Problems at Agricultural Gates
Conversations with residents of Nebi Elias.
Last week we met with the head of the village of Nebi Elias, located on Route 55 near Qalqilya, regarding land stolen from residents to establish the settlements of Zufim and Alfey Menasahe. On Monday we met residents in the municipality offices and heard about their problems.
The two most serious problems mentioned in all our discussions:
- The difficulty accessing lands on the other side of the fence.
- The prohibition on construction in Area C, which is strangling the village.
We go up to the room of the municipality building and from there see the buildings of Alfei Menashe and the adjoining fence surrounding the settlement. Below it lies a large, steep area full of olive trees (hundreds of dunams, according to the villagers). The area begins near Gate 109, far from the village, and continues alongside and below Alfei Menashe. The security fence is visible below that area, cutting through the olive groves next to Alfei Menashe and the few groves remaining near the village.
We see the “borders” of the village from the roof, and how the “Area C regulations” are strangling it. For example, a goat- and sheepfold that had been erected in the past at the outskirts of the village is today surrounded by multi-story homes built because construction is prohibited in Area C.
They’re not allowed to put the pen outside the village, even as a shed roofed with plastic sheets.
We spoke with Abu Shadi, the owner of a building supply and hardware store in the center of the village.
He and his two brothers own 300 dunams on the other side of the fence running between Nebi Elias and Alfey Mensashe. Their land is very near the village, but very far from the Eliyahu crossing (Gate 109), the only one for which permits are available. The problem isn’t obtaining a permit, but the time it takes him to reach his land and the difficult terrain he must cross. He and his wife have even obtained permits valid for two years, but it takes more than two hours to reach his land from Gate 109, across a steep landscape without a road or path, one that not even a donkey and cart can traverse.
The entire area is planted with olives.
His brothers, who are younger than he (aged 60 and 50) receive permits valid for a shorter time, and they don’t always renew them because it isn’t worth doing so.
They can’t get permits for laborers to work the land and help with the harvest.
During this year’s harvest season he and his wife went only once to their land and picked only 50-60 kg. which they carried all the way on foot.
We had a conversation with Abed, a municipal worker, who was also our translator.
His brother owns six dunams closer to Gate 109, but its also very hard for him to reach his land. He’s granted a permit only during the harvest.
The family had land on the side where Zufim was established, and even though the route of the fence was changed in that area, some land remained beyond on the other side and they don’t receive permits to access it.
Ra’ad is an officer in the Palestinian Authority, so he and his brother are prevented by the GSS from entering Israel. In the past they received permits, but not this year. Only their parents, who are more than 70, received permits during the harvest. Their grove also adjoins Alfei Menashe; it is difficult for them to reach it because there’s no road.
Latifa: She and her husband own 20 dunams of olive trees near Alfei Menashe.
Only her husband has a permit to access their land. She had one but didn’t renew it because it was too hard for her to reach the land. Her 20-year-old son had one which he lost. He didn’t renew it.
They have to pay to get to Gate 109, and then its hard to climb over the rocks and thistles. In the past they produced half a ton of oil, but now only about 90 kg. because they’re unable to take care of the trees. Her husband went to the grove only once.
It takes him an hour to reach his land on foot from the checkpoint. He’s one of the few with an annual permit to bring a vehicle through the checkpoint and drive to the area where the trees begin. He owns six dunams of olive trees, as does his brother. His brother didn’t receive a permit for his pickup truck. Another brother is not allowed to access the land. They don’t know why…Rad’uan has two wives. Only one has a permit to access the land…
The Bedouin who live next to the olive groves, and supposedly are located in Israel, are allowed to access the land. Rad’uan’s brother, the one not allowed access, hired Bedouin who received 2/3 of the harvest in payment, and he was left with only 1/3, which really makes the landowners angry.
We can sum up with the words of Jalal, the head of the village, who told us: You put olive oil in salad, and enjoy it, but the olives are part of our lives…
מהמחסום לאדמה שעה ברגל. הוא בין הבודדים שיש להם אישור שנתי לעבור ברכב את המחסום ולהגיע במכונית עד לשטח שבו מתחילים העצים.יש לו 6 דונם זיתים וגם לאחיו יש 6 דונם. אחיו לא קיבל אשור מעבר לטנדר שלו. אח אחר מנוע להגיע לשטח. לא יודעים למה...לרדואן שתי נשים. לאחת יש אישור לעבור לשטח לשניה אין...
