The weather was cold and rainy.
We decided to go to Qalandiya, where we had not been for a long time.
In order to park we took the road to Ramallah, making a right turn to a huge parking lot lot full of cars and found a space for us.
As we were walking to the checkpoint for pedestrians we noticed some changes. The checkpoint was named now "Atarot Checkpoint". The waiting hall was almost empty. Only one row of chairs was left (3.00 PM). Nobody sat on them.
In one corner of the hall a man was boiling something hot. After he had seen my tag, he was praising our courage and offered some of his hot food (which I did not accept, because I did not know what it was).
After we had tried a number of narrow paths between iron bars, we decided that I should cross the checkpoint in the direction of West Jerusalem while A. would observe what was going on in the hall. He did not accompany me.
This was not my day.
Firstly I chose the wrong line. I stood and stood, and when it was almost my turn the soldiers closed this counter. I had to move to another one. Together with two friendly Palestinian women we were again at the end of the queue. While slowly getting closer to the security team behind turnstiles, X-rays and soldiers behind thick glas, I was rummaging in my handbag in order to find my wallet with my ID. When I did not find it, I feared that I could have lost the whole wallet with all kinds of identity cards. This was not the case. Later I found it at home in the pocket of another coat.
Perhaps I should try passing with my European passport which I felt in my coat pocket? Perhaps they would let me through , an older woman like me with a stick?
However they did not. The male soldier looked in my passport for a visa, and found none. Now I believed I had to tell them the truth, that I was Israeli, on duty for Machsom Watch. They looked as if they had never heard of this institution.
"Your ID-number" the male soldier demanded, Freezing and nervous I did not know. So they sent me back.
While this kind of dialogue with the security happened, the waiting Palestinians did not complain, kept silent. I apologized that I had taken their time.
We drove home via Hizma. No control for us at the entrance to West Jerusalem.
The terrible routine continues as usual even though everything appears quiet and organized.
06:30 'Azzun 'Atma – A huge line of about 100 people stretches on the 'Azzun Atma side. Many who already crossed sit by the roadside waiting for their rides, lighting small fires to keep warm. They arrived at the checkpoint at 04:00 to insure they cross on time. Since they went through relatively early (they must have waited an hour or longer), they’re now waiting again to begin work. Two inspection booths are open; a third opens as 07:00 approaches, outside, but that’s not enough. Why didn’t it open earlier? When we saw a man on line dressed in a way we could remember we timed him – though we began timing only when he’d already been on line for awhile, with twenty more behind him. It took him 35 minutes to get through. That is, even after most people already crossed he still waited more than 40 minutes. It’s the same every day, just to get to work, not to mention another line when he returns home in the evening.
Why can’t more inspection booths be installed to make the crossing faster? After all, Israel needs these workers as an inexpensive and skilled labor force. Is the IDF really so short of soldiers? If three additional women soldiers from the Military Police, who conduct the inspections, were stationed there, they wouldn’t require more guards from combat units, and it would make a huge difference for those going through. Don’t we owe it to those we’ve conquered?
When two inspection booths were open, ten people crossed in five minutes.
People holding a 00 permit go through the vehicle gate. The children on their way to school crossed quickly but only after their belongings were checked. What do we care what they bring into 'Azzun 'Atma – it can’t hurt us. It looks like simple harassment. Two children arrive; their documents are also checked. Why theirs and not the others’ – only the god of the army knows.
07:15 The line hasn’t gotten any shorte ryet – people keep arriving at about the same rate as others go through.
An armored military vehicle arrives, with what appears to be someone caught because he was present in Israel illegally. He’s taken behind the position for about ten minutes and then sent, “with all due respect,” to 'Azzun 'Atma with his documents. Another man is sent back with his belongings, goes to the vehicle area and returns again. We asked him why; he said he had a sweatshirt in his bag that he wasn’t allowed to bring through.
07:25 The line slowly grows shorter; it now numbers only about 60 people.
Two men were made to stand off to the side, then sent back after a long discussion with the female MP. From her body language it looks as if she’s telling them she has no choice and they have to go back.
We drove via the Emmanuel road to Funduq and Hars, then to Jubara – a tractor passed returning to Jubara, as well as a few people.
