Problems at Agricultural Gates
06:00 A'anin checkpoint
At the olive groves on the way to the checkpoint (in the Seam Line zone) there are many cows enjoying their early breakfast and the cool air. The owners of the lots, from A'anin, are helpless in face of the accumulated damage to the trees, and are afraid of the owner's revenge.
Maayan Sahala (Israel) complained at the DCO and at the police but to no avail.
Many youngsters cross the checkpoint as well as many tractors, which undergo a thorough inspectiono.
One person, who, in one soldier's opinion, wanted to bring accross too many sabres (prickly pear), had to return one bag !!
07:10 Shaked-Tura checkpoint
At 7:20 the first worker crosses over.
Two cars drive through following inspection.
A drama unfolds right before our eyes. Apparently somebody tried to pass through using his brother's permit. Another brother, who had crossed over before him, tries helping but it doesn't work out. In that family there are five boys and only two permits which they use as needed. The soldiers summoned the police. Investigation could be harmful for the family. We are helpless and sad.
08:00 Reihan-Barta'a checkpoint
We meet a new driver, unfamiliar to us, who speaks good Hebrew. He reminisces over better days when he was able to go freely wherever he wished. Now he struggles to provide for his family. He is 49 years old and is denied passage for security reasons.
He longs for piece between the two nations.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
06:05 – A'anin Checkpoint (Gate 214)
The checkpoint is quiet and there are no residents of A'anin present (See above photo). Two military vehicles are standing by and the gate on the seamline zone side is open. A woman soldier explained that they are dealing with a suspicious object. Military vehicles, including a vehicle from the border patrol
ended and the checkpoint returned to its usual routine (See photo below). About 35 people, the donkey, and seven tractors wait in the middle of the checkpoint. The soldiers call them to approach one by one and they cross quickly. At 07:00 a few people and three tractors are still waiting to cross. One person without a permit is sent back and negotiations are discussed with another person.
07:10 – Shaked-Tura Checkpoint Gate 300
A herd of goats and their shepherd cross to the seamline zone. A transit crosses to the West Bank. A few people are waiting next to the turnstile at the entrance to the inspection facility.
07:30 – The Bridge opposite Zibda - Both gates on both sides are locked with two steel arms as usual. Ten cars are parked behind the gate leading to Kafin and Tulkarem. Evidently their drivers prefer to park there rather than drive all the way to the Reihan-Barta'a Checkpoint.
07:45 – Reihan Barta'a Checkpoint, the Palestinian Side
There are only a few people here at this hour. Only one vehicle is waiting to have its cargo checked. The drivers at the checkpoint talk about their difficulties in making a living. Registered taxis have priority over private vehicles for transporting people, and often the private drivers have no passengers at all, and sit and doze under the shed. They have no other alternative way of making a living. A bus leaves East Barta'a for Jenin each day at 07:30 and returns again at 13:00. The bus fare is NIS 7.00, and the taxi fare is NIS 10.00. There is also a bus from Jenin to Salem, and the fare is also NIS 7.00. The people here do not believe in a Palestinian state and have no trust in the Palestinian Authority – it's enough to see who they are concerned with and where the money goes. "The best thing would be for there to be peace and for us to go work in Israel freely like we used to."
08:10 – One of the charcoal factories in the area was closed by Israel because of the smoke that bothered the settlers and instead young workers work there packing charcoal from Egypt. This does not produce smoke. The old rusty bus that served as a shelter for the workers was demolished by Israeli soldiers or soldiers from the border patrol.
08:25 – the new fountain at the entrance to East Barta'a is complete, and colorful signs advertise a bazaar for school supplies in Hebrew. The town is still quiet at this early time of day.
Azoun Atma, is empty. Passage of just a few without problems. The soldier estimate that there was a passage of about 200 people in the morning.
The tower is manned during 24 hours to enable the passage of certificate holders to the southern part.
Hanny Gate.View of the gate which has been the topic of our conversation at the council house of Mes'ha.
The head of the village and four farmers convene. We read to them all the items of the answer letter of the attorney general. They protest against inaccuracies, no agricultural road has been paved to the underground passage which leads to the Magen Dan Gate, and no agricultural implements passed through it.