לבדואים שנמצאים בשכנות לשטחי הזיתים ונמצאים כביכול בתוך ישראל מותר להגיע לשטחים .
אח מנוע של רדואן העסיק בדואים שקיבלו 2/3 מהזיתים ולאח נותר 1/3 דבר החורה מאד לבעלי הקרקעות.
לסיכום,אפשר לצטט את דבריו של ג'אלל ראש הכפר אשר אמר לנו: אתם שמים שמן זית בסלט וזה טוב אך לנו הזיתים הם חלק מהחיים שלנו.......
Maale Ephraim 12:15 – 13:00
A jewish woman emerges from a car with Israeli license plates. She smiles at the soldiers and offers them cake, apologizing that she hasn't brought enough for all of them , "you are wonderful" she says. Before leaving she hands the soldiers a piece of paper. "these three are expected", and she mentions 3 arab names. "don't delay them at the checkpoint".
Tayasir checkpoint 13:45-14:30
Gochya checkpoint 15:00-16:30
In the roads of the valley
Translated by Yael S.
15:00 - 16:40
15:00 -A'anin checkpoint
Only 15 people (parmers, who still hold valid passage permits to work at the west side pf the sepatation fence)) and 3 tractors cross the checkpoint to thier lands. Most permits had expired by the end of December and new agriculture permits for the new years are not issued.
15:20 - Shaked checkpoint
A few people cross over from one side to another, inspection is done in a post out side the inspection cabin and passage is fast.
The winds caused the yellow sign to fall down but no one bother to pick it up, in any case it doest not bare any useful information.
15:35 - Reihan checkpoint
A slow flow of workers returning home to the West bank. Only one window is open and since it serves people going to both directions a beginning of crowing is observed by the carousel, yet passage is swift (6 minutes).
Towards 16:00 the stream of returning workers increases and by the carousel there are already 50 people crowding and pace of passage slows down.
16:20- Pressure grows bigger by the carousel (there are 60-70 returning workers at any given moment), despite our plea another loophole was not opened. Passage time now is 15 minutes.
Whyat all did they install 8 loopholes in the terminal in the first place?????
Soldiers are there but the gate is still closed.
06:45 The gate opens. People cross pretty quickly; the reservists are polite. Palestinians argue among themselves about whose turn it is and the soldiers try to calm them down.
The two buses with children arrive. Previous reports have mentioned the problem regarding the time the gate opens in the afternoon. Someone should check to see whether it’s been resolved. School ends at 13:15, but as of now the gate opens only at 13:45.
07:30 On our way to theJayyus agricultural gate we pass an army Hummer parked at the entrance to 'Azzun.
07:40 The gate is open and people are still crossing. We meet two new Ecumenical volunteers.
A Palestinian from Jayyus with a cart isn’t allowed to cross even though his land is very near this gate, because his permit specifies Gate 927 Falamya, not Gate 943 Jayyous. He asks them to let him through just this once but the MP refuses. The soldiers suggest he arrange to have the permit changed, and then he’ll be able to cross through both gates. They ignore the fact that he’ll lose a day of work by going to the DCO, and will also waste valuable time now by having to make this unnecessary detour.
Off he goes to the other gate…A child is also refused entry for the same reason and starts walking the long way around. We pick him up on the road and drive him to Falamya gate, where the Palestinian with the donkey cart is waiting for him. This is a small, seemingly trivial example of the occupation’s insensitivity and the offhanded daily harassment to which the Palestinians are subjected.
At 07:55 the soldiers begin packing up and prepare to close the gates. A Palestinian rides up on a donkey, and even though it’s already 07:59! the soldiers wait for him!...Have they read what I wrote/thought in the previous paragraph?
We drive through Kafr Jamal, Kafr Sur, Saffarin and Beit Lid to Deir Sharaf.
We get on Route 60 to Shavei Shomron and don’t believe our eyes. The checkpoint has disappeared, the gate in the wall has been blocked and people cross freely without supervision.
We go down to Deir Sharaf, have coffee and cake and return home on route 55.
Traffic has been diverted to the Zufin crossing, apparently because of an accident at the Eliyahu crossing. The MP inspects us very carefully (we hadn’t removed the Machsom-watch banners). Our guest, an Israeli living in Canada, is subjected to a special interrogation. We pass the Eyal crossing and stop at a café run by a resident of Zur Yig’al, whose prices are “Israeli, not Palestinian,” according to a man from Tayibe who works there.