09:00 To Kafr Jimal. We stopped at the grocery. No news regarding the people whose permits were cancelled. As you know, some of the olive groves weren’t harvested, the olives remaining on the trees because the owners weren’t given enough time to pick them, and certainly not to prune the trees and plow the earth – work that we see being done in all the groves on the West Bank. In other words, now is the time to do it.
09:20 Falamiya checkpoint – Quiet at this hour, as usual. A tractor comes back from spraying and a few people cross.
09:50 – The Eliyahu crossing is quiet, no people on line and three cars being inspected.
The last day of Id El Fitr
We walked into the sad neighborhood underneath Ramot which used to be part of Beit Iksa in the hope of meeting our young Hebrew speaking friend formerly from Abu Gosh. There is no more separate entrance to her part of the house and we met with her borther-in-law, the teacher and his mother, while she was inside with the baby and didn’t show herself. We remembered how she ‘dressed up’ modestly in front of other men when we visited with her. Since the men have cars, their main complaint at this time was the fact that the few people in their community are not allowed to make use of the Jib checkpoint in Givat Zeev like the inhabitants of Nebi Samuel and Jib. They have to drive through Qalandia which sometimes takes two hours to reach their family members in Beit Iksa and sometimes they are not even allowed to visit them on foot, depending on the whims of the soldiers. They asked whether we could ‘do’ anything for them to facilitate their reaching schools and family. The Social Security issue has not been solved and their main fear at the moment is the fact that their little remaining land will be confiscated to accommodate the widening of the highway which will now, according to plans, run through their living room. As in the past, when they were finally granted blue Id’s, they have engaged Lea Tsemel to fight for them.
The Givat Zeev (Jib) CP was empty as usual.
Along the roads leading to Qalandia many cars were parked and we observed some happy family reunions with family members and children all dressed up. The line of cars entering the CP from the North was very long. It turns out that Palestinians from within Israel await their relatives from the West Bank who were lucky enough to obtain a permit for a holiday visit to Jerusalem, in order to take them for a ride to Jaffa or the beach. Unfortunately the wait at the CP takes two hours or more. We talked to the driver of a van who had to take a group of handball players to Tel Aviv for a match and had just been told that after a wait of 90 minutes it would take approximately another hour for the men to be able to exit. He was furious about the wasted time. After having found out that if we were to join the line we would have to wait for more than two hours to cross, we decided not to go into the CP and turned around. We inspected the new construction in Atarot and the landscaping along the beautiful roads. A sign at the entrance stated that people without a valid permit are not allowed to enter the industrial zone.
From 1:30 till 4:30 PM
Atarot and Qalandiya CP
After a long lapse of time we had wanted to visit the beautiful Industrial Secondary School compound above the Border Police Base in the Atarot Industrial area, but the director, Mr. Wasfi Tamimi was away so we drove around to observe the ‘renewal’ of the industrial area and chanced upon another Vocational Secondary School housed in a former industrial plant, The Technological High School Sakhnin in Atarot under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Education. A group of boys was just going home with their physical education teacher and they all greeted us very politely and directed us to Ahmad Khalil, the director on the top floor of the pink building.
And extremely nice man who used to work as a plasterer, then studied computer sciences at the Hebrew University and obtained a teaching diploma and taught for some time, since there was no longer a future for him in Hi-Tec. He then went to the States to continue his studies and was offered a job as the principal of the school. He hails from Sakhnin and dreams of returning there, since the work in the school is too demanding. However, he recounted a number of success stories and it seems that this very challenging job gives him a lot of satisfaction. He told us of a former mechanics’ student who had paid him a visit with eight men, all in their forties whose boss he is in a garage in Talpiyot. His students are all residents of East Jerusalem and are bussed to the school. Those from Qalandia have to get off the bus on the north end of the Qalandia CP, walk through the CP and board the bus again on the Southern side of the checkpoint. Sometimes they are delayed for an hour or more and might even fail to arrive in time for their matriculation exams. The students from East Jerusalem are not used to being interrogated or stopped as had happened to one boy from Wadi Joz who had forgotten his birth certificate at home when all the kids had to get off the bus at the impromptu checkpoint at the entrance to the Atarot Industrial Zone. He personally had to drive over and release the boy and gave the soldiers hell. Another boy had given him a note with the telephone number of a soldier who had kept and interrogated him for hours after he had told the soldier that he would be punished by the school principal.
