Translator: Hanna K.
13:00 Habla. The gate has been opened on time. Trucks pass, as well as horse drawn carts, tenders and pedestrians. There is a lively traffic in both directions. With us next to the gate there also is an English language tour of MW. We notice that there is a greater than usual number of soldiers and a military hummer which entered the area and left again several times.
A young Palestinian tells us that he has finished his university studies but has no chance of finding a job. He will have to go to Saudi Arabia or to one of the emirates and try his luck there.
A big agricultural vehicle left the village and was checked quickly. A cart owner with his horse arrives. "What do you have under the heap of grass? iron? aluminium?" The cart is checked meticulously and the man is allowed to pass (the soldier explains that if his cargo would have been metal he would have to pass by the Eliyahu crossing).
13:30 We leave, although the children's bus hasn't passed yet. We turn to Alfey Menashe settlement for a tour on the prospering and well-groomed settlement and from there, for comparison, to Arab Ar-Ramadin. The children get off the bus they smile and are happy to welcome the visitors.
14:00 Eliyahu crossing. The gardening job advances with vigor. The workmen are from Jayyus. As usual we are politely sent away. From all directions security people dash towards us with the usual questions: Who are you? What are you looking for? You have no right to be here. We smile and continue on our way, crossing the road with the attached security escort. Palestinian cars are being checked on the right hand lane (in the direction of Samaria).
14:15 Through Nabi Elyas we turn right to Azzun and from there to Jayyus. We stop at the taxi station. Our friend N' isn't there but his friend comes out to us. He tells us that the situation is very bad indeed. People don't have money, so they don't take taxis. Once there were 150 owners of work permits in Israel, and today there are only 15. The others sit at home. The money which they receive from the Palestinian authority runs out after the first week of the month. A Saturday tour in a taxi is a luxury they cannot afford anymore.
14:40 We return to Road 55 to Al Funduq, and through Emmanuel settlement to the Za'tara/Tapuah Junction where we notice no special activity.
15:25 Huwwara CP – there is traffic without hindrance in both directions. We grab a quick falafel at Huwwara and back to Tel Aviv as Karin and Daphne have an appointment in Jerusalem regarding the film they are preparing about the Jordan Valley.
16:00 The Samaria crossing – there are queues in all the lanes but the traffic flows. A car with a Palestinian number plate is delayed for checking.
12:00 We met a group of 8 soldiers on some practice mission by the side of the road which connects 'AzzunandJayyus, beyond the tunnel underneath Road #55. They stopped us with a wave of the hand, and then immediately sent us on our way, with another wave of the hand.
We planned to get to the agricultural gate at Jayyus at 12:00, the opening hour, but we were a bit late.
The gate was open, but, except for a flock of sheep, no one was waiting. The flock, with its shepherd, went through quickly and disappeared.
No one coming or going 12:30
13:05 Falamya Gate
Except for some bored soldiers, no one here. It seems that the afternoon hours are not popular with those passing through.
We return by way of 'Azzun, and continue onto Road #55. This time, we didn't meet any soldiers. Opposite Ramat Gil'ad we noticed an area which was fenced off and signs warning about land mines.
We continue by way of the Jit intersection and don't see any soldiers during the whole trip. At the turnoff to Nablus, by way of Serra,there is a red sign warning that the entrance to Area A is forbidden. Marvelous flowers on the side of the road!
At Deir Sharafthere was a lot of activity; new shops have been opened. At this afternoon hour they were having a BBQ next to the butcher shop! We stopped next to the bakery, which was also very busy at this hour.
The street lights are all lit. The entrance to the guard tower is blocked and one can't see the soldiers. The road, which had been in bad shape, seems to have been repaired. A lot of sheep everywhere, even inside the old checkpoint.
14:45 Teenim (Jabara)
A long line of Israeli vehicles arrive from the direction of Tulkarm and pass through the lane to the right of the checkpoint. We were told that the checkpoint opens at 11:00 and remains open until 17:00; the whole day it is only for the passage of Palestinian Israelis. We managed to see at least 20 vehicles waiting, each one goes through a thorough inspection by the soldiers
We pass through the regular lane without any problems, with the MachsomWatch flags flying.