16 December 2010
Col. Eli Bar-On
Legal Advisor, Judea and Samaria Region
Dear Col. Bar-On,
We are writing you following complaints from the local council of the village of Masha and from its inhabitants regarding harm to the fabric of their lives, and to their livelihoods which depend on their olive groves in the seam zone. There are two fundamental issues which are but the tip of the iceberg representing many other problems created as a result of their lands being imprisoned in the seam zone.
A. Refusal to open“Hani’s gate” (named after the isolated house belonging to Hani, a Mahsa resident, that remains in the seam zone) so people can access lands in the seam zone:
This gate has been open to farmers with land in the seam zone during the three years since the fence was erected in 2004/5, and in this period farmers crossed with permits or had their ID numbers recorded at the agricultural gate.
About two years ago farmers with land near this gate were no longer permitted to cross through it, and were required to use the northern Masha gate – Gate 1534.
Unfortunately, that gate is more than three kilometers from the lands of many of the villagers, and to reach them they must walk through difficult rocky terrain, cross a hill and then a wadi in order to get to their lands near Hani Gate.
During last year’s olive harvest, in 2009, the farmers were unable to take their younger children to assist them because of the distance and difficulty walking, driving agricultural equipment or even riding on donkeys, which weren’t able to get through, and they were forced to carry the sacks of harvested olives on their shoulders to the distant northern gate.
But their nightmare didn’t end there. During this past year, 2010, a new neighborhood of the settlement of Etz Efraim has been under construction in the seam zone, adjacent to the Masha farmers’ olive groves. A ditch has been dug between the wadi and the construction site, making it impossible for farmers with lands near Hani Gate to reach it, and therefore they have no way to get to their land and harvest this year’s olives.
Their request to access their land by using the security road, with an escort, was not granted.
Thus, this year’s harvest in that area was lost, and the landowners’ livelihoods harmed.
Here are two cases of farmers who suffered from these restrictions:
Salah Muhammad Othman A’amer, ID No. 956715239. His family owns 25 dunums adjacent to Hani Gate, but not one of his family members who received a permit for Gate 1534 could reach the family’s land through that gate in order to harvest the olives.
Eid Abed Aljafar Muhammad A’amer, ID No. 99881774. His family owns 32 dunums. After complaining that he was unable to reach his land, he received a permit for the southern Azzun Atma gate, but he wasn’t able to reach his land from there either and had to go through the settlement of Elkana.
We should note that one day, at the beginning of the olive harvest season, the army opened Hani Gate to the farmers, but ten minutes later a member of the Elkana security staff drove up and announced he would not permit people to access their land. Military personnel that were present forced the farmers to return from whence they came.
During the harvest, moreover, when the problem at this gate became known, people approached the women of Machsom Watch, who immediately contacted the DCO officers, but were told by them to go through the Palestinian liason office.
The Palestinian liason office did, in fact, submit an updated list of farmers with land adjacent to the gate, and of their family members, but all its requests on behalf of the residents to open that gate were immediately and repeatedly denied. At the time of the final request they were told there were no longer any olives - they had apparently been stolen - so there was no longer any point in dealing with the issue.
B. Another serious problem is the fact that the gates to the village of Masha are seasonal, even though the village farmers own 2000 dunums of olive groves that are locked in the seam zone.
In additional villages such as Deir Al Gatzun, Zawiyya and others the gates are open year-round and farmers can access their groves daily and carry out all the work that has to be done during the different seasons of the year. In other villages, like Qafin, the agricultural gate is open a few times a week, but in Masha, on the other hand, the agricultural gate has been defined as “seasonal,” so the farmers can’t take care of their groves as they require, which harms their lives and their livelihoods, and leaves them vulnerable to additional damage, of persons coming from the Israeli side and harming them either by stealing the crops, as occurred this year, or by trespassing and bulldozing paths through their fields.
We expect immediate action to solve these problems so the army and the state of Israel will adhere to their commitment to maintain the farmers’ way of life, as it promised to do at every opportunity and in every document published when the fence was erected.
News from the field: A new regional council was established this week for seven villages in the Tulkarm sub-district.
