Translator: Hanna K.
Destruction in the Bedouin village Arab Ar-Ramadin
13:30 Habla – A tractor and a truck loaded with plants leave the village. 7 pedestrians are waiting to go in. It is quite in the area. There is nothing exceptional.
The door of the building above the well is open and we enter. We meet A. who is responsible for the coordination between the DCO and the plant nurseries, lives in Kalkilya, is the owner of a plant nursery and moreover is responsible for the 5 wells in the area. He tells us that the well isn't connected to the electricity and is therefore activated by diesel oil which is much more expensive. Each farmer has to pay 2000 Shekels for water instead of 400 Shekels he would have had to pay had the well been connected to the electricity. There is underground water in the wells, which date from the thirties, serve all the farmers in the area and he cannot understand why the civil authority prevents them from connecting an electrical cable (3 phases) from the electricity pole which is situated 50 meters from the well.
He speaks fluent Hebrew and we continue our conversation with him and ask about other problems, and he tells us that soldiers destroyed on Monday two building in the Bedouin villagte of Arb A-Ramadin.
The childrens bus leaves at 13:55and we follow it to the village.
14:10 Arab Ar-Ramadin. At the entrance we meet a local Bedouin and he leads uf to the two houses which have been destroyed by the IDF. On Monday at 07:00 fifty soldiers arrived at the village on two jeeps and two tractors which immediately began the destruction work. A warning had been given a week before, but on Monday morning the inhabitants we removed from their houses and were not given the chance of taking out the house's contents. In one house live a couple and seven children and in the other a couple and ten children. Furniture, clothes, toys, electrical appliances, textbooks etc. – everything turned immediately into a rubbish heap. The army's claim was that the houses were built too close to the road leading to Alfey Menashe. The first house was at a distance of 200 meters from the road, while the second was even farther. The two houses were built by the inhabitants five years ago with an investment of 80.000 Shekels each, and now in the severe cold they are forced to live in tents supplied by the Red Cross. Photos of the galvanized tin walls and crushed plaster , the refrigerator, the gas stove and the teddy bears were put on to the web by Karin.
Very near the dwelling place stand three new high voltage electricity poles. Our hosts tell us that the people of Alfe Menashe settlement were against the positioning of the poles near their area for fear that they cause cancer, so they were transferred near the area of the Bedouins. We ask them whether they spoke to anybody? And they answer – who will listen to us??
We left bags of clothes and shoes and left shamefacedly, after promising that we would try to pass the information on to the media in Israel.
15:00 Eliyahu Crossing– about 8 vehicles are waiting in the queue in the direction of Israel.
We turn right to Azzun and continue to Kafr Thulth. We stop near the grocery and the pharmacy. The pharmacist with whom we talked in the past tells us that he still is the only person of his family who got permission to go out to the olive picking. We call J. from Ras Atiya but there is no reply. We decide to drive to the village all the same. With the help of a relative of J. who lives in Israel we reach the council building, but it is closed. We decide to call him and to ask him to prepare for us the list of all the people who didn't receive permissions to go out for the olive picking.
We return all the way to Azzun by way of Abu Salaman and the village of Thulth.
16:35 We take road No. 55 in the direction of Qalqiliya and Kfar Saba.
At the Eliyahu crossing (109) we decide to try and take the right side lane which is intended for Palestinians. The soldier who checks people at the CP asks us where we came from and we reply from Alfe Menashe. The barrier is lifted immediately and we pass. We didn't notice any cars that were delayed.
06:58 – Habla
The soldiers arrived before 07:00 and opened the gates.
07:01 The first five people entered; they came out three minutes later. The next group crossed in four minutes; inspection is quick, no delays.
07:21 Thirty Palestinians have already crossed.
The children’s bus arrives late, when we’re already leaving; we don’t see the second bus anywhere along the way to checkpoint 109.
07:30 Checkpoint 109 (Eliyahu)
A long line of cars, but settlers go through quickly. Two cars being inspected in the pen. From where we’re standing we can’t see how many laborers are waiting to enter, but only a few are in front of the revolving gates.
07:37 A white car and two pickup trucks are sent to the pen for inspection. They emerge about eight minutes later. We also saw a pickup truck carrying laborers whom we saw entering; they came out after about seven minutes.
07:50 We left.