The allegation that in 2008 the Hanny Gate had been opened for farmers but they chose not to pass through it is totally groundless, moreover in the following years requests had been submitted and not granted.
To make it clear to the readers, the Hanny Gate (1549) is an organized agricultural gate at the outskirts of Mes'ha near Hanny's house (which is separated by a fence and a small gate from the rest of the village). More than 50 farmers depend upon it in order to reach their fields. The other gates Magen Dan (1567) west of Mes'ha and the Northern Mes'ha Gate(1534) are far from the village and serve other plots. The passage through them to reach plots adjacent to Mes'ha involves considerable difficulties.
The last passage in the General Attorney's letter promises that a timely application by the residents of Mes'ha to the representatives of the civil administration at the DCO would be treated with a renewed review of the opening of the gate, also by the relevant military bodies.
In order to advance the matter we suggested that the residents of Mes'ha should begin already now to process the requests for the Hanny Gate, so that they could pass on to us the list of the applicants which would enable us to put pressure to fulfill the promise as it appears in the answering letter.
We hope that the two parallel actions will bring about the renewed opening of the Hanny Gate at least as a seasonal gate.
Towards the end of the meeting Hany himself arrived. He to is unable to reach his own plots through the gate named after him. This indeed is a case of mockery of the poor…
Translation: Suzanne O.
No partner for this shift was found for me but since I didn't see this as a reason not to go (particularly in view of my familiarity with the labourers' roadblock at Azzun Atma) I went on my own. I thought 'nothing will happen' but it appears that I was mistaken.
Azzun Atma 06.05
The labourers' gate. Outside, along the road opposite the roadblock, many labourers crowd around waiting for employers to collect them. At the roadblock there are 3 soldiers who ignore me and I just stand and observe. To my surprise there is almost no queue which is possibly because the officer sees to it that the inspection windows are functioning efficiently getting the labourers across quickly. This is not to say that the inspection is not thorough: apart from inspection of documents each Palestinian is stopped a second time by the military police to check the contents of their plastic carrier bags which usually contain their lunches. Every carrier bag is inspected.
2 – 3 children go back and forth (I think they are running various errands for the Palestinians, such as getting them packs of cigarettes) and the soldiers make no demur.
6:20 a.m. A group from the night shift at the Hanson company returns home (about 10 workers wearing the company tee shirts).
Here and there I spy a labourer who is sent back to leave a carrier bag which he has not been allowed to take with him. I try to find out from the officer what the problem is (would you explain the regulations to me?) and he moves me back "behind the concrete blocks. At present I am busy, when I have time I'll talk to you". This continues for a while, then another request and another refusal (he is standing and talking to his friend and the roadblock is empty…), but finally he comes over to me and explains: food and tools for work are allowed but 'commercial items' such as, a few electrical mains are not allowed through (as if the Palestinian would do business in Israeli settlements…).
7:00 a.m. I leave. The road opposite is almost empty and I drive to Sha'ar Tamar, an agricultural gate which is close by and which opens from 7 – 7:30 a.m. There are 3 soldiers at the gate and it is already open. The commander appears immediately and informs me that it is a 'security road' and I am not allowed to be here. I disagree and tell him that I am permitted to observe. It then becomes a 'closed military area' and there is a threat that the police may be called. I stand 'behind the concrete block' and observe the inspection of permits from afar. Suddenly it turns out that there are a few carts and donkeys which are not permitted to cross and I hear an argument at the gate. It is not possible to speak to the soldiers (after all I am a criminal in a 'closed military area'). But from the shouting I understand that the Palestinian is transporting two crates on the cart (one with cucumbers and one with sabres [prickly pears]) which are not allowed through. In a conversation with Tadsa I find out that indeed vegetables are not allowed through to the Israeli side "because they sell them there" and, as I have already noted, no commercial activity is permitted in connection with the agricultural gates. This is to say that the army doesn't just deal with security and defence against terrorists but also acts as an arm of the Agricultural and Commerce and Industry Ministries.