A village with 3000 residents. Four hamulas. They have agricultural land, greenhouses, guava groves, citrus, avocado and fields of za’atar exported to Jordan. The odor of za’atar is in the air. Wells provide them with water and they irrigate with plastic piping.
We visited the local council and spoke to Abu Shakar, the mukhtar, his son and two other residents.
This is our second visit, and the repeated complaints are:
Negligence by soldiers at Falamiya gate: In the morning farmers are motioned through with a lazy wave of the hand; when they return in the afternoon the soldiers aren’t able to locate them on the lists of those who left in the morning, and then they’re either accused of being there illegally, or they’re sent to the DCO to renew their agricultural permit. They lose a day of work, and have expenses. We heard a similar complaint on our previous visit.
Reduction in the number of permits granted to farmers to work their lands. Non-renewal of existing permits.
A farmer with 200 sheep beyond the fence wanted to bring a tractor with feed through Falamiya gate this morning, but was permitted to bring only two sacks, and was required to coordinate betwee the Palestinian and Israeli DCO for the remainder. We tried to intervene and understand by phone. “Why?” “Because.”
Over coffee we discussed the situation. Abu Mazan isn’t much trusted; people expect a state to be established on the basis of the ’67 borders. The family had land in Tel Baruch and near the Mandarin Hotel by the sea. The Shalush family from Neve Zedeq would visit the village at the beginning of the last century. The father wants a state from sea to sea and he has a problem with the Zionists, not with the Jews, but the son doesn’t think he’s realistic.
Shakar’s son brought us from Beit Jamal to see the new regional council for seven villages. An splendid new building stands on the road between Zabed and Kur.
Mr. Farouk, the council head, welcomed us warmly. He’d been a school principal in Zabed for 26 years. His salary is paid by taxes from the villages of Jubara, Kur, Rax, Sur, Abbush, Beit Jamal and Zabed. He’s also prevented from working his fields – ten dunums of citrus. He leased the land to another farmer and loses NIS 10,000 a year.
He says that a flying checkpoint is erected once a week on the Zabed-Kur road for a few yours and soldiers inspect every car.
We returned via a visit to the Falamiya agricultural gate. The soldiers wouldn’t talk to us and made us stand far away.
Habla: 13:45 The children’s bus waits to cross and there’s a little traffic when the gate opens.
We arrive at the council building that overlooks a beautiful landscape (reviewed in our previous report) and meet the head of the village, Abu Tarek, who suggests that we go out to the houses of the people who voiced complains and see for ourselves what is going on at the site. Yusuf Jaaber, who was the first to complain, joins us.
Yusuf Abdul Karim Abdallah Jaaber:
Yusuf Jaaber had 50 dunams (12 acres) of land registered in his father's name at the Tabu [Land registration office] which are now within boundaries of the settlement of Ornit. In 1982 his land was invaded by a land company that acquired lands in Judea and Samaria and they started operating tractors. That company claimed to own the land as a result of an acquisition transaction carried out with the help of one of the land dealers in the West Bank from the village of Habla, a well known collaborator, who helped to forge the father's signature who had, supposedly agreed to sell the land. The family filed a lawsuit and won, after which the work in the place stopped but the trial went on. However, this was not the end of the story. One day in 2001, as Yusuf and his father were walking along the road on their way back to Sanniriya after working their land, a Palestinian car stopped next to them. The passengers warned them that walking along the road was prohibited and offered to give them a ride to Qalqiliya. They took them elsewhere and forced the father, who had no choice, to sign an authorization document, in which he asked to stop the land dispute trial. They filed another complaint but it seems that they lost their land in the trial. In the past they grew wheat and vegetables there. Today, 20 dunams of their land are covered with buildings. For the last 4 years they have had no access to their land that has, in all probability been sold. We have passed the information on to "Yesh Din" organization so that they check whether there is still something that can be done about it.
Magid Galb Barie
Magid's family has 150 dunams (37 acres) of land registered in the name of his grandmother, Safia, who left them to her five sons, one of whom is Magid's father. The lands, with olive groves on them, are located between Elkana and Ets Efrayim. This year Magid got a two week permit for the time of olive picking. However, in stead of opening the gate in the separation fence close to their lands, attached to their other lands but trapped inside the seam-line zone beyond the fence, Magid and landowners in the area of another ten families are sentenced to driving 5 kilometers from their houses in Sanniriya to Gate Bin Amin – known to us as Gate Azzun Atma north – where they get permission to walk back the same 5 kilometers or drive a tractor but not a private car on the patrol road in order to get to their lands. All in all, in those two weeks they drove or walked 20 kilometers daily to get to their lands that are within spitting distance from the village of Sanniriya. The route described above is hard on everyone, especially the older among them, and waste of precious time.