He also managed to get the Hebrew instruction forms for math exams translated into Arabic, since he very strongly feels that his students are being discriminated against by the Education Ministry. He told us that he is a strong believer in discipline and will not tolerate bad behavior and said that his iron fist had proved successful. He made a wonderful impression and we were sad to hear how bleak he sees the future for Israel, both for the Jewish and Palestinian population, explaining to us why there is no solution whatsoever. His weekend had started and we felt we had delayed the trip back to his beloved home town Sakhnin.
In Qalandia we joined a rather long queue and were asked to call to speed up the line, but it moved rather quickly. One person asked for Netanya and someone else for Phyllis. Within twenty minutes we were past the inspection where our Id’s were scrutinized thoroughly
Translation: Suzanne O.
Roadblocks all along Road 443.
A journey west from Atarot to Maccabim and Beit Sira roadblocks and back eastwards to Ofer roadblock.
At the entrance to Ofer roadblock, which is used as a goods crossing only, there is a sign: 'Welcome to Ofer Crossing, Opening Times: Sunday to Thursday : 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays and Festival Eves: 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.'
Beit Ur el Fuka roadblock
We pass the settlement Beit Choron from the north, and arrive at the Beit Ur el Fuka roadblock which is adjacent to Road 443 on the northern side. There is no signpost or mention of the name of the roadblock. There are 2 lanes for cars, one for Palestinian cars to get onto Road 443, and the other to exit it. The lanes are controlled by movable stainless steel posts, a few soldiers are present. From here it is possible to drive to Beit Ur el Fuka, Beit Ur a-Tachta, Bitonia and Ramallah. All of this on the 'Life Frame' roads for Palestinians only. From this point Palestinians have the right, after inspection of documents and vehicle boots, to drive onto Road 443 westwards and go to Beit Sira roadblock, close to Maccabim. During half an hour 2 Palestinian cars drove onto Road 443 and 2 labourers crossed on foot from Road 443 to the villages. All of the labourers have to cross via Qalandiya in the morning, on the way back they can cross via Beit Ur roadblock. One labourer said: "There's no point driving on the road unless you want to see what's going on..." Another one told us that he works in Atarot; it takes him 3 hours to cross via Qalandiya in the morning. On the way back, via Road 443, it takes him 15 minutes.
We continue westward to Maccabim.
From this roadblock only Israelis are permitted to drive on Road 443 west and eastwards.
"There is, however, a roadblock for labourers going to work". "It's a tough roadblock, the toughest; people get here at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning".
On the south side of Maccabim roadblock there is an additional roadblock, a roadblock at the entrance to Beit Sira.
Beit Sira roadblock
The way onto and off Road 443 and into and out of Beit Sira is blocked by movable stainless steel posts. From here Palestinians can drive, after being inspected, to the villages Beit Sira, Beit Likia, Charbata and El Musabach, but not into Ramallah or Bitonia. From here too, apparently, Palestinian vehicles can get onto Road 443 and drive eastward to Beit Choron but from here they have to go into the village and continue on internal 'Life Frame' roads to Ramallah.
As we have said, to get onto Road 443 involves a long inspection at the roadblock. The soldier there told us that about 5 cars drive onto Road 443 each day.
The labourers told us that usually, from 7:00 a.m., a civilian police car is parked on Road 443 and carries out thorough inspections of Palestinian cars which have received permits to drive on Road 443. "It is always possible to find or to say that a tire is bald or that a rubber band is missing". The certainty of a prohibitive fine puts most Palestinians off approaching Road 443.
At 5:45 p.m. a civilian police car arrived and parked for a number of minutes.
It is forbidden for Palestinian pedestrians to be found on Road 443. "They don't want Arabs on the road". The fine is NIS 180 - 300.
At Beit Sira roadblock there is a fenced crossing for pedestrians. There is no inspection. The labourers crossing to work in Israel will be checked at the Maccabim roadblock.