07:58 Soldiers in a jeep watch the road at the entrance to Izbet Tabib; soldiers with weapons drawn also watch the road on the way to Azzun.
08:10 Falamiya agricultural gate
As usual, few people cross at this hour. A man on a donkey, a tractor, people on a truck and a few people on foot. Later, at Kufr Jammal, we’ll understand why so few people cross here.
08:25 We leave.
08:40 Kufr Jammal
We went to our friend Z.’s grocery, where some farmers awaited us; we’d asked to meet them to hear exactly why they’re unable to get to their olive groves on the other side of the security fence. Almost everyone applying for a permit for the Falamiya agricultural gate, which most residents of Kufr Jammal use to reach their lands, receives it. But their lands are farther away; most of them are located between the Sal’it gate and the Falamiya gate, more or less opposite the area between the settlement of Sal’it and Moshav Tzur Natan on the Green Line, all the way to Tzur Yig’al, also on the Green Line. Until last summer the farmers could enter through the Falamiya gate and drive north on the security road to a spot more or less opposite their lands, where five small gates in the fence gave them access. Last summer the gates were locked and opened only in the morning during the olive harvest season so farmers could enter. The farmers were then locked in until the evening when the gates were reopened so they could get to the Falamiya gate before it closed, cross and return home.
About a month ago the soldiers “forgot” to return in the afternoon to open one of the gates. The Palestinians were, of course, under a great deal of pressure, and it took them a long time to get out by climbing over rocks, fences and boulders. One of them, the owner of a tractor, couldn’t remove it, of course and was forced to leave it there. When he returned the next morning the soldiers had again “forgotten” to come open the gate. He apparently tried to open the gate, soldiers who “by chance” were passing at that moment confiscated his permit to cross at Famalya, as well as similar permits of five other farmers, and now he can’t cultivate his za’atar fields either. As of today, despite repeated promises by T., the crossings officer, and by the head of the DCO, their permits haven’t been returned and they can’t work their lands.
Those farmers who have permits for the Falamiya gate, but whose lands are located beyond the locked gates, haven’t been able to reach and cultivate them since last summer. They say there are 500-600 people from Kufr Jammal in the same situation. The owner of the tractor drew a diagram showing the area and even gave me his ID number, and that of his wife; their permits had been taken. Three other farmers also gave me their details and asked us to help them take care of the problem. We obviously didn’t make any promises; they also know that our abilities are limited, but I gave all the information to Tami and we’ll follow up and see what develops.
We couldn’t part, of course, without tea/coffee.
We started for home.
06:40 Tani Gate at Elkana/Maschah
Even though the Gate was supposed to close at 06:30, we decided to pop over and see what was going on there - there wasn't anybody there and the gate was locked. So, we don't actually know if it had ever been open.
06:45 'Azzun 'Atma
A lot of workers are waiting for transport and getting warm next to little fires. There were about 70 people in line at the gate. The process went very smoothly. The gate for vehicles was open for all the women and anyone who had a permit to stay, living in the seam area. Children and youth cross over from the seam area into 'Azzun 'Atma. They opened the backpacks of two of them at the entrance. One man who tried to pass was not permitted as his document was no longer valid - he was sent back to renew it. At first, the line did not decrease because there were always additional people coming. We checked the time it took one man to go through (we started a bit after he arrived) - 30 minutes to pass through, 35 minutes all together. A man from the border line asked permission to bring a tractor which he had ordered without its driver having to stand in the long line, because it would soon be raining and he wouldn't be able to finish his job. After some discussion, he was allowed to pass by the pedestrian line.
At around 07:30, the line started to thin out - clearly most of the workers arrive very early, and then wait outside so they can be sure that they will get through and arrive at work on time, as one can never know how much time it will take them to get through the gate. Today there were 2 inspection booths and the efficiency of one of them was increased when a military policeman began to call out to the inspector within the booth (from outside) the number of the person, while meanwhile checking his documents.
07:45 Tamar Gate (Supposed to open at 08:00).
No one waiting - it seems that the olive harvest, or the passage to the olive harvest, is over by then.
We continued according to route 3 to Sinariyah, Kfar Tolti', 'Azzun and back by way of Qalqilya and the Eliyahu Gate.
9:00 Eliyahu Gate
There were no Palestinians waiting to go through nor any vehicles for inspection.