In addition to that, according to Magid, those two weeks didn't give them enough time to finish picking the olives from all the trees in their lands. But this was not the end of the troubles: In the last two years none of the farmers, including owners of two year permits, among whom are three of Magid's brothers – Saber, Mantasser and Yasser – was allowed to get to his lands to do the various seasonal tasks like pruning, plowing, weeding and insecticide spraying – tasks that have to be done either monthly or in a particular time of the year. These tasks, they were prevented from doing, are essential part of caring for the trees and guaranteeing next year's crops. In addition, the grass that grows in the fields and is not removed is one of the causes of the fires that break out almost annually in their fields and destroy the olive trees.
Magid, who came again and again to ask to open the gate and let him continue with the olive picking and do the other tasks, asked for a renewal of the permit after the olive harvesting time. He was presumably considered a trouble maker and was, because of that, refused on the grounds of security. Why was that necessary? To serve as a deterrent? The lords of the occupation and the Civil Administration may have the answers …
At this stage Magid asked to open an agricultural gate in the fence between Sanniriya and Efrayim Gate which will give them a direct access to their lands and enable them to do all the work that has to be done for cultivating the land and caring for the trees.
Abdel Karim Da'ud A-Sheih
His family has 35 dunams of land between Sha'arei Tikva and Ets Efrayim. The land is registered in the name of the 86 year old father and shared commonly with him and his four brothers.
This year he was late in requesting a permit for the olive picking because he preferred to pick the olives in the lands close to the village first, claiming that a lot of stealing, for which the people of Mas-ha were responsible . He himself had no permit, but one of his brothers had got one and when he came to the area, he found out that all the trees had already been picked. Shepherds from Mas-ha had entered place through gate 1534 before the olive harvesting began and picked all of Sanniriya's olives.
It must be said here that the permits are given to each of the villages at a different time, in accordance with the forces that the army allots for the issue of opening the gates and escorting the people on the patrol road. It seems that the people of the village of Mas-ha got the permits two or three weeks before the people of Sanniriya did and some of the Mas-ha people, enduring poverty and hardship, entered their neighbours' fields and stole their crops, which, unfortunately, often happens.
We watched the lands from the edge of the village, a distance of a few hundred meters, and then we drove to Beit Amit Gate (Azzun Atma north) and realized how long the distance from the gate to the lands is. Escorting the people on the patrol road is certainly necessary.
Translator: Charles K.
06:25 A’anin checkpoint
Why do you come here, a seven-year-old Bedouin girl waiting for a ride to school asks curiously.
What are you doing here, anyway, especially before 7 in the morning, asks one of the soldiers at the checkpoint, with hostility.
The final days of the olive harvest. There are still farmers complaining to us their children still haven’t gotten permits to help them pick. The harvest is a family operation, but it’s more important for the Occupation to show contempt for Palestinian traditions instead of honoring them.
Now we can see oil at the checkpoints, and problems connected to getting it through.
These days, about 150 people cross at A’anin every morning. During the olive harvest, the checkpoint is open every day. Soon it will go back to being open only twice a week, even though work in the olive groves won’t be completed for a few more months!
06:50 Shaked checkpoint
Very heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic at the checkpoint. A soldier in the concrete bunker in the middle of the checkpoint, cut off from reality. Wrapped in a tallit, praying. Swaying as required.
A tractor loaded with olive wood for heating is sent back. These are cuttings that pile up in the groves at the end of the harvest. He wants to bring them through the checkpoint, for heating and cooking.
The checkpoint’s female MP explains, “Cutting down olive trees is prohibited!”, while Abas, the DCO representative, says that a decision hasn’t yet been made. How much discussing and considering and wasting time is necessary for this? Why make things more and more difficult?
A minibus arrives, 26 small children who go to school in Tura, on the West Bank get out.
How could they all fit?
They fit. They fit. They’re crammed in.