06.45 'Azzun 'Atma . It is clear and cold after the storm. Many workers have already crossed and are waiting for transport. Every now and again a taxi arrives with new people to join the short line inside.
07.13 Habla. The gate is open. Two buses wait to enter.
07.15 The first batch of 5 workers exits. About 35 people are waiting inside. The military policewoman enters the buses to check; about 10 minute waiting time. 3 military police officers arrive and enter the checking booth.
07.30 The line does not get shorter as all the time new people arrive. Checking is very slow. One worker who comes out complains that the policewomen inside laugh and chat and don’t work. I complain to the Humanitarian Center. In 30 minutes only 25 people have passed. The officers leave. According to them, one of the computer stations is down and it is impossible to register people by hand ‘because perhaps ‘some refused’ will enter…’, although in the past this solution worked. They say they tried unsuccessfully to correct the fault and were now going to contact the technical unit. It would be worth checking at following watches to see if the fault has been corrected.
There are still scores of workers waiting, and people come out very angry.
08.15 We leave.
08.25 Eliyahu gate (109). Around the checkpoint there is work in progress on gardening, making paths, planting trees and decorative wall facing – at a time of “shortage” in the defense budget. Only Palestinians working in agriculture and nurseries are allowed through here. Workers of Alfe Menashe have to go via Eyal crossing, which is harder for both workers and employers. A number of pedestrians wait to pass the carousels. It takes 3 minutes between entering the checkpoint and exiting. There are 3 cars in the car-checking station, being checked thoroughly, with the help of a dog.
08.40 We leave.
08.45 At the entrance to 'Azzun there is an army vehicle with soldiers.
09.00 Falamya checkpoint. There are a few people. Two young men come out – they have finished some work in a Za’atar field and are returning to the village. The gate is closed and has to be opened each time.
09.19 We leave and drive to Kafr Jammal along the by-road to enjoy the orchard flowers.
09.30 Kafr Jammal. The street next to the grocery of Z. is being thoroughly renovated. Apparently the French government has donated money and the workers there are mainly the unemployed of the village. We are received happily at the grocery.
10.30 At the 'Azzun entrance there is still an army vehicle.
06:40-07:05 Azun Atma:
Many workmen were grouped around bonfires. A cloudy day but not raining. Before we had even reached the gates they reported to us that this was a good day and the soldiers were working on a "piece-work" basis. There were no workmen waiting on line and as soon as the taxis bringing in the workers approached, the passengers were allowed through efficiently. It may well be that the forecast of rain kept some people at home.
The gate was open and the first team of five workers was on its way out. Two horse-drawn carts passed through smoothly, same with two private vehicles. The schools are still on vacation.
07:30 Four groups of five workmen each passed through, but some 20-30 people are still waiting on line
07:45 Eliyahu Crossing:
In the pedestrian lane, before the turnstile, there were some ten people waiting. Three cars were being checked.
07:50-08:00: We noted that it took two cars about 8 minutes each to get through. There now are many cars waiting to be checked and we noticed that a dog was being led in their direction.
Across from the entrance to Azun there were two stationed military vehicles with lights blinking.
08:15: Agricultural gate Falamiya
We encountered the owner of the sheep herd, awaiting someone who was supposed to bring him the yield of the morning milking. No other people were waiting though some cars showed up near the passage.
08:35: Kufr Jammal
We had arranged to meet some acquaintances - farmers we knew, to see how matters were, in preparation for a meeting set with the commander of the Civilian Administration: They confirmed that there was no change at all. Despite their requests to the Palestinian DCO and to the Civil Administration, permits that had been confiscated from the farmers as a punishment had not been returned and the agricultural gates to the olive groves had not been opened. Moreover, the permits they have are to the Sal'it gate, which is opened twice daily and not to the Falamiye gate, which is open throughout the day.
We returned through a beautiful road overlooking the villages of Zibad, Abush, Hajja, reaching Funduk – a landscape of blooming almond trees and anemones. At the foothills of the Gilad we saw signs: Beware of mines.
09:55 Opposite the entrance to Azzun we noticed military vehicles.