Yael and I met up in the traffic jam in the southern square, where we were stuck for 25 minutes before we reached the CP. The southern square was the most crowded part of the CP yesterday. The northern shed was more or less empty and only a very few people stood in line in the two active passageways. On the other hand, we observed quite a long line of people waiting at the entrance to the examination area in the western end of the CP for bus passengers holding blue ID cards of Jerusalem residents. The situation described above was unchanged during all of our shift.
As there was not much to do at the CP, Yael, who doesn't usually get to Qalandiya, decided to make face-to-face acquaintance with the team of soldiers who operate the DCO office at Qalandiya. The 2 soldiers in the aquarium of Passageway 5 checked with the DCO and told us that we didn't have permission to enter. So Yael phoned the Humanitarian Hotline which put her through to the officer in charge. He said that he would see us in 10 minutes and told the soldiers to let us through.
The 10 minute wait took 30 minutes which we passed in the DCO offices, talking with 2 Palestinian men who were also waiting. One of them, the owner of a supermarket in Ramallah, told us proudly of his two sons – one studying to be a doctor in Germany and the other studying dentistry in Jordan. Although he could take care of his problems at the Palestinian DCO in A-Ram, he preferred to come directly to the DCO at Qalandiya where you can finish your business on the spot.
When the officer on duty finally found the time, he invited us for a talk in his office which, hopefully, will be useful as well as interesting.
The gates are locked to the fields in the seam zone that belong to farmers from Kafr Jimal.
06:30 Habla crossing
The gate is open, a large truck crosses, loaded with seedlings, and another follows. The MP quickly inspects the drivers’ documents.
People on foot go through the inspection building rapidly.
Two officers approach us and introduce themselves as the commanders of the paratroop unit now in charge of checkpoints in the area. They want to know about us, what we think about this checkpoint and about the checkpoints in general. We express our views about the occupation. They listen quietly, without expressing an opinion.
06:55 Eliyahu crossing (109)
We see 4-5 cars being inspected in the area where cars belonging to Arab Israelis and Palestinians are checked, their doors open, riders standing outside, and people also waiting to go through the pedestrian gate. We saw out of the corner of our eye the children’s bus, empty, parked on the side, the driver and Israeli police standing outside the bus.
Unfortunately, we’d already passed the entrance to the parking lot and couldn’t stop, because when we slowed a security person was on his way over to us and we didn’t want to get a ticket for parking on a yellow line…you can’t turn around there!
07:00 Many laborers wait for rides at the entrance to 'Azzun.
07:05 The Jayyus agricultural gate is open and many people and vehicles, including donkeys and carts, are waiting. People cross quickly and the soldiers seem to know those going through.
A farmer crossing asks us whether we’ve seen any other place in the world where people need a permit to access their own lands…
He says that only he got a permit for the olive harvest; his sons went to the DCO a few days ago but didn’t get a permit.
At 07:30 exactly they close the gate. In response to my question, the soldier says that because of the olive harvest many more people cross through Jayyus’ southern gate.
A tractor with two men arrives late; we give a ride to the passenger who tells us the tractor driver doesn’t have a permit to go through.
We meet a farmer from Falamiya who arrives by car, parks and takes a bicycle out of the trunk. He doesn’t have a permit for the car, so he rides the bike. He’s bringing sacks for the olives. He also has land closer to the Sal’it checkpoint but that’s only open infrequently so he prefers a permit for the Falamiya checkpoint which is open all day. He didn’t know that residents of Jayyus could obtain permits for two checkpoints; he said he’d find out at the DCO.
A very elderly couple arrives in a cart harnessed to a donkey. The husband walks with great difficulty. They’re the only ones in the family who received harvest permits. They tell us that many people in Jayyus didn’t get permits.
A man on horseback rides into the checkpoint; the MP reproaches him.
08:00 We leave and drive via Falamiya to Kafr Jimal, stop at Z’s, who owns the grocery, and his lovely wife. Z.’s Hebrew is excellent; he’s happy to see us and immediately invites us to tea with sage, and despite our protests his wife serves us an amazing breakfast.