A resident of the seam zone has 90 cans of oil to bring into the seam zone from the olive press on the West Bank. He’s not allowed to bring more than five a day, so he shows up daily and brings five across. He can bring them all in at one time through the Reihan checkpoint, which is far away, but he’d have to pay NIS 400 transport costs, which he doesn’t have.
A little boy, two years old, Amir, runs toward us through the checkpoint. The female MP runs after her, then understands someone is waiting for himon this side. Her father brought him from Tura to the checkpoint, and his uncle is taking him to his grandmother in Dahar al Malek. The youngest independent checkpoint user.
07:55 Dothan checkpoint
A Hummer parked in the middle of the checkpoint, soldiers standing around it, and for ten long minutes don’t let through any of the cars that are showing up on both sides. Then they let all of them through without inspection. Heavy vehicle traffic. A tattered Israeli flag flies again from the heights of the pillbox. Israeli flags wear out quickly here.
08:20 Reihan checkpoint
Lower parking lot: People enter and go through the fenced corridor leading to the terminal, where there’s a traffic jam. No one goes in. They stand outside a long time.
Landscaping and exterior design work has also reached the Palestinian parking lot – designs based on backgammon are everywhere, and a vine has been sent to climb the canopy over the waiting area, where the unemployed drivers usually snooze.
Upper parking lot: Many taxis (minibuses) wait for clients who aren’t exiting the terminal. People who do come out complain there are hundreds within. One hour. Two hours. The checkpoint administration – say they’re taking steps with respect to the crowding.
We saw no improvement by the time we left at 9.
Just inside the entrance to the terminal, two people who were in Israel without permits are waiting for their sentences – will they be sent home, or arrested. Meanwhile, they’ve been sitting here an hour.
15.00 A'anin CP is opened for those returning from picking olives. Those waiting complain again about the fact that they are not allowing members of their families to go out to work altogether and in particular to do olive-picking.
Little by little the olive-pickers arrive, some on foot and some on donkeys or tractors. Women whose husbands are not allowed to go out to work with them have a via dolorosa to go through. The inspecition is done manually with checks on the computer; this is done mostly by military policewomen, and everything is done very very slowly. They detain a young boy who does not have a permit. He is "hung out to dry" until the CP closes, and then they allow him to go through.
According to the soldiers, a hundred people have gone through the CP.
One of those coming back complains that there is no tap for water in the CP! Since morning, they have had very little to drink, only the water that they bring with them from home. And it is hard, especially because a person who returns earlier has to wait until 15.00 when the gate is opened.
16.30 Shaked CP.Quiet .... quiet.
17.00 Reihan CP. There are many cars in the parking lot all waiting for those coming back from work. The workers tell us that in the morning there was a delay in leaving the CP and they had to wait from 5.00 until 6.30 to go through.
A car is detained at the exit of inspection because two spare parts for brakes were found in it. They belong to the owner and are for his own use. The inspectors claimed that these are "spare parts" for trade and they have to be paid for in that light. There was a long argument and negotiations in which the owner claims that the product was open and not even boxed. He had already changed parts of one of the brakes. Those waiting behind the owner of the car are very angry -- is this a life? ... finally they let him go through with the parts. But why did they have to embitter him?
Translator: Charles K.
The checkpoint opened at five-thirty; by now 30 people have gone through. A few dozen are still waiting. Inspection takes place in the middle of the checkpoint, making it hard to see what’s going on. Abbas, the DCO representative, is there. People say the soldiers are checking documents against computer lists. Relatively many women come out riding donkeys, old people carrying wooden poles and sacks, and tractors pulling wagons in which olive pickers are riding, going to the grove.
The Bedouin children didn’t show up for school today. A two-day holiday because of the olive picking.
Two people complain that family members weren’t allowed to cross despite the permit they’d just received. They were sent to the DCO. Abbas, the DCO representative, told us over the phone that the two of them didn’t come back to A’anin after work, so they were sent to the DCO. He promised to solve the problem. The wife of one of those refused entry said that wasn’t the case, that her husband received the permit only last night and today is the first day he’ll be picking – how could he not have returned?
Someone else: He has four children at home; not one received a crossing permit for the harvest. No, he hasn’t spoken to Abbas…Should he? Will it help? OK, tomorrow he’ll go to the DCO. We took down his information and will check to see whether the children received permits.