We passed easily through Eliyahu Crossing.
Nablus and Tulkarm checkpoints,
A bit rainy and few go out to work, no military presence on the main roads. Schoolchildren are on mid-year vacation.
06.30 60 to 70 people in line. There are 3 checking positions. One is outside the building and has no computer, but people are registered and their belongings checked.
06.40 It starts to rain and there are still over 40 people in line. Passage is quick and the line shortens. At 06.50 workers who had crossed begin to return because of the rain – their work being outdoors. They were happy about the rain in spite of losing a day’s work. As more and more workers return this slows down the checking as these returnees, too, have to be registered. But at least the latter can shelter under the roofing.
One man pointed out that this is a good day – and we think so, too, in comparison with other days.
We noted that the man no.50 in line, passed through in 14 minutes.
06.55 About 20 people are still in line, all the time with a dribble of new people. A few wait next to the container and when the line is relatively short they join – apparently they are not in a hurry. Without a doubt, because of the rain, there are fewer people than usual.
The boy coffee-seller arrives. He comes every day before school trying to sell his wares. We don’t want coffee but he refuses just to take money. Today he asked for an umbrella. We will try to bring him one next time, as well as a few exercise books.
07.20 Tulkarm. There are very few in line, no doubt because of the rain. We waited for the school busses – but were then told that the children are on a two-week vacation.
07.50 about 10 waiting in line and 4 cars in the car check Eliyahu Cross.
07.55 A military vehicle opposite the entrance is watching.
08.10 Jit Junction A police car. The policeman is apparently checking a car owner’s documents, helped by a soldier.t
08.20 Deir Sharaf The owner of a bakery reports that there is no news, all is quiet and life is good. It is interesting that, somewhat like Tel Aviv, when far from Bil’in or Silwan, his life is good, there is an income and things are relatively quiet – ‘it should just remain so,’ he says.
'Anabta open, we did not see soldiers.08:45
Report on the schoolchildren 85 children from the Bedouin village of Arab a-Ramadin which is located in the seam zone next to Checkpoint 109 on the hills near Highway 55, travel each day in two buses to school in Habla. In the morning they must go through the Habla agricultural gate to enter Palestine, and return that way in the afternoon. The children are aged 7-18. The same drivers work every day; their documents are usually inspected quickly and the children don’t have to get off the bus. Sometimes the soldiers enter the bus with drawn weapons to inspect (something – I don’t know what…). They also check around the bus.
There were times in the past when children who looked older were taken off the bus and asked for documents, and were even sent back home, far away, without any means of transportation.. Today, say the drivers, there aren’t any problems.
Another group of 35 children attends school in the village of Nabi Elias.
Soldiers sit waiting in a military vehicle. Many Palestinians wait to cross.
06:50 The soldiers get out and begin getting ready to open the checkpoint. The checkpoint commander explains that they try to open early so there won’t be congestion. And in fact the first five enter the inspection building at 06:56 and exit at 07:00. The next group enters at 07:00 and exits at 07:04. People continue to go through at the same rate during the entire time we were there.
The Palestinians exiting stop at an announcement posted on the gate, which states:
As of 10.1 (that is, tomorrow)the checkpoint will open at 07:15,which will make it harder for everyone. The soldiers don’t know the reason for the change and understand the difficulties it will cause the Palestinians. The other opening and closing times haven’t changed.
07:10 The school bus arrives, waits for the second bus and then both drivers get out and wait together to enter the inspection room. The soldiers are new here; they ask who the children are and where they’re going.
07:20 The buses cross.
07:25 We leave after the elderly guard from the plant nurseries arrives and crosses quickly.
07:35 Checkpoint 109
We go into the parking lot and talk with the waiting taxi drivers. They complain about the inspections they have to undergo each time they cross the checkpoint, sometimes ten times a day. They request that dogs not enter the vehicles, and not slobber on the seats and in the glove compartment. Dogs aren’t used on Saturday; inspection is carried out with the magnemometer, so if that’s ok why aren’t their requests taken into consideration?!
Cars are inspected quickly in the vehicle area. No line of pedestrians crossing at this hour.
08:10 We leave.