7:30 a.m. The gate is now to be closed but the soldiers is prepared to 'do a favour' and leave it open for another few minutes and let the Palestinian through without the crates. The Palestinian gives in and unloads the crates into another cart but it now seems that the pile of leaves meant (according to the Palestinian) as feed for the donkey is not permitted to cross. Tadsa tries to help, the Humanitarian Centre tries to help, but the officer has his telephone on (as if he is on the line but in fact he is blocking his commander from contacting him). The gate is locked and none of my efforts to suggest easing the rules is accepted: as if, these are my orders and I have no discretion…
8:00 a.m. Hanni (from the solitary house refuge (?)) arrives to find out what is going on and invites me in for a coffee (we got to know each other from evidence I collected for Yesh Din). I have to get to a meeting at 9 a.m., and refuse this time. I leave frustrated and the Palestinians leave angrily.
The settlers from Maskiyot keep abusing and taking advantage of the Bedouin who live at the foot of the settlement. This time they stole a cow in daylight as one of the daughters of the family watched them. They returned it only when the police intervened. This is another link in the chain of abusive attacks that have the goal of banishing the Bedouin who live near the settlement. (They were, of course, living there before the settlement was founded.)
13.20 Zatara Junction– The passage in every direction is open without any inspection. There is one soldier in the guard tower of the junction.
14.00 Hamra CP– very thin traffic. The heat is over 40 degrees Centigrade. Those arriving from the west (the West Bank) are forced to get out of the car which is to be inspected. Wait time is about five minutes. The cars entering the A area are not inspected, and they have practically no wait time in a queue. We met Daphna and Tal who were with the journalist from Haaretz. Daphna told us that on Thursday she waited for an hour and a half with Palestinian tractors until they opened the Guchiya gate, where they were now going (see below).
When we passed near the Guchiya gate, at 14.55, five minutes before it was supposed to open, the gate was closed and in front of it there was a tractor loaded with sheep (we did not see the woman and the baby that Daphna relates to because they were in the driver's cabin).
15.15 Tayasir CP– They let vehicles through from one side at a time and in the meantime, the vehicles on the other side have to wait. Most of the vehicles in the Valley do not have air conditioning and the heat is often 40 degrees and over. Here, too, those coming from the west get out of the cars and go through the inspection on foot.
15.45– a visit in the Kadri encampment at the foot of the hill of the Maskiyot settlement:
adri is away because his old father is in the hospital in Nablus. His wife and four of his children were in the tent. They told us that three days ago the settlers of Maskiyot stole a cow from his brother's herd, in daylight, with one of the daughters of the family watching. A similar incident took place a month ago. The cow was returned to the encampment only after they called the police.
:Addendum to the Report
Daphna Banai (reporting), Tal Haran. Guest: Alon Idan (journalist from Haaretz)
At 14.50 M. from Hadida called us. He has been at the Guchiya Gate for five minutes with his wife and his nine month old son. He asks us to call the DCO and to ask them please to open the gate a little early because the baby has a high temperature and they are on their way to Tamoun to the doctor.
We called the DCO and we laid out our request, even though it was clear that there was not a chance that they would open the gate early. It has never happened, so why should it happen now? We were close by and we arrived in less than five minutes. The tractor and the passengers were on the side of the Valley and they waited for the soldiers to come and open the gate so that they could go to the West Bank. The tractor had a cart attached to it with about 15 sheep. The baby looked faint from the heat, but he became lively very fast, examined us with great interest and waved his hands. The mother and the baby sat on the tractor and since it was very hot, I offered them a place in the car with air conditioning. The mother said that the difference between the heat outside and the low temperature of the air conditioner would only cause the child to be even more ill and she would rather stay outside.
Again, as three days ago, the soldiers did not arrive. The heat was inhuman and we were roasted together with the people waiting to reach a doctor.
15.25– The jeep arrived and the gate was opened. After the family went through we drove a short distance from there. At 14.35 we passed again near the gate, which, although it was supposed to be open for half an hour according to the agreement between the army and the Red Cross (from three to three thirty), was locked again and there was not a single soldier to be seen.