On Road 443, at the exit from Beit Sira, there are signs in Hebrew forbidding pedestrians to cross Road 443, except in the place reserved for crossing. Perhaps we missed something but we didn't see a marked pedestrian crossing, traffic lights or a button to press for a green light for pedestrians. Only Palestinians cross Road 443. They cross the very busy road at a run, sometimes hand in hand, between Beit Sira roadblock and Maccabim twice a day, every day. Frightening.
A labourer told us that while the Beit Sira roadblock was being built, mesh fencing was put up preventing tractors from reaching the village olive groves. It is impossible to work the land, and so the land is lost to its owners. Most of the Beit Sira land is now part of the Maccabim region.
The female soldier at the roadblock forbade us to walk around it. We showed the IDF spokesperson's permit to take photographs and that helped.
On the way back, on Road 443 eastwards, Palestinian cars are permitted to exit to El Musabach, Tira or to make a u-turn at Choron and exit at the Beit Ur roadblock. There are warning signs: for Palestinians 'Last exit before Ramallah', and for Israelis 'Do not go into the villages'.
Further along is the new Ofer roadblock. Only Israelis are permitted to continue driving from here.
As has already been published, the reality in the area has been determined by the occupation policy planners and bypasses, on the whole, the decisions of the High Court of Justice. There are no Palestinians on Road 443 and there is nothing they can do about the High Court of Justice decision. Palestinian traffic has been pushed onto the periphery, onto the Life Frame road. Maccabim and Ofer roadblocks are the only ones to be seen by Israeli traffic on the clean Road 443. The separation of the roads also impairs our ability to see and report on what goes on the other side of the apartheid roads.
We were a little anxious as we set out - friends had called to warn us that we were in for a difficult day (battles, stone throwing, tension, who knows?). We listened to the radio all the way to the CP, hoping to hear some information on what was going on. But all was quiet (after the morning's disturbances), and the CP looked quite abandoned. I always thought that things were terrible when the CP was full to overflowing, but it turns out that empty CP's portend no good either. There is simply nothing good about a CheckPoint.
15:20: Atarot CP: There is no CP anymore! All the cement blocks and attendant paraphernalia (spike strips/tire shredders) have been removed and the traffic is flowing. It seems that the CP has been moved to Highway 443. We had no time to visit today, will do so next week.
15:30: Qalandiya CP: The CP was almost deserted. A handful of Palestinian workers were sitting in the northern shed, waiting for a lift home. The coffee vendor was not around, so we asked the sweets vendor about the day's events. He said that he had arrived at 2 PM, that all had been quiet and the CP deserted. While we were talking to Suleiman, a man aged 45-50 whom we have often seen at Qalandiya, someone who passes the CP on a daily basis, came over to speak with us. His name is Nasser.
Short Story: Where is Nasser?
Nasser is a Palestinian man who holds a permit to enter Jerusalem to conduct his business. His job is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to many institutional clients in Jerusalem - hospitals, yeshivas, etc. Yesterday he arrived at Qalandiya on his was to Hadassah Hospital to prepare a list of products for shipment.
Nasser told us that he had come with a group of friends and gotten in line at the carousel at the CP entrance. The soldier in the post controlling the entrance allowed all those ahead of Nasser in line to enter the CP but locked the carousel when it was Nasser's turn. Then the soldier announced that the adjacent carousel was open, so all those behind Nasser rushed out to join the new line. At this point, the soldier told Nasser that he had a job for him to do. He told Nasser that he must tell all those sitting in the shed to leave. Nasser refused to obey the order (he doesn't work for the IDF) and the soldier replied that until he did as he was told he would not be allowed to enter the CP. Each time that Nasser stood in line and reached the carousel, the soldier locked him out.