We drive to Jayyus via 'Azzun 'Atma. We see the pruned and plowed olive groves along the way, ready for the coming season. We missed the turn to the Falamya agricultural crossing (the blue post we used as a landmark had been removed…) and reached Kafr Jimal via the highway. The schoolchildren have exams so regular classes aren’t being held; the children fill the streets. But since we wanted to see what was happening at the Falamya agricultural crossing, we drove back. We saw no one going through, except for a tractor that crossed and continued north for a long distance on the security road.
We drove through the village of Falamya (where there were also many children in the streets) and then back to Kafr Jimal to see whether the permits that had been taken from them a few weeks ago had been returned.
09:50 The Kafr Jimal grocery
It turns out that farmers aren’t allowed to enter and cultivate their olive groves, as we saw in the Jayyus area. לא ברור לי – באזור ג'איוס כן נתנו לחקלאים לעבד את החלקות, או לא נתנו להם? They’re allowed to go through the Falamya checkpoint to the za’atar fields and avocado groves but can’t get to the more distant olive groves that are closed off behind concertina wire, even though they were promised access. Moreover, a Palestinian whose name and address I have, his wife and his brother, whose permits to cross via the Falamya gate were confiscated as punishment, haven’t gotten them back. They’re farmers; that’s their only income, they’re no longer young and no one in the family is able to get to their lands.
We met the children of our friend, the owner of the grocery, who’d gone to the beach during the summer and whose eyes sparkled recalling the wonderful experience.
On our way home we saw the first anemones and almond blossoms.
We arrived at 13:00 and surprisingly the gate was open and functioning. Not many people passing, maybe because of the holiday, Christmas, today is a holiday (no work and school) in the West Bank.
People waiting at the entrance for a taxi, not much traffic on the road.
13:55 Deir Sharaf
Business in the mini market and the green grocer, but everyone else on holiday.
The few workers returning passed with no problems.
We arrived at 13:00 and surprisingly the gate was open and functioning. Not many people passing, maybe because of the holiday, Christmas, today is a holiday (no work and school) in the West Bank.
People waiting at the entrance for a taxi, not much traffic on the road
13:55 Deir Sharaf
Business carries on in the mini market and at the green grocer, but everyone else is on holiday
We arrived. The gate is closed. A military vehicle arrived at the same time we did. About 20 people were already waiting on the village side. A cart and driver waited from the direction of the plant nursery. A few minutes later one of the soldiers standing on the road along the fence turns to the driver of the cart, asking “00”? The driver nods, the soldiers waves “Yalla, come on, come on.”
For some strange reason, the notice in the plastic sleeve listing the hours the checkpoint is open hangs on the gate nearest to the plant nurseries, but the text faces Habla. And if someone coming from the village wants to read what’s on the sign, he’ll need binoculars.
The people from Habla begin to be let in, in groups of 5. Drivers, bicycles, horse and donkey carts – all cross that way. Five reach the revolving gate to the inspection installation, wait one by one at the revolving gate for their turn, enter the inspection room and exit again in a group after 3-4 minutes. People in one of the groups complained that the female soldier conducting the inspection keeps eating and wasting time while carrying out the inspection. The bus with the girls arrives just about now, and the boys’ bus a short time later. The first bus crossed at 7:22.
Qalqilya – 8:11 – We passed what had been the Qalqilya checkpoint. No soldiers. Nadim said that there had been soldiers at the entrance this past Sunday.
Azzun – 8:18 – Open. On Sunday a military vehicle stood at the entrance to the locality.
A military vehicle stands between Jinsafut and Funduq, soldiers next to it, but we saw no cars or people detained.
A military vehicle parked at the Jit junction, toward Beit Iba. No cars or people detained; a military vehicle near the turn to Yizhar/Burin, a spike barrier across the road, soldiers standing next to it. Cars stopped for inspection. We continued toward Sara and then to Qusin. Only the concrete barriers marking the lanes remain at what was once the Beit Iba checkpoint. As if the massive investment in equipment, fortification and maintaining the notorious checkpoint had never occurred. The road from where the checkpoint once stood to Deir Sharaf is still an obstacle course, filled with potholes, and it looks like additional quarries have been established gnawing away at the hills on both sides.