Another man tells us about a large olive grove he owns. Despite repeated requests, for two years he didn’t receive a permit to harvest the crop. Except once – for half a year. “Why?” He has all the ownership papers. Yesterday he received a permit valid until November 22! “What if I don’t finish by then?” He has a few hundred olive trees that have been neglected for years. His father, who owns the land, is 88 years old and hasn’t gone to the grove for years. But there’s no one to talk to. Bitterly he shouts what he has to say, gesticulating expansively. “We’re afraid to talk to them…they’re high officers, we’re simple people.”
We ask whether he spoke to Abbas, and he repeats himself over and over. “They yell at us…We’re afraid of them…I’m a (poor) clerk, he’s an Israeli army officer – do you think he’ll talk to me?” He wants to plant sesame and onions and other vegetables in the grove after the olive harvest. It’s his land, isn’t it? So what? Do you think they’ll let him? That the government will let him? Why do they open the checkpoint only twice a week? Why do they close it at 7 in the morning? They don’t have time in the morning to pray and get ready. Why do they close it at all? Why all these restrictions? It’s his land. Yes or no? So why do they prevent him?
Anyway, another person intervenes in the discussion, the whole area of the checkpoint and the security road was once a large olive grove, 100 years old. They’ve worked the land since his great-grandfather’s time, the land was his before the Zionists (came), and now they’ve not only taken the land, they’ve erected a checkpoint blocking their lives, and then do him a favor by allowing him to go through to his grove twice a week.
It’s difficult to deal with the strong feelings and frustration expressed by these people. It’s hard to follow his stream of complaints filled with outrage and helplessness at their humiliation.
At 7 the checkpoint closes. Abbas drives by, talking on the phone, not looking our way. Doesn’t see, doesn’t hear
07:10 Shaked checkpoint
The checkpoint is open; few cross. Some students (apparently) on their way to the West Bank. Cars come and go. Pupils have a two-day vacation for the olive harvest.
A man hobbles through the checkpoint. His shoes have metal in them, and was told to remove them in the inspection building. He came out before putting them back on.
Someone else, who lives in Umm Riehan, bought a vehicle five months ago. He’s trying to register it with the DCO so he won’t have problems going through the checkpoint. He went to Ramallah, where he was told that the information about the purchase had been sent to the DCO. He’s already been to the DCO four times, waited hours only to hear that not all the documents had been received. Sometimes they do him a favor and let him cross, sometimes they refuse because he’s not listed.
Mahdi suggests the man go to the DCO now and he’ll handle him personally. The man decides to drive to the DCO, he drives into the middle of the checkpoint and we wait to see whether or not he’ll get through. After a few minutes waiting and a check he calls to us that they let him through – but “this is the last time…”
08:00 Barta’a-Reihan checkpoint
The parking lot is filled with cars. Four drivers wait under the canopy, some praying. Pickup trucks and private cars from the West Bank are waiting to be inspected. Drivers sit meanwhile on the road in the shade of the cars, smoking a narghila.
A line of cars on the way to the West Bank wait to be inspected. Taxi passengers wait outside the vehicle.
Another noticeable innovation in the ornamental garden. After decorating the plaza with concrete cubes that look like backgammon dice, here’s the real thing: black and white pavement stones – backgammon! You can play at the checkpoint.
A refreshing innovation: two new bathrooms, for men and for women, fully furnished. There’s even a mirror in the women’s bathroom, that Ron promised to install (two years ago) – Ron keeps his promise!
People occasionally cross to Barta’a while we’re here.
08:20 Hermesh checkpoint
The two barriers in the middle of the road with the yellow iron bars are closed as usual. For security reasons, I assume…The Hermesh checkpoint, on the road to Tulkarm, is open. There are no soldiers there.
A soldier with an American accent, filled with good intentions, explains politely that we can’t stand here, only over there. For our own security, of course. He can’t guarantee our safety here. This is a checkpoint. We explain politely that where we’re standing is not a checkpoint, and anyway…etc. etc. He doesn’t agree. Tells us that he’ll stop letting vehicles cross as long as we stand there. We tell him that’s illegal, and wonder whether to complain, meanwhile writing down what’s happening. He volunteers to provide his details and is willing to go to court with us. We give in. We don’t need his details but insist on standing there. Meanwhile a line of 4-5 cars has formed, and the polite soldier goes from one to the other to explain to the drivers that he’s not letting them through because of us. We’re the ones causing the delay. It’s not his fault. They should know!
At this point we saw no point in being stubborn, and left.