Natanya and I started to phone everyone we could think of to solve the problem. Headquarters promised to help. The DCO offices didn't answer. We asked Headquarters to put us in touch with the DCO representative, which they did, but the representative was not at the CP. He promised to speak with the soldier by phone. After a while, we approached the fence and tried to talk to the soldier in the post. He wouldn't open the window so that our conversation was conducted in pantomime. But we managed to understand that there was no problem, that Nasser could enter the CP. We told Nasser and got in line behind him at the carousel. As promised, the carousel turned and Nasser (and we as well) went into the CP. As he passed, the PA system announced that Passageway No. 4 was open. As 8 people were waiting on line in Passageway No. 2, Nasser went straight to No. 4. As we waited in the internal passageway, I noticed that the soldier at the entrance was talking on the phone. So was the soldier in the "aquarium" in Passageway 4. After waiting for several minutes, I suddenly thought that perhaps the two soldiers were talking with each other: were they setting a trap for Nasser? I suggested to Nasser that he should get in line and present his papers at No.2 in order to avoid any further problems, but Nasser was not suspicious and the minute the carousel opened he went in to No. 4. As he presented his papers to the soldier in the window, the soldier ordered him to enter the "examination room." Nasser disappeared from view and we didn't see him again.
Natanya and Lindsay crossed to the Jerusalem side of the CP while I waited on the Palestinian side, but Nasser never appeared. Later on I went through Passageway 4 and asked the soldier if Nasser was still inside. As expected, the soldier told me it was none of my business and turned his back on me.
We were at Qalandiya CP until 5 PM. We still don't know what happened to Nasser and we don't have his phone number either.
Back at the CP:
While Natanya and Lindsay waited to enter the CP at the northern entrance, the (same) soldier in the post moved them back and forth from one carousel to another, yelling at them.
Another little CP curiosity: We know from experience that the magnetometer in Passageway 4 is very sensitive, particularly to women's buckles, and so Passageway 4 is usually reserved for men only. However, when I went through this Passageway yesterday, after placing all my belongings in the X-ray machine, I discovered to my consternation that I had forgotten my car keys in my pocket. I had no alternative but to go through the magnetometer with the keys in my hand - but the machine did not chirp. I went through again twice, keys in hand, to put trays in position at the mouth of the machine - no chirping! What happened?
17:00: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. There was no one at Lil/Jabba CP aside from three bored soldiers, no Palestinian cars. At Hizmeh, traffic was light and flowing freely.
15:30: Atarot CP: Traffic was flowing.
15:40: Qalandiya CP: Traffic was flowing in the southern square. There was no problem reaching the parking lot. In the northern shed, the carousel at the CP entrance was locked. We got in line behind 3 others. One of them called to the soldier on duty and she opened the carousel immediately.
We went to see if people were waiting to enter the DCO offices. There was no one waiting at the carousel and no one in the shed.
Inside the CP, people were waiting in 3 passageways. We got on line in Passageway 2. The man ahead of us told us that he had waited 15 minutes in the line in Passageway 1 after the PA system announced that it was open. After 15 minutes, the soldiers announced that the Passageway was closed. "They are toying with us," he said. Apparently, even though people are waiting on 3 lines, only two of them are really active.
15:45: Suddenly a group of people rushes from Passageway 4 to Passageway 3 following an announcement that 3 is now open. The whole group waits quietly for several minutes, but no one is allowed in.
In Passageway 2, it took us 12 minutes to cross through the CP.
Outside, in the bus parking lot, a Jerusalem ambulance is awaiting the arrival of an ambulance from Palestine which drove up about 10 minutes later. The patient was transferred back to back in the parking lot and both ambulances set out with no delay.
Back in the northern shed there were no special problems for the remainder of the afternoon. Pedestrians kept arriving but the lines remained short.
17:00: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. At Lil/Jabba and Hizmeh CPs traffic was flowing.
18:30: On the way back to Tel Aviv I passed by Atarot CP. At this hour the line of vehicles extended from the CP in the square almost all the way to the traffic light on Road #443. There were over 150 vehicles in line.
15:30: Atarot: We drove past Atarot CP on our way to Qalandiya. The line of vehicles was already quite long and reached all the way to the turn in the road. The B.P. soldiers on duty were selectively checking the papers of drivers.
15:30: Qalandiya: Traffic was flowing slowly at the southern CP entrance. We saw that an Israeli ambulance was waiting near the bus stations, so Natanya got out to discover what was happening.