We continued toward the Anabta checkpoint. There the equipment is still in place. We saw no traffic to or from Tulkarm. We saw no soldiers, but according to the rumors they’re observing from the pillbox.
At the Jubara checkpoint - “Te’anim crossing” in Newspeak – we cross the “border” without stopping. On the roadside, next to Abu Hatem’s house, is heavy construction equipment and we already see mounds of earth. Apparently they’re laying a road to relocate the separation fence so that Jubara will again be connected to the West Bank.
We entered the parking area at the Irtach checkpoint. A metal structure that looks like a kind of bridge has been erected on the security road next to the inspection station. A fence stretches from it to a gate that can prevent access to the revolving gates through which people coming from Irtach enter the installation. We learned that it’s to inspect vehicles purchased in Israel. And it looks like this checkpoint is competing for one of the top places in the competition for “the most beautiful garden.” Drip irrigation and a rock garden have also been installed near the area of concrete barriers next to the area where cars pick up laborers in the morning.
After Sunday’s reports about checkpoints being established at many locations, we decided to make a complete circuit to see what’s going on. We saw no flying checkpoints other than one that was removed while we were in the field. There were more military vehicles than usual on the roads, but they didn’t interfere with Palestinian traffic.
06:40 Eliyahu crossing – A number of cars at the inspection station for Palestinians (from Israel as well as from Palestine). Crossing takes 5-6 minutes. The cars are checked by dogs and also by people. Not many people on the pedestrian line, but we couldn’t time how long it took them to get through because no one wore clothes that stood out and we were standing too far away to identify those entering and remember them. People coming out said it took about 10 minutes to cross.
07:10 Habla – The gate is already open and we see that many people crossed. On average, it takes ten people about 6 minutes to go through. Initially, people were inspected at the guard station, where there was a soldier with a portable computer and a second soldier with a scanner. Later the computer in the inspection room was turned on and people again crossed there. At 07:20 the children’s bus arrives, the driver waits for the soldiers to notice him and wave him over to the inspection stations. He said that people with a 00 license go through without having to stop at the inspection station, and he’ll try to get one. Then the bus advances to the middle of the crossing and a soldier inspects its baggage compartments – as if something would be smuggled into Habla!
Tractors cross with tools, material, olive seedlings – there’s a great deal going on here. If only people could live here without the damn checkpoint.
We continued via the entrance to Qalqilya and drove through 'Azzun – no soldiers at the entrances; they’re open (the previous day soldiers were reported to have been there).
08:10 Jit junction – From a distance we saw military vehicles and what looked like a flying checkpoint at the Sara/Huwwara junction. We decided to first stop by Deir Sharaf – the road to Shavei Shomron. The checkpoint was open but the police officers standing there stopped a Palestinian for inspection, and us as well. After inspecting my documents – driver’s license, vehicle registration – and finding out that we just want to see what’s going on here, they let us continue.
We stopped at the bakery in Deir Sharaf. They told us that Jit junction is closed to traffic driving toward Huwwara.
08:50 Back to Jit junction. Now two military cars were standing on the side above the junction, but the soldiers were lounging in the cars, apparently not doing anything. Another military car and civilian pickup truck stood on the side of the road to Huwwara, not doing anything, electrical cables and tools alongside them. The crossing was open in all directions. Apparently there’d been a flying checkpoint there which had been dismantled by the time we arrived. We watched what was going on for a while and then continued to Huwwara.
09:10 Huwwara – The crossing is open. No soldiers on the road.
09:30 Beit Furiq – The crossing is open, no soldiers on the road except for the one who’s always at the ascent to Mt. Gerizim.
09:50 Za’tara junction – Soldiers are present who from time to time ask some driver something, but the crossing is open, even if slow. In fact, we crawled all the way up because the crossing went so slowly.
10:00 The entrance to Ariel/Salfit – No military. We entered in the direction of the entrance to Salfit to see what’s happening there. Two soldiers stood at the entrance to the road to Salfit (where there’s a yellow gate that can block the road) who told us we can’t drive to Salfit in a car with an Israeli license plate. We turned around and returned home.