Problems at Agricultural Gates
North, 29.4.13, afternoon
Leah R., Anna N.S.
Translator: Charles K.
15:15 A’anin agricultural gate (on the separation fence, for farmers cut off from their land by the fence)
The checkpoint opens at 15:00. Those waiting said that about 25 people had crossed by the time we arrived, all residents of A’anin returning home after working outside the village. A few tractors loaded with scrap also waited. Everyone was tired. It’s hot, and particularly hot at this hour.
The soldiers inspect every item in the bags people carry. The young men cross last; it’s not clear why. Gradually, everyone but M. goes through. His tractor is loaded with used mattresses, old blankets and some broken plastic chairs. The soldiers aren’t letting him bring the load across. M. asks, pleads, explains how much he needs the goods, tells them how poor he is, how many troubles: “I have seven children and no money,” he says and displays his ID card. It doesn’t help. The soldiers stick to the rules. Correction: there are rules, regulations, laws passed by the Knesset, but there’s also common sense and judgment. But the soldiers insist: only agricultural produce is allowed through an agricultural checkpoint. M. points to his ten year old son sitting next to him on the tractor, describes a school trip to Ramallah which he couldn’t join because M. couldn’t pay the fee. The soldiers don’t care. He removes the blue independence day cap his son is wearing and shows it to the soldiers. “Do you know what this is, huh?” he asks. “I love peace, I love Jews…” M. continues to beg; his humiliation and this ridiculous argument over a pile of junk are heartrending. What must M. think of us? What’s going through his head?
I want to photograph the tractor and controversial pile of junk but M. refuses, and I back down. When the soldiers move to close the checkpoint he unloads the broken plastic chairs next to the fence and goes through. He’s followed at the last minute by three more Palestinians after they were interrogated.
I’ll forgo quoting the crude pearls of racism and ignorance we heard from the soldiers who aren’t aware of the fact that it’s occupied territory. Here’s what one soldier said, more or less: We’re strong. We have weapons, so it’s ours.
A Palestinian sanitation worker collected the garbage around the checkpoint.
16:00 Tura-Shaked checkpoint (a “fabric of life” checkpoint between Palestinian villages in Area C)
Only a few people and one vehicle crossed to the West Bank during the quarter-hour we were there. Only two people crossed to the seam zone.
16:20 Barta’a-Reihan checkpoint (the largest checkpoint in the area, with a large terminal; it’s been privatized)
More than 200 people crowd next to the fenced corridor to the upper terminal entrance. The checkpoint is closed! It’s training time! The DCO didn’t know when the checkpoint would open. People say they’ve been waiting about an hour. Soldiers in a military vehicle who were also waiting said the exercise will be over within 15 minutes. People are tired after a day of work, they crowd at the checkpoint, it’s hot, unpleasant, they’re even too tired to complain.
The checkpoint opens ten minutes later and the mass of people returning flowed through the fenced corridor to the terminal and out to the Palestinian parking lot. The waiting vehicles also crossed. The taxi drivers in the Palestinian parking lot waited together; one prayed. People described their hardships to us; they have many, in particular the fact that no one helps them, not the Palestinian authority, not the occupiers, nor us either.
17:00 We left.
Translator: Charles K.
06:10 A’anin checkpoint
Inspections were carried out opposite the entrance gate to the checkpoint, near us. A few people waited at the middle gate to be called for inspection, and from the shouting we heard there must have been a mess at the lower gate. Soon everyone, including the tractors, arrived at the middle gate, and we were told by those exiting that people were shoving, didn’t want to stay in line and that the soldiers got annoyed. A few young men were sent back home after arguments. A man who came through on a horse asked us to help his friend who’d been sent back to the village right before our eyes. Only after the checkpoint closed were we able to talk to a female MP who politely explained that she sends people (mostly younger men) back who appear likely to be planning to remain illegally in Israel: someone with a bag of clothing and a charger for his phone doesn’t intend to come back this afternoon.
Husni, the redhead, approached us – his 8-year old grandson has a blood disease. He has an appointment this coming Sunday at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, but they haven’t yet been able to obtain an entry permit to Israel. With Chana Barg’s help we learned that the appointment doesn’t yet appear in any hospital’s registry. We explained to Husni what he must do; let’s hope he manages to complete the complicated arrangements by Sunday.