Dalya and Anat were already in the middle of filming when we arrived. At 07:00 the first people who’d been inspected begin exiting. They come through at a steady rate and people aren’t complaining. A relatively large number of soldiers at the checkpoint. About 30 people have crossed by 07:20.
Anat providing information]
[Photo caption: The washing machine and the media]
[Photo caption: Anat, Dalya, and the despairing owner of the washing machine]
08:30 Falmiya gate. A car carrying two farmers waitןמע for the DCO commander, to clear up a problem involving land ownership and the right to access the lands. Tedesa and Colonel A. arrive and go to the area with the complainants. When they return, A. has time to explain the complaint to us, as well as other complaints of the famers at the checkpoint. The gate, of course, is open.
[Photo caption: The DCO commander trying to solve problems at Falamiya]
[Photo caption: T. and Nina at Falamiya]
A. says that the disagreement regarding ownership of the lands is the result of the names they received, which don’t appear in the tabu. The names are historical, and the way they’ve changed over time create misunderstandings regarding ownership of the lands. A. promises to deal with the substance of each complaint by examining the records. Other farmers present ask him to deal with their requests for crossing permits for laborers. He emphasizes that permits are issued mainly for family members of landowners, but every request is considered and sometimes permits for laborers are approved. A. speaks clearly and forcefully about everything connected to the procedures intended to administer and serve the Palestinians, and explains to us that, with regard to the washing machine from Habla, nothing can be done, all the people and equipment going through the gates are intended solely for agricultural purposes, with no exceptions.
[Photo caption: Worried children at Falamiya]
[Photo caption: Worried adults at Falamiya]
On our way back, Kufr Jamal, Zibad, Abbush, Khaja – we stop at the greengrocer in Khaja. A. offers us coffee and sorrowfully tells us about his son who was born a month and a half ago with a congenital brain defect that is irreparable. M., who’s older than A., misses the good old days when it was possible to move freely and enjoy something of Israel’s bounty. He misses the sea. We promised to contact our “ocean women.” A short conversation that might bring people closer, lead to cooperation.
[Photo caption: At the greengrocer in Funduq.]
Translation: Bracha B.A.
8.10 – 5.55
A'anin Checkpoint – 05:35
There is a significant presence of soldiers at the checkpoint but the gates are not yet open. The gates open at 06:10 and people immediately begin to cross quickly. 46 people and seven tractors pass through. One tractor and seven people are sent back – they are mainly teenagers who have no permit to enter the seamline zone. We were told that 50 new permits were issued yesterday and we noticed that there were many young people crossing. A 16-year-old boy was sent back when he attempted to cross with his father who has a disability. He can no longer cross using his father's permit and requires his own ID. One tractor carried five elderly women – the only people in their families to receive permits. By 07:05 everyone had crossed and the gates were closed.
Shaked Checkpoint – 07:20
A bus arrives from Nablus to pick up 21 workers who are working on an archeological dig near the Shaked Industrial Zone, but the workers have not yet exited the inspection facility. The workers work permanently with the Civilian Authority and the Antiquities Authority. A few vehicles and pedestrians go through the checkpoint.
We stopped at the Dotan checkpoint. There were no soldiers at the checkpoint but a command car stood at the side of the road observing the checkpoint.
Reihan Barta'a Checkpoint – 08:00– Pedestrian traffic from the West Bank to the seamline zone is crossing in an orderly manner, and there are very few people crossing.
We brought A's father to the hospital. He explained that despite the fact that they brought a letter from the hospital explaining that the child was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time the parents have not been able to obtain permits for more than one month at a time. Consequently, the parents both have to travel to the Liaison and Coordination Administration to receive permits in addition to their frequent trips to the hospital and back.
