weapons, detained Palestinian women, two of them for a very long time…
Children are in the streets – school vacation because of exams.
More apartheid fences around the Cave of the Patriarchs, more procedures…people are angry.
Two detainees at the checkpoint near ‘Abed’s shop…
Otherwise it’s quiet…