People we spoke to said they didn’t trust the Palestinian state or its leadership. What difference will a state make, they said; all the money will stay at the top and we’ll never get what we need or the rights we’re entitled to, like you have.
07:10 Shaked checkpoint
No one went through the checkpoint before 07:20, though officially it opened at 07:00. The people usually crossing at this hour waited at the gate near us – pupils, teachers, government workers, other workers. The soldiers had forgotten the key to the lock of the fenced corridor and everyone waited for it. The soldiers could have taken that into account and let them go through the center of this little checkpoint, but no – ordnung muss sein. The line at the far gate on the Tura side also grew longer. The lines and the mess hadn’t gone away by the time we left.
07:45 Reihan checkpoint
We drove by on our way to the Zebda bridge. The parking lot next to the bridge was full; the number of Palestinian vehicles increases every day and creates a shortage of parking spaces. Nine loaded commercial vehicles stand on the road to the vehicle checkpoint and merchandise inspection station.
09:00 Jalameh checkpoint (Gilbo’a crossing)
A father and son wait for me to drive them to Rambam hospital. They crossed before the 08:50-9:20 break but we can’t leave yet because we must wait for the mother and three-month-old daughter who undergoes daily dialysis at Rambam.
I approach the closed terminal entrance. A guard in the tower who doesn’t realize I’m Israeli calls “Iftah el bab [open the door].” Another guard, armed with a threatening weapon, tells me to move away from the opening because it’s a security area. Meanwhile Palestinians arrive, open the gate in the fence and cross to the West Bank without having to go through the terminal.
09:20 The terminal doors open. Palestinians now arriving cross quickly to the West Bank through the terminal. Some come through in the other direction, to Israel.
09:55 The mother and infant daughter cross accompanied by the father who carries their belongings. The father returns to the terminal and we drive off.
Throughout my stay at the checkpoint there was a flow of cars belonging to Israeli Arabs at the vehicle checkpoint, on their way to the West Bank. People aren’t yet returning to Israel at this hour.
Nebi Elias: Meeting with H.A., Infrastrucure and Development advisor for Nebi Elias, Jayyus and Falamiya.
Sewage from Alfe Menashe has been flowing into their agricultural lands and near the village houses. Foul smells and mosquitoes - and all their warnings and protests are to no avail.
The Gate: The village farmers need to reach Sha'ar Eliyahu, then the entrance into Alfe Menashe and from within approach their lands, adjacent to the settlement's fence. They often encounter difficulties not addressed in the permits they have. They have requested to install an agricultural gate near the village, which will serve some 500 farmers from 'Azzun and Nebi Elias. About 1000 dunam of agricultural lands are enclosed beyond the fence. As for today, Adal, the commander of the Matak, who met with them in the past, refuses to meet with them.
They will draft a list of permit refusees with all the details, and submit it to the Palestinian Matak.
There is a new requirement today: Youths 16-18 years old are requested to present a magnetic card, incurring an expense of 100 IS and a wasted work-day.
Deir Balut: We met with the village head, K.Y.M. He is already at his job for six months. They have difficulties reaching their lands, and there is also the issue of the Bedouins' land claims. The promise of another agricultural gate has not been fulfilled. They have 8000 dunams within the seam-zone, registered as theirs and the farmer Rafa'at's. These are inaccessible for years and have been declared as Army Instruction Grounds. Another problem is damage of their olive trees. Across from them is 'Ale Zahav, which is in a construction momentum.
Translator: Charles K.
There were 42 participants and two guides (50 had registered; 8 cancelled prior to the tour).
We covered the “classic loop”: Highway 55 from Qalqilya, Highway 60 to Huwwara, Highway 5 to Elkana.
The Alfei Menashe seam zone, including the Habla gate checkpoint and the view from Alfei Menashe / Jayyus / Qadum / Huwwara checkpoint / Huwwara village / the Elkana seam zone including the Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s home.
The tour left Tel Aviv at 11.15 and ended at 18.30.
We stopped on the Green Line near Qalqiliya, on the bridge over Highway 6. From there, near Alfei Menashe, we observed the fence blocking the villages of Ras a-Tira and Wadi Rasha from accessing their lands. We then continued to the Habla checkpoint / agricultural gate.