A neighbor arrives and tells us very angrily about an incident that occurred yesterday and hasn’t been resolved. It turns out that, in addition to the main gate in the separation fence, there are also fences and gates between fields in the seam zone. They’re locked; the army is supposed to open them every morning so people can go to their fields. The army locks them in their fields and in the afternoon soldiers come to open them in time for them to return before the main gate is closed (I don’t know what happens if someone feels ill during the day and wants to return home, and in fact, as I’m writing this, I think of more questions I failed to ask yesterday…). Anyway, that day the soldiers didn’t come in the afternoon to release the workers, and despite shouting, telephone calls and calling out to soldiers who were seen passing at a distance, no one came to open the gates, and when it got late they managed to get over the fence and return with great difficulty, after a long detour (they left behind the tractor with which they arrived, their tools and the olives they’d picked). The following day (while we were at the crossing) the owner of the tractor walked to the field and found the gate locked…he came back boiling with anger; the owner of the grocery called him over to tell us what had happened. He didn’t want to hear what Tedesa had to say (I completely sympathize).
Tedesa already knew about the matter, said the soldiers were late and when they arrived the people were no longer there and they saw only the tractor, and next morning they forgot to come open the gate! He’ll immediately send soldiers to open it… And regarding the basic issue of locking people in their fields, he said it was done for security reasons, and can’t be changed, and with regard to the complaint that during the summer people with permits to work their fields can’t do so because they’re locked, he said that can’t be changed either.
I told Tami and Yael, who spoke the same day to the head of the DCO, and received more or less the same unsatisfactory replies. We left our phone numbers with Z., the owner of the grocery, and his neighbor the farmer so they could report similar incidents, or others.
We drove on to the village of Jayyus to meet the son of the owner of the grove we’d helped harvest olives two weeks ago. A., aged 60+, a retired history teacher, speaks English well, is the only member of his large family who received a permit to harvest his lovely olive trees. The Shabak has blacklisted all his sons, and there’s no way to remove their names. They can’t assist him, nor can his handicapped wife.
Today we came to buy oil pressed from the olives we picked and had a long conversation with the son about himself and his extended family.
11:00 We returned through the settlers’ lane at the Eliyau crossing with heavy hearts and with no delays.
10:00 - Eliyahu crossing Not many vehicles or people in the new "installation". 'Azzun: We stopped to buy water and a number of people immediately approached us in order to tell us their problems. A father of a child receiving treatment in Tel Hashomer Hospital, who had undergone an operations on his hands, needed a permit for the next operation and ran into problems; a youth whose travel permit had expired in July, who is unemployed, while his elderly parents are still working their fields on the other side of the fence; a metal worker from a factory in Karnei Shomron who, along with many of his co-workers, is owed quite a bit of money for his work, and his Israeli employer forgets to pay them. We tried to help everyone by giving them the appropriate phone numbers and explanations, hoping they will find solutions to their problems. We continued on route #3, very well-described by Daliah, and arrived at the southern checkpoint of 'Azzun Atma, through which, of course, one cannot pass. Returned to 'Azzun Atma where we clarified, with the shop owner, if the army visits at night. The answer is yes. Sometimes they stop, sometimes just pass through. One of the residents told us that he has olive groves in Oranit and, until 2 years ago, they let him pass through and harvest them. Now, however, he has not been able to get there for two years. Once, as a boy, he worked in the shuk in Petah Tikva; today he is an infrastructure builder and has been building the new roads.
By way of Mascha we arrived at the southern checkpoint of Mascha (near the Hani Gate), at a time when the gate is open, at 12:30, for a couple of minutes. The 3 families who received permits to harvest the olives in the fields close to Elkana - opposite the gate - came back with their donkeys laden with olives. We spoke with Ayad, who didn't get a permit this year and was waiting in the car for his family. Opposite them, they are building 120 apartments. It will be interesting to see whether they receive permits for the harvest when these apartments are occupied... We continued to Bidia and crossed underneath road #5 to Dir Balut and from there back to Israeli at 13:00.
06:30: Habla passage for vehicles, donkeys, tractors, and many workers have already gone through. The process is at the usual speed of about 20 in 13 minutes. The soldiers are polite. A Palestinian turned to us with a complaint that they don't allow him to bring vegetables from Habla to people in Arab Ramadin (he is one of them). We spoke with the checkpoint commander and the military police who said that it is allowed to bring vegetables, but not meat and other materials. The Palestinian decided to try again on the next day to check whether or not they would allow him.