The three active passageways in the pedestrian CP were full of people and the carousel between the northern shed and the CP was locked. I got in line with all the others. The soldier on duty in the booth near the shed appeared to be attentive to his surroundings - he wasn't talking on his cell-phone and wasn't listening to an MP3. But even when the internal passageways emptied out, he didn't open the carousel. I phoned headquarters and, when that didn't work, the Passageways Unit (who slammed the phone down as soon as they understood that they were talking to someone from MW). Nothing seemed to help and we all waited in line for 25 minutes for no apparent reason. Suddenly, at 4:20 PM, the soldier opened the carousel allowing everyone into the CP. Passageway No. 4 was completely empty but the soldier on duty wouldn't let me through, saying that that line was for men only. I sent him some. I got on line in Passageway 3. It took one-half an hour to get through the CP.
Meanwhile, the Israeli ambulance (from Lachish) continued to wait. We were told that they had been waiting for 3 hours. We offered to try and help the ambulance team (two Jewish Israelis) but they wouldn't cooperate and give us the necessary information to perform liaison.
At the southern entrance to the CP, a young Palestinian man from Beit Furiq approached to thank the MW women who helped him get permission to transfer his young daughter to Jerusalem for a heart operation and arrange entry to Israel for him to accompany her. The operation was a success and the daughter is recovering, Inshallah.
16:20: We hear a siren and see an ambulance approaching from Ramallah. The ambulance is delayed in the CP for 10 minutes before arriving at the bus-stop, but it's not the ambulance we're waiting for. A little girl of 3 or 4, a pretty but frightened little one accompanied by her father, is transferred to another ambulance that arrives from Jerusalem. We discover that the first ambulance is waiting for a patient who is coming from Jordan. Now, from afar, we can see another ambulance approaching the CP from the direction of Ramallah. It is not allowed through the CP but directed to wait in the northern square by the soldiers. Natanya goes to see if she can help.
17:00: Passage is finally coordinated and the ambulance reaches the bus-stop. The patient is a young Palestinian man who had an operation in Jordan and is now returning home to Gaza. He and his father, who accompanied him, have a large number of valises and the Israeli ambulance team refuses to take the luggage (which has already been examined on the road near the ambulance). We tried to explain to the team that the Gazans probably don't have any money left with which to send the luggage by taxi (as suggested by the driver) and that they very likely spent all their money on presents for the family back in Gaza (where you can't buy anything). In the end they relented and, packing all the luggage in, took off for Gaza.
17:10: We returned to the northern shed. The carousel was still locked and the line in the shed was long. But just as we arrived the soldier finished his tour of duty and, as he was leaving, opened the carousel. The line pressed through into the CP and disappeared. Things began to look like they were running smoothly.
17:20: We left Qalandiya. On the way back to Jerusalem, we passed through Lil/Jabba, where there was no line at all, and Hizmeh, where the line was moving swiftly.
15:30: Qalandiya: Independence Day Eve. Traffic is very light. There was no line at Atarot CP. But there was a huge traffic jam at the southern entrance to Qalandiya - it took one-half an hour just to get around the square.
In the northern shed of the CP there were very few people, but the internal passageways were completely full and the lines were hardly moving. We phoned Yahav at headquarters and he promised to help. The lines actually did begin to move a bit faster, perhaps as a result of the phone call, but not fast enough to overcome the long lines waiting in front of the carousels. We timed passage at not less than 30 minutes in each of the passageways, and this on a day of closure (due to Independence Day), when the number of "clients" was small.
In Passageway No. 4, a young girl stood in front of the soldiers' booth where an argument developed. We couldn't hear her voice, but we did hear the soldier tell her "I didn't tell you to cross" and then, provocatively, "This is my country." The girl ignored him and continued on her way to Jerusalem.
When we arrived in Qalandiya, we saw that women were using Passageway 4 (where the magnetometer makes troubles). But later on, the soldiers in that Passageway announced that it was reserved for men only and forced all the women in line, who had already been waiting 20 minutes and longer in front of the carouse, to give up their places and go to the end of the lines in Passageways 3 and 1.
In spite of the small number of clients, the internal lines remained full all during our shift at the CP.