Although we arrived at the Habla checkpoint during the hours it was to have been open, we weren’t able to see it in operation. It was locked because the army hadn’t come to open it. We telephoned the DCO, who told us they were aware of the delay. Don’t worry, the soldiers will arrive. When? Not clear. We waited 20 minutes and left. And thus we experienced what happens to Palestinians at this supposed crossing.
Meetings with Palestinians:
We weren’t able to meet with Umar at the plant nursery in the seam zone (at the Habla gate) because it was Saturday. But the meeting with Na’im in Jayyus made a very strong impression, primarily because of his personality and the way he presented the information, “spiced” with personal and family stories, and in fluent Hebrew. He accompanied us along the fence and we saw his lands on the other side. We heard about arrests of youths at night, about intimidation and fear, about those blacklisted by the Shabak and the yearning for peace.
The meeting with Sakkar at Qadum was important in order to become acquainted with the fact that although the locality has no fence, he’s prevented from reaching his lands (there’s a virtual fence: starting at a particular post…). He’s also prevented by a checkpoint from reaching Nablus via the shortest route, which he used to take long ago. Because the settlement of Quedumim doesn’t want them nearby, a checkpoint was established (security).
We walked with Sakkar along the route the inhabitants take during their demonstrations – from the village center to that same post beyond which they know they’re not allowed to proceed. The path is black from tires burned by the residents during every demonstration in order to prevent the army from entering the village.
Even though the demonstration is non-violent the army fires tear gas and sprays stinking liquid at them, and sometimes employs dogs. That’s the ritual that’s been repeated every Friday after prayers for two years. Like at Bil’in.
We saw the Palestinian villages along Highway 60 (Asira Qabaliya, Madama and Burin), above whom, on the hills on both sides of the road, are the violent settlements that harass them and their olive groves – Gil’ad Farm, Beracha and Yitzhar (some say the area lives “between a blessing [Beracha] and a curse.”)
We didn’t stay at the Huwwara checkpoint because time was short. We only observed the empty terminal from the bus. A monument to the checkpoint which pointlessly tortured people for six years. Soldiers tried to move us away but we didn’t react because we hadn’t intended to stay in any case. The view from the bus, along with the stories, was enough.
Participants in the tour were amazed by the atmosphere in the village of Huwwara – as if the “conflict” never existed. Everyone was calm. Welcoming us, as is traditional among Palestinians. Falafel, coffee, and – as noted – the overall atmosphere made their effect felt. It’s an experience not to be missed.
We crossed through the Shomron crossing checkpoint without inspection.
And ”last but not least” – the Elkana seam zone:
The Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s besieged home- the entire occupation in a nutshell.
Summary of the feedback we received:
Of the 42 participants (including two friends of ours who came with their families), we received the following responses to questions:
12 were interested in obtaining material from us
15 men and women expressed interest in joining us
15 didn’t respond
How did you hear about the tour?
16 – the ad in Ha’aretz
1 – the internet
10 – from friends (some of them via Ha’aretz)
1 – Psycho Active
Only 3 (unfortunately) from Machsom Watch members
From the feedback we received via email:
Thanks to Dalya for guiding this fascinating and very important tour.
Many Israelis should take a tour like this.
As I always say – Machsom Watch women are the country’s eyes.
Thank you, and best wishes
Buma Inbar 054-767 0511
And from the previous tour on 27.3 with the “Meretz” forum against the occupation
Thank you for the tour and your patient, professional guidance. Many of the participants told me they’d learned much that was new, and some included information from the tour and their praises on Facebook.
Thank you for yesterday’s excellent tour. Even for those participants well-acquainted with the political reality of Israel that life here has inured us to, and who are seemingly very familiar with the praxis of separation and the unbearable regime under which Palestinians in the occupied territories live, the tour was a must.
The tour was excellently planned and carried out. The wonderful and accurate tour leadership allowed participants to learn about the various complex issues which the Palestinians confront. Despite the feelings of anger and frustration accompanying a tour like this, we are proud of Machsom Watch, of its worthy activities on behalf of the Palestinians,but which are also on behalf of our own society.
Translator: Charles K.
No effort is made to open the checkpoints at a set time.
Those manning the checkpoints are still refusing entry to people who don’t appear to be dressed in a manner “appropriate” to a Palestinian fellah.