06:50 The school buses arrived and went through quickly.
07:17: Jayyus The gate was open and a few tractors were going through, people with carts and whole families with olive harvesting equipment.
The Ecumenical Volunteers which we met there said that the gate opened a few minutes before 7 and a relatively large number of people passed through, considering it was the pre-harvest period. At 07:30 a donkey arrived, laden with harvest equipment, with an adult and a young boy. The soldiers waited for them until they passed through and then closed the gate. We returned and traveled by way of 'Azzun, Sineriyah to Mascha, in order to meet the man who was supposed to bring us money for the lawyer who took his case concerning a debt owed to the police. He is from Zaviah, and told us that some of his family received permission to travel to the olive harvest by way of the Dan Gate, but not everyone who had requested a permit, received it. We met a taxi driver who also owned an area on the other side of the fence. In order to reach it, he had to travel from Zaviah by way of Mascha, Bidiah, Sineriya, Beit Amin, to 'Azzun Atma - that is, a huge detour, in order to go through the 'Azzun Atma gate, south of his land. He complained a lot about the treatment of the soldiers at the 'Azzun Atma checkpoint, who humiliate them and are thoughtless. When he arrived at the checkpoint with his 70 year old mother, they forced her to stand in a long line of workers and didn't allow her to join the shortened line; and all this was done in a very unpleasant manner. Also the Ecumenical Volunteers said that they had been summoned by the council of 'Azzun Atma to come in the morning, during the pressured period, because there were a lot of problems at this checkpoint.. We suggest to anyone who can arrive in the early morning hours (between 06:00 - 07:30) to do it, in order to observe and report what is happening there. We will do this next week.
The October 2011 reports of the United Nation’s (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHOA), began either with “Fast Facts” or “Key Issues.” Both headings speak to an Occupation that is even more horrible than in the past. “Israeli forces injured 22 Palestinians throughout the OPT. Settlers injured another three Palestinians and vandalized around 250 trees. Israeli authorities demolished 26 Palestinian-owned structures, mainly including residential tents and water cisterns in “Area C,” where Israel retains control over security as well as planning and zoning. And all this throughout the OPT where already half a million Israelis live, and where Israel, in A.B. Yehoshua’s words, “nibbles” at the territory of the Palestinians where, in fact it is “plundering and infringing the very essence of the inhabitants’ identity.” What hope is there for a Palestinian state in such an environment?
Habla, Gate 1392
13:02 – the mess created by the change, in Israel, but not in Palestine, from daylight savings time last week, seems to have worked itself out. The same, we are told, could be said about the change from the IDF to a privately contracted firm to be on duty at Sha’ar Eliahu (Gate 109) where the checking , we are told, is a little less arduous than last week, but where Palestinians are treated very differently, surprise, surprise, from Israelis. These conversations go on while all wait for the gate/checkpoint to open. A soldier comes out to the waiting Palestinians, about a dozen of them, to say, “in two minutes.”
13:06 – again, surprise, surprise, the two minutes is, in fact, five when a Hummer arrives bringing the rest of those scheduled, including the Military Policewoman who again makes her presence felt here.
13:15 – the same people waiting here before 13:00, including the lady who offered us fresh “lubia” (freshly picked beans), still wait.
13:25 – only now do most of the waiting people get through. Shortly afterwards, the school bus comes by, carrying the cheerful Bedouin school kids (boys today) on their way home. We notice, not for the first time, that the bus, this school year, is much smaller than before. We wonder if this hasn’t to do with the number of homes that have been pulled down from the area near Alfei Menashe, in which case, those children probably no longer go to school in Habla.
13:30 – Separation Barrier near the ’Enclave’ around Alfei Menashe
Once again the gate here, facing us, is open, again no work on the new road being created by Israel near the Barrier, and we note that the flags are still flying at the little hamlet which is surrounded on all sides by Israel’s so-called “protective measures,” but which, in actual fact, give license for the settlement of Alfei Menashe to expand and attain contiguity with the nearby Green Line.