0610 A'anin Agricultural CP
People tell us that the CP has opened as usual at six; so far about 30 people have gone through and about the same number are waiting. Recently, permits have been distributed, but not generously. Every family received one permit, if at all. According to the people we spoke to, there many farmers with land on the other side of the Fence who did not get any permit to go across. We remind whoever needs a reminder, that distributing permits is not a 'right' but a duty by the occupier's definition of agricultural gates in the Fence: 'that the occupier will not prevent farmers from cultivating their lands.' Then they made a commitment …
The passage is conducted through the middle gate; they are making lists on paper because there is no computer. This always causes mistakes, which cause arguments when people return, as we have seen more than once. Young fellows aged 12-16 are not allowed to go out even if they are accompanied by a parent. This is the same problem that has never been solved in relation to this age group. They are not given identity cards, but they are still considered mature enough to need a permit. A woman accompanied by her young son has to go through by herself because he is not allowed to go with her. Yet, according to tradition, a woman is not allowed to go out alone in public …
0620. About 20 people are still waiting. A group of people denied passage is standing at the side. There is no representative of the DCO.
0630. We hear shouting and arguments. Somebody is yelling provocatively: 'Call the police!". Most of the young boys return to the village; while one refuses to move. He insists on going through. There is no way to find out who the person is even though we know what the argument is about. At one stage, two soldiers grab the fellow, one on his right and one on his left, and drag and push him to the passage of the CP yelling "Be careful!" and so on.
The end of the story: We have bought one more fan for the national team. Now we can close the CP and go out to carry out some tasks of defense, protecting the nation of Israel from those who wish to do it evil.
0650 Tura-Shaked CP
Soldiers are concentrating on the task of opening the CP.
0700The CP has been opened. About 20 people from the West Bank (from 'the Red side') are waiting near the turnstile at the entrance to the inspection pavilion. Then another 20 will arrive, and among them teachers going to East Barta'a, to proctor matriculation exams, and so on. Here, too, they are recording names on paper. The tempo of the passage is reasonable.
A young shepherd is waiting to go through; the young lambs do not know about order and discipline. They break through the CP and stop the passage. After a quarter of an hour he goes through with the herd and order is restored.
Our acquaintance, Y., arrives with a young woman relative and a young boy. She is on her way to the DCO to renew her permit. Y. is nervous because of the 'catch': Her permit is not valid, but in order to renew it she has to go through the CP. How will she go through without a permit? He calls the DCO, upset, talks to the soldiers, presents documents, goes ahead and comes back. The soldiers examine the papers, call whoever they have to call and in the end let her go through. Since all of this is happening in the middle of the CP [which we see only partly], when Y. comes out, we ask about what happened. At first he refuses to talk. We are surprised; usually we are on good terms. And then suddenly his tongue is freed, and this nice man who usually smiles and jokes with us, takes all his anger out on us. We are to blame! It's all because of us! Why do we come here at all if we do not help? He yells at us like a pressure cooker whose valve has blown out: "Go away from here! Don't come here ….. !" We think that if others feel this way, swallow their resentment and restrain themselves until the day when they explode - and that day will come, it must come because how much can people absorb – then neither we nor any fence nor any wall will be able to stand against the frustration and the hate and the pain that have accumulated for decades among these people, some of whom were born to the occupation.
0815 New Barta'a CP (Reihan in the name of the Settlement)
The head of the Barta'a council and his assistants are distributing flyers to people who are going through the CP. Today there are elections to the Palestinian Office of Commerce, and just as is done in our country, they are trying to influence the results until the very last minute.
A young man from East Barta'a and his wife, an Israeli from West Barta'a, live on both sides of the wadi that separates the Israeli Barta'a from the Palestinian Barta'a. She has not moved officially to East Barta'a so as not to lose her civil rights, and he is prevented from moving to live with her. Thus, they live at a walking distance of five minutes from one another. In order to see him, she and two toddlers and another one in her stomach must travel to Jenin via Jalameh, because Israeli Arabs are allowed to go through to the West Bank only there. He is not allowed to take three steps, to cross the border between the two villages and to see his family. The absurdity shouts to the heavens!
Now the woman was caught in her husband's house. Somebody apparently informed on her and somebody from Israel came to her house and found it empty. They inspected the refrigerator, the garbage pail; they took pictures and noted: there is no sign of everyday life in that house. They found her in her husband's house and cancelled her health insurance.
Afterwards they said, why are you shocked? That is the routine. Nothing out of the ordinary. They take pictures, record the facts and pass them on to wherever facts like these get passed on, and they do what they do.
0900 We left.
Our boys had a hard day.