06:10-07:00 People may cross through the A’anin checkpoint only if their clothes are dirty.
It’s quiet, silent. There are indications that soldiers are at the checkpoint, but no one goes through. That lasts until 06:30. Inspections were conducted in the middle of the checkpoint, behind the main gate. Only 20 people went through by 07:00, at a very slow rate. Those exiting said the computer was down and information was being recorded by hand. Well – that explains everything.
The mistreatment continues of people claiming they’re on their way to work in the fields but are dressed too cleanly. A female soldier with a well-developed sense of fashion sends home those she thinks are dressed too elegantly for manual labor. That seems to her very suspicious. It’s clear that the Palestinians have already developed ways to outwit her and the MPs’ fashion decrees. Neta spoke to the soldier on duty at the DCO about delays in allowing people through; I spoke to him about the clothes – but the soldier, despite his willingness to help, didn’t really understand who I was, what we’re doing at the checkpoint, why aren’t they allowing us through, and are we really sure that the military police are picking on Palestinians because of the clothes they’re wearing…
07:10-07:25 The Shaked checkpoint also awakens slowly.
Here too they opened late; a line of little children and adults formed on the seam zone side, and of laborers on the Tura side. Crossing began at about 07:15, calmly, everyone knows what’s allowed and what’s forbidden, only holders of crossing-permits show up, so what’s not to like? Why should any problems arise? What a successful occupation.
07:25-07:50 Yabed-Dothan checkpoint
The side road to Yabed that turns off the main road to Jenin is blocked to cars by a heavy yellow iron bar, one of the occupation’s earmarks. In addition, a military jeep was parked there, apparently to prevent people from going through on foot.
We arrived at the checkpoint and here, too – life had come to a halt. Cars waited on both sides while the soldiers conducted some kind of attack/defense exercise, ran around with their weapons, fell to the ground, kneeled, squinted and aimed, etc. Finally they gathered around a low-ranking officer who apparently summed up their fling and went on his way. And then the crossing opened; traffic flowed in both directions without delays while we were there.
08:00 Reihan checkpoint
We drove by without entering this large, busy checkpoint. Seven commercial vehicles waited to have their loads inspected. The parking lot is jammed. Few people were in the fenced corridor leading up from the terminal.
The Military Police dictates fashion rules to the Palestinian Farmers
05:55 A'anin CP
At this CP, Palestinian farmers from the village of A'anin (on the West Bank), holding permits for agricultural work in the seamline zone (that is to say, for working on their own lands which are separated from the village by the fence), go through, as well as others who have permits to work in the seamline zone.
The gates are open. The first person goes through. Inspection is done near the middle gate. We approach and are courteously banished. The passage is very slow. A few are not allowed to go through. Two of those going through tell us that some people were returned to the village because they did not have a valid permit. and others were turned back because their clothes were too new and too nice(!) - not suitable for agricultural work, according to the soldiers.
One of the people going through offers us coffee that he pours from his thermos.
A father is not allowed to take his 12-year-old son with him. The military policewoman says that heis not his son, and the proof is that the father does not know his son's I.D. number by heart! The man has eight small children, all listed in his identification card, and unfortunetaly he can't remember all those numbers.
We call the DCO (the civil administration that manages the Palestinians' lives) in connection with the limitations on Palestinian men's fashions; The DCO advises us to ask at the brigade. In the brigade they say that it is a matter for the military police and they will ask about it there.
In regard to the father's short memory, not remembering his sons' I.D. numbers, the DCO tells us that it is possible to demand that the father remember his children's names, but not their I.Dsnumbers. The father left on his way quickly and did not wait for our information. He sent his son back to the village immediately.
The Bedoui children come up to the CP from their encampment and wait for a ride to school. We leave before the passage of A'anin residents ends.
07:05 Tura-Shaked CP
School children, students and adults are going through from the seamline zone (the area imprisoned between the separation fence and the green line, Area C) to the West Bank. Many are waiting near the turnstile at the entrance to the inspection hut. Here, too, the passage is slow. One person tells us that he does not feel well; he told this to a military policewoman and she told him to bring a note from a doctor. In the end, she gave in and let him go through without stopping in the inspection hut and she also was willing to give up on the doctor's note (the nearest doctor is in Jenin....).