Free flowing traffic, no police or military
All quiet today, few military or police vehicles around. At Azzun, we note, once again, that the flags that flew so proudly the day Abu Mazen returned to Ramallah from the UN General Assembly are no more. Individual flags, perhaps, for those who are brave enough to withstand the punishment of the Occupiers, but at the official level, say, the Municipality of Azzun, no way can they deal with the harassment and humiliation which has surely made them remove the colorful bunting and the flags from the central roundabout in this town.
There are works going on at the former checkpoint, and rather than leaping to conclusions, we realize that the rocky road leading to Deir Sharaf is probably also caused by infrastructure works, maybe new sewers (and not the recreation of the infamous checkpoint).
No checkpoint, no police or military in sight. Just the usual busy traffic making its way onward to Jenin.
14:30 Deir Sharaf
The DCO was “good enough,” we learn, to call the local Council to tell the Palestinian landowners that they had from 9-13 October to pick their own olives in the olive groves just south of the Shavei Shomron settlement. So, today, the second day of Israeli-authorized olive picking – from lands many of which were, years ago, stolen from local families, some are indeed picking olives, but, once again this year, in their words, “It’s only half a harvest.” Only two brothers of the M. family are picking olives where once, maybe four or five years ago, some of us joined the many brothers and sisters, the aging mother and a variety of youngsters. S., the man selling vegetables and fruits from a cart, shows the meager picking of his harvest. Half a sack load where once he had sixty. He goes on to tell us of the scourge of wild boars that descend on the village after nightfall, the boars having been set upon the village of Deir Sharaf, by the Israelis, at the start of the Second Intifada, and boars, as most people know, eat everything and make life exceedingly difficult – but that’s the idea of this Occupation.
On the way to Anabta and Jubara, nothing to report, and at the Figs Gate, all our IDs or passports are checked or rather looked quizzically by an uncommunicative military policeman, our trunk checked. Business as usual.
15:30 Irtah/Sha’ar Efraim
Surprise, surprise, the guard, whom we already know, more or less welcomes us, telling us that Palestinians are no longer checked on their return from work as they make their way back home, but that we can’t join them. To Tulkarm, we wonder? And he tells of the delicious food, particularly the hummus that he’s eaten there. A mad world.
The many, many men returning from work are cheerful, and often have greetings for the four of us. One woman whom we’ve known from the Habla gate now tells of her great joy in coming through this “terminal” as she now has a job (plus, of course, a permit) to work in another town in Israel proper. The usual cheerfulness and friendliness of the Palestinian workers is heartwarming.
06:30 Before reaching the Eliyahu crossing we see laborers who’ve already gone through the checkpoint waiting by the side of the road. We also see more Palestinians than usual driving carts and on donkeys.
06:32 Eliyahu crossing
We hurry to reach the Jayyus agricultural gate when it opens so we don’t spend time at the Eliyahu crossing, but slow down and see that about 20 people are waiting at the pedestrian entrance and a few cars are waiting to be inspected, including two carts loaded with hay. We didn’t wait to see whether they went through. On the road past the checkpoint we saw more carts going toward the crossing.
It looks as if a new section of the fence has been erected between Highway 55 and Izbet Tabib.
06:40 Many workers wait at the exit from 'Azzun. There’s more traffic in the village at this hour than there is later.
06:45 We arrive at the Jayyus gate and see many people and vehicles waiting. Two new ecumenical volunteers also wait. It turns out that yesterday (Sunday, 2.10) they were told that the opening hours were changed to 07:00-07:30. The people on line, all of them farmers waiting to reach their groves and fields, very much hope that these won’t be the opening hours during the olive harvest, and that the gate will then open earlier.
The gate opened at 07:02, even though the soldiers had already arrived earlier.
The MP demands that the tools and empty crates be unloaded from the tractor that crosses first, but a minute or two later signals that the driver should cross.
A few women, tractors, donkey carts and pedestrians wait to go through. Crossing is slow because the young, enthusiastic MP makes everyone move back from time to time and stops inspecting until the whole column retreats a yard or two… He also carefully inspects the contents of the sacks and the loads on the carts and the tractors.
Remember, these are people with permits to work their land and who cross every day.
Not everyone who requested permits for relatives to help with the olive harvest has received them, and some had their permits extended only for a short period.
For nine months A.N. hasn’t received a permit even though the land is registered in his name. The grove he planted has dried up; there’s no fruit on it now.