We left Qalandiya at 16:45. On the way back to Jerusalem, we passed through Lil/Jabba and Hizmeh. There were no lines to speak of.
There was a long line of vehicles which continued to as far as the eye could see (at least 15 vehicles). While we were leaning on the balcony at the side of the road, watching the inspections (nothing special- usually a simple nod of the head towards the Jews and an ID inspection of those whose ethnic origin wasn't clear), the checkpoint commander approached us and informed us that we were disturbing him to "run the checkpoint". We told him that we were permitted to stand where ever we chose, so long as he didn't have a general-majors decree that stated the checkpoint was a closed military zone, adding that he was the one to start talking to us, so if anything he was the one that was distrusting the traffic at the checkpoint. After ten minutes we decided to leave.
While we were crossing the checkpoint in our car towards the northern side, we noticed two ambulances. We parked our car at the lot on the side of the refugee camp, and hurried to the fence to see what was going on. One of the ambulances had already left and we understood that the patient (according to the paramedics it was two year old baby with a heart condition) was on his way to a hospital at Jerusalem. Right at that moment the megaphone that is attached to the pillbox started yelling, and with an incomprehensible mélange of languages, he probably asked us to stand back (according to Tamar's interpretation, the megaphone had already tried to engage in conversation with her a couple of times, so she is familiar with its secret language). However, due to the terrible racket we couldn't know for sure he was talking to us, so we continued to check on the ambulance through the fence.
As we decided to head off, a BP jeep arrived and from it two soldiers came out and started to drive off the cab drivers, who had been parked beside the exit from the checkpoint. The drivers were very upset, especially because it was obvious they weren't in the way and that it was merely a show of force. We started taking photos of the two in action, apparently they didn't appreciate it, so in return they approached an elder man who was sitting in the waiting shed with two of his friends, and asked to see his ID. They told him that since he had a green ID he wouldn't be able to pass, because of the closure. He informed them that he worked at Atarot industrial zone and therefore the closure didn't regard him, and that in any case he had already finished working for the day. The soldiers then replied "either you leave or you pass to the other side". The man was forced to stop his conversation and return home.
The person who sells coffee at the checkpoint told us that he saw policemen standing at Jaba checkpoint, that morning. They came to inspect the whether the traffic laws were being kept and impose on the residents of the West Bank the rule of the Israeli state. As a result, many refrained from passing through the checkpoint and decided to park their cars on the side of the road until the policemen left. The police car was there from 4 AM to 6.
In spite of the closure there was a long line at the pedestrian's checkpoint (and also at the vehicle checkpoint). A person we know told us that it was because the soldiers were performing their job in the slowest way possible. When we got in line, three lanes were open and it took us 20 minutes to pass. The soldier at the inspection post asked us whether we were against the Israeli soldiers, and I was asked whether or not I had even served in the army...
Bir Zait/ Atara checkpoint:
We headed off to this checkpoint knowing that although many think the army had left the place, in accordance with the orders of the Minister of Defense, there are always soldiers manning the pillbox. When we told some of our Palestinian acquaintances that this was our next stop, they promised us that we would find nothing there. As we were parking our car we noticed a soldier who was observing the checkpoint from above. When we pulled out our camera he yelled at us that we weren't allowed to take photos. While that same old routine argument was being held, he was more than happy to share with us his perception: "the Arabs are primitive and stupid". After a couple of minutes his colleagues arrived (they were all from the Nahal), two soldiers and the commander of the checkpoint, they came out form the gate the opens the fence around the pillbox and walked towards us. They wanted to know where we were from, that is, on whose behalf did we come there, and after a short conversation (during which the commander informed us that there are security cameras and that inside the tower they do have screens- but the cameras weren't working), the commander contacted his supervisors to ask whether or not it was "permitted" for us to be there. This took quite some time and we had already begun to get ready to leave- and as we were getting into the car we saw the three soldiers making their way towards the middle of the road, they looked as though they were getting ready to perform inspections on those passing through the checkpoint. We got out of the car and watched them for a while, they did nothing but the Palestinians who drove through the checkpoint did none the less slow down as though they feared one of the soldiers might pull them over. After ten minutes we decided to leave.