07:50 Palestinian side of the Reihan-Barta'a CP
We do not want to get stuck in the big parking lot, the one close to the CP, because it is full and bursting at the seams. We park in a private lot (usually for a fee) which is about half a kilometer further on as the road rises, and we are given the privilege of parking without paying.
On our way from the parking lot to the CP we pass eight trucks waiting for inspection. The drivers share breakfast on the open door in the back of one of the trucks. They invite us to have pita with humus and beans and a cucumber. We learn from them that inspection of the trucks begins at 08:00 and that two groups of trucks are already being inspected. They have been waiting for two and a half hours. Drivers of the first group who have already entered parked their vehicles here at night.
08:20 We climb up to the parking lot. A bus with schoolgirls from East Barta'a passes the CP and turns into the upper parking lot. The schoolgirls remain in the bus, eating and playing their darboukas (Arab drums). The driver tells us that the girls are on their way to Tul-Karem and they are waiting for an additional bus, which has not received a permit to go through yet.
08:35 The second bus goes through and we go home.
On our way home, we pick up a hitchhiker near Katzir. It turns out that he lives in one of the 'privately-owned farms in Shaked. We did not know such a thing existed. As we drive, Yoaz Hendel speaks on the radio about the implementation of a new right-wing organization which will monitor human rights at the CPs, or as he puts it, under the auspices of Zionist citizens of the state. This, of course, reminds us that on the Left, there are no Zionists.
A fantastic ending to a morning in the occupation.
The agricultural gate at Falamya was closed because of a demonstration. The childrens' buses at Habla went through quickly.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma
Many people have already come through; the gate is open and, behind it, is a line of about 60 people waiting. Every time, the same number of 4 people go through for inspection; when those are checked and released, another 4 go forward toward the gate. All the rest stand about one meter back from the gate; among them are soldiers who are watching them so that "they don't fight and so that they stand in line correctly". It is for their own good, the soldier tells me, because passing is fast which is to their advantage. During the time we were there, in spite of the fast passage, the line never got shorter since there were additional people coming all the time.
The soldiers have already opened the gate here, and at 07:00 the first people go through into the checkpoint. Here, as usual, the passage is slower than in 'Azzun 'Atma, but there is progress. In addition bicycles arrive, a wagon with horses, donkeys and a herd of sheep is allowed to cross to the grazing land along the border, after this has been denied them for more than 2 months by our authorities. They were punishing a shepherd, or, more exactly, his herd, for what the shepherd did which was not acceptable. At 07:20 the childrens' buses arrive and go through smoothly.
We continued by way of Eliyahu gate - 5 cars are being inspected and 5 wait in the pedestrian lane. On the way back, no one was in the pedestrian lane and there were also no cars awaiting inspection. The inspections were the same, with the dogs and everything.
'Azzun is open, there is no obstacle to entering the village.
It was quiet when we arrived, only a tractor with 4 passengers came to the gate - it makes a U-turn and returns. Strange.
And then we understood. The gate is closed and locked and there is no one in sight. No soldiers. In front of one of the closed gates, one can see a darkened area, as well as the gate itself, and then we understood that there had been a fire here. The tractor driver explained that a fire had been set yesterday, like in Jayyus a week ago. We hadn't known about that.
We rang the DCO, and they said that the gate had been set on fire yesterday evening and that they didn't know when it would be fixed, maybe today or tomorrow, but meanwhile there is no plan to open the gate, and there is also a technical problem as a result of the arson in opening it. He also said - they are "shooting themselves in the foot". We will follow-up by contacting the tractor driver again.
All this and we can only report that no one can claim that they didn't know there was any problem with the occupation, that it is awful, that civilians are oppressed and also "shoot themselves in the foot", since it apparently is no longer painful. During the past weeks, we frequently see things that the Palestinians do which could be called civil rebellion, even though it does harm their livelihood.
We continued to Madma in order to get the signature of a man on a petition to the court to release him from his status as "forbidden to work in Israel".
Translator: Charles K.