We didn’t meet any satisfied people at the Jayyus crossing, only people who were worried [I’m writing this following Yael Sadan’s encouraging report, also from 3.10].
The MP again organizes things, moving people back.
07:29 We hear a truck hurrying to the checkpoint but the MP and his soldiers begin closing the gate and don’t allow it through. The driver doesn’t say a word, turns around and drives off. I have an unpleasant interchange with the soldiers. They say they must close the checkpoint on time, otherwise people will have to wait for them at the next checkpoint which opens in 15 minutes. But they nevertheless hang around until 07:45, which is when the next checkpoint is supposed to open. (I imagine that people who have to accommodate themselves to the whims and harassment of the soldiers when they cross to their lands find it hard to be satisfied).
We returned via 'Azzun to the Eliyahu gate and then to the Habla agricultural gate because we wanted to see whether anything had changed there as a result of the changes at the Eliyahu gate.. On the lovely route among the groves we saw the harvest beginning.
08:00 Eliyahu gate – 109. About ten laborers are still waiting to enter.
We go through the settlers’ crossing with no problems but see cars belonging to Palestinians, with Israeli plates, being checked at the inspection station, all the passengers standing outside the car, all the doors open.
It turns out that since yesterday the time this crossing opens was moved up from 07:00 to 06:00! The gate will close at 08:00 instead of 09:00, but the polite, smiling soldiers say they’ll wait today until 08:15 and let everyone through, because they might not all be aware of the change… They explain that the change is because the harvest begins soon. There are almost no pedestrians, and the vehicles to and from the plant nurseries are also let through quickly, with a smile. After all, they cross a few times a day. So it’s possible!
We wait to see the soldiers close the gate when there are no longer any people crossing. They part from us, wishing us Shana Tova.
Umar, the owner of the plant nursery, invites us for coffee. He complains greatly about the delays, inspections and humiliations he must undergo daily, and sometimes even a few times a day when he goes through the “more efficient” Eliyahu crossing that was transferred to civilian control. After all, every day he travels from his home in Qalqilya to his plant nursery on the land he owned that was taken from him.
He describes the humiliating inspections that every Palestinian, including Israeli Palestinians, undergoes at this seeming “border” crossing. He describes how an Arab from Taibeh returning from Qalqilya yelled at the inspectors and Umar calmed him down. The use of dogs is of course particularly resented. The demand to remove everything from the car and pass every parcel and every item in the shopping cart through the scanner is illogical when the normal fabric of life is concerned. He must also place on special pallets all his plants and the stone furniture manufactured in Qalqilya that he sells at his plant nursery so they can be scanned.
The head of the nearby village of Nebi Elias told us over the phone that they still hadn’t received olive harvest permits, and are very worried about reaching their lands below Alfei Menashe if to get to them they must go through the Eliyahu crossing, with the waiting and inspections this involves, to their nearby lands. Even before the crossing was transferred to civilian control it was hard for them to work their lands because they weren’t allowed to bring vehicles or tractors to the area near Alfei Menashe. In the past they asked for an agricultural gate to be opened between them and their lands, but their request was denied.
We returned home feeling very despondent.
Although we, the women of MachsomWatch, try to shine light on the evils of occupation, we are only too aware that the occupied, the oppressed, the Palestinians rarely make the headlines, let alone the media. Yet, for more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Whether the shadows will once again obscure the evils of occupation remains to be seen, so it is up to us, those of us who venture to occupied territory, to Palestine, to continue to highlight violations of human rights and focus on the day to day abominations of occupation. Yet, today, the day Abu Mazen returned to Ramallah from the United Nations General Assembly, it would be inexcusable, no, unfeeling of us not to highlight the proudly waving symbol of Palestine’s liberty and freedom atop so many buildings and decorating the many roadways we passed by on our shift.
More problems have been created lately at Gate 1392, although rumors that it would be closed in October appear to be unfounded. Every day, there appears to be “something new,” put into place by soldiers on duty and meaning rules and regulations, probably not emanating from high up but made up on the spot by those same soldiers on duty.
13:10 At the gate itself, one solider, one military policeman and one Hummer, joined soon by a jeep and soldiers which soon triple the numbers guarding this agricultural gate. We see the son of the greengrocer who has walked to the concrete house to have his permit, etc. checked, returns to his truck on the Habla side of the Security Barrier and is made to lift up its canvas sides for “checking.” This is a man who crosses here several times a day, and, sure enough, ten minutes later, he returns to cross back to Habla. Again his empty truck is checked, and the same rigmarole goes on and on and on.
We question the soldiers, politely, as to why almost all of them are wearing something around their right ankle, a padded looking “protection” of some sort, or a place to conceal something, maybe a knife? We are left guessing as the answer we receive from the commander, a captain, is that it it is to protect the knee (just the right knee, mind you, and yet so far from the target)!!
13:45 on route 55, the first of many blue Police is seen. This one has pulled over a car bearing Israeli license plates (yellow) and police are questioning a couple of young men. All this before the gas station and the junction to Alfei Menashe.
At the junction, at the turnoff to the settlement, an armored blue police Hummer.
On the road leading to the Security Barrier and to Alfei Menashe, we see that more Bedouin shacks have been pulled down, the homes of many human beings now a mere pile of rubble. Yet, signs of life: on our return from Gate 1360, at 14:00. The green school bus is letting off the elementary school kids that we usually see at the Habla agricultural gate.
Once again, the gate on the “Israeli” side of the Separation barrier is open, but the many gates on the other side are firmly locked. As we peer across the Separation Barrier, we spy a flag waving in the breeze, high atop the opposite hill. It’s not been there before: yes, it’s the Palestinian flag, and there are many more that we now observe in the village below, flying from private homes, sometimes three at a time.
14:10 “Welcome to Eliahu Crossing Point” shouts a new sign in three languages. There is much action at this new and enlarged checkpoint which has been privatized and seems to be run by the same company as at Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim – same uniforms). The welcome is made manifest by Border Police and blue Police, working in tandem, stopping many cars coming from Israel proper. Note: MW should stop and monitor here in the future.
No prize for guessing: more blue Police, and we note that Israeli cars (yellow license plates) bearing Palestinian Israelis -- women with hijabs -- have been stopped. We should probably monitor here in the future too.
Nabi Elias and Azzun both display Palestinian flags and bunting, and there are flags also alongside Route 55, except in the areas of settlements where the blue and white flag flies as if it’s Israeli Independence Day (which usually falls in May)! More Palestinian flags at the junction of the road going to Ariel, via Immanuel, more in Funduk, Israeli flags outside Quedumim, Palestinian flags at Jit village, Israeli flags at Jit Junction and again at the Junctions of Routes 57 and 60…..These observations clearly deserve a graph or a more graphic description than mere words….
14:45 Shavei Shomron
An armored blue police Hummer, one blue policeman, one solider. The policeman is crudely brusque and commanding, “Turn around and get out…..this is Area A, only security and the army can come here.”
On question: what is the blue Israeli police doing guarding checkpoints today in cahoots with the army?
Here there are not only Palestinian flags but tee shirts and a flag bearing “Palestine 194 UN.”A small crowd of men is absorbed in watching, on the television, Abu Mazen’s joyous return to the Muquata in Ramallah. People are happy although the food delivery man filling the coolers with salads (Israeli salads) mentions that he was beaten by Border Police last Wednesday in Huwwara, and others confirmed rumors of Palestinians being fined for bearing Palestinian flags on their cars. During our whole shift, we saw only one such flag on a car, but many dozens on houses and along roadways.
We can’t help but note that Area A which has not figured prominently on signs in the past couple of years seems to have appeared once again on these red signs, often fixed to large concrete boulders. No soldiers visible at Anabta, and the next flags spotted were at Avne Hefetz (Israeli settlement).
The trunk of the car is checked by a gaggle of military police people, and other than a new brightly colored canvas shelter for soldiers guarding the Tulkarm exit checkpoint, northing else to report.
15:35 Irtah (Sh’ar Efraim)
Here we listen to stories of harassment and of waiting for hours to enter Israel in the early morning hours. We note that the packing case that has been placed on the far side of the turnstile leading back home for the Palestinian workers has been joined by a large load of building material, strategically placed in front of the turnstile – just a mere new obstacle! Dozens and dozens of men returning home, many bearing sweetly smelling guavas being sold by an enterprising driver at the entrance to the stop off area. One can’t help but notice the general bonhomie and good mood of the Palestinians. They have achieved much in the past week in spite of the continuation of this endless occupation.