A’anin checkpoint, 05:55
[Photo: Misty dawn at the A’anin checkpoint]
The checkpoint is open, residents of A’anin (on the West Bank) are already coming out toward the seam zone with their agricultural or employment permits. Since fewer seem to be coming through (some also were not allowed through; they were sent back), the crossing permits issued for the olive harvest, which has ended, must have expired. And in fact, based on conversations with people and the many appeals to us for help obtaining crossing permits, we get the impression that the occupier is, increasingly, severely limiting the number eligible for permits, particularly farmers who are kept away from their lands – their source of income, their pride, the essence of their tradition and their existence.
The seam zone is the area sliced away from the Palestinian villages by the separation fence that was erected in order to annex the settlements to Area C, under Israeli control. Every plot of land in the seam zone belonging to a West Bank resident entitles the owner and their family members to X crossing permits so they can work it. More permits are granted for large plots than for small ones. Prior to the occupation and the fence, all members of the family could participate in the various farming tasks on the family’s land. Today the occupier (who might – could it be? – covet the land for himself) makes it harder for the farmers to reach their land, whether they’re the land’s legal owner or their heirs (who aren’t the owners), or hired laborers. Suddenly they find their permits aren’t renewed. They are prevented from reaching their lands. Why? They’re not told.
That’s Fadi’s story as well. He’s 34, was born and lives in A’anin, married with three children. His 9 year old son fell from the second storey and received a brain injury. We met Fadi last month at the checkpoint. He said that for more than a year his wife hasn’t been able to obtain a crossing permit, that his permit is due to expire and he fears it won’t be renewed (and it wasn’t). He asked for help. The permits of his father and two brothers (they’re the only four people working the family’s land; the father is the legal owner) aren’t being renewed either. Why? They’re not told. He went to the Palestinian liaison office (irtibat); they told him he’s blacklisted from crossing to the seam zone. Why? They don’t know. He went to the Salem DCO, where he was told he’s blacklisted. Why? They won’t say.
We inquired at the Civil Administration (a military body that runs the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories), and heard an interesting version: his wife was caught going through the checkpoint with false papers (so it’s a punishment). Fadi swears that never happened. Another interesting version: the quota of permits for his family’s land has been filled. Fadi doesn’t understand. Who could have received permits for his family’s land? Only he, his father and his two brothers apply to cultivate it. No permit had been granted or renewed for any of them. Listen, he tells me on the phone, I can’t keep going to Salem; I can’t afford the taxis. Nor do they tell me why I’m blacklisted. Help me.
Shaked-Tura checkpoint 07:00
[Photo: A section of the pedestrian fenced corridor]
A military ambulance is parked on the Tura (West Bank) side of the checkpoint, alongside a police bomb squad vehicle with all its antennas and devices and accessories. We didn’t understand what was happening. The soldiers were working calmly. People cross as they do every day. Lots of action when the checkpoint opens, but three-quarters of an hour later everything will slow down and the soldiers will start yawning. The checkpoint is fairly small, occupies less than a dunum, but it’s bursting with coiled and straight fences, traffic lights, traffic signs, gates, sheds, concrete barriers, signs, canopies, people sheltering and more and more installations that aren’t really necessary, all crowded together, the evidence of corrupt planning, waste of taxpayers’ money and sheer stupidity - not necessarily in that order - crying out to the heavens.
Reihan-Barta’a checkpoint 07:45
At the checkpoint we picked up two women from the West Bank. One had received a bone marrow transplant and was on her way to Rambam hospital for treatment; the other accompanied her. We went through the truck inspection area. One of the supervisors from the civilian security company running the checkpoint escorted us efficiently and politely.
For an hour and a half, during the busiest time, the 'Azzun' Atma checkpoint was closed because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
About 90 people wait in a longer line than usual at this hour. The checkpoint commander immediately wants to move us back, but only symbolically. He must demonstrate who’s in charge, and continues doing so later.
The line begins about a meter behind the checkpoint gate; only two at a time are permitted to advance and stand ready to continue toward the inspection point. But, like all lines, it slowly moves closer to the gate, which is an obvious indicator of how far they can go, unlike the imaginary line farther from the gate at which they were supposed to stand because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:20. Nobody goes through! The soldiers close the gate. That’s it! It’s time to teach the Palestinians a lesson.
The Palestinians stubbornly remain standing at the gate. The truth is that it’s very difficult to push back a line of nearly 100 people. And meanwhile more join the motionless line.
The checkpoint commander arrives a few minutes later (he’d been hunting people who were sneaking through holes in the fence – there were more than a few). Now, as at the Habla checkpoint last week, the army begins “educating” the Palestinians. We telephoned the DCO – they said they’d take care of it.
Meanwhile, the soldiers leave the (closed) gate and wander around the checkpoint, chatting. The tension rises among those waiting behind the fence; a few soldiers return to argue with the Palestinians but the situation doesn’t change and nothing happens.
Another call to the DCO doesn’t bring any result. We’re told, “the Palestinians aren’t obeying the soldiers.”
Nevertheless, army personnel arrive, mutter to us “It’ll be ok…”, wander around the checkpoint and… leave, and nothing happens.
Children arrive on their way to school, wait to cross to 'Azzun 'Atma from the “Israeli” side. After a while the soldier with the key to the vehicle gate is located and the children go through.
The checkpoint commander went hunting again, returning with a man who’d gone through a hole in the fence because he had to get to work. His ID was confiscated; he was sent back to the 'Azzun' Atma side.
07:05 The gate opens, two people cross, the gate closes again, two more cross and again the gate closes. At 07:10 the gate closes and doesn’t reopen. We phone A., the DCO commander, who promises to take care of it.
A boy comes riding a bicycle. The soldier who’s supposed to open the gate isn’t there and it takes a while until he appears to let the boy cross to school.
07:30 We contacted Chana B. All this time, the soldiers are wandering around the checkpoint, joking, having a good time, while a mass of people beyond the gate are anxious not to lose a day of work. But no one cares.
07:50 People are getting angry, yelling at the soldiers – the situation is pretty frightening.
08:00 Reinforcements arrive; the soldiers go to the line and try to restore order. Now they open the gate and begin letting people through four at a time, closing the gate after them until their inspection is complete.
A., from the DCO, called us twice to find out what was going on. The first time was after he’d been told that everything was alright, but it wasn’t. The second time there had, in fact, been a change, and people began crossing.
08:25 Habla checkpoint. The gate is still open (it’s supposed to close at 08:15); some cars, a cart and people are still going through, until no one remains and the soldiers close the crossing.
08:40 Eliyahu gate. Everything as usual; no line of people crossing on foot.
We gave a man documents to sign for submission to the court so he could be removed from the Shabak’s blacklist. Then we went home exhausted, sad and angry.
A mini-intifada in Azzun
13:00 Habla. The gate opened on time. The first five people enter for inspection. They cross to Habla in five minutes. A pickup truck and two tractors, one of them loaded with seedlings, exit the village. They’re followed by a shepherd and his flock. All the Palestinians who arrive go through without delay. We hear about yesterday morning’s strike which was already reported on yesterday. A large group of Palestinians refused to cross because of the female MP’s behavior toward one of them.
13:20 Eliyahu crossing. No lines in either direction. A number of cars being inspected.
13:30 Azzun. The street is livelier than usual. Shops are open, pupils returning from school. Many vehicles on the main road.
We visit Z’s shop. After we give him the parcels, here’s what he tells us: About a week ago, children threw rocks at settlers’ cars. One rock hit and injured a woman. On Saturday night, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of settlers came to Azzun, threw rocks at homes and blocked the entry road. Villagers left their homes and burned tires. Many soldiers arrested the settlers. A number of Azzun residents were injured. A sort of local intifada.
This evening, Monday, we were told there was a new disturbance(Tomorrow’s shift should take note).
14:00 A military vehicle comes from the track leading to the guard tower, near Azzun.
We turn south, enjoying the white blossoms on the flowering trees and the green landscape.
We drive via Tulth, Siniriyya and Bidiya. We enter shops and a pharmacy, looking for someone who speaks Hebrew or English, but with no luck today.
We continue south. Red roofs of Yaqir, Revava and Nofim on the hillside.
We get on Highway 5 and drive west.
15:20 Shomron gate. A short line. Three cars being inspected.
15:30 Azzun Atma. The checkpoint is quiet. Everyone who arrives crosses quickly. A Palestinian who works at a quarry in the area says he believes there’s a great deal of confusion at the checkpoint when the military unit is replaced. It takes time for the new soldiers to learn their job and stop showing how tough they are. After they know what’s going on and no longer have to make an impression the crossing goes smoothly, without problems. The occupation routine.