An especially difficult day.
09:30 Departure from Rosh Ha'Ayin.
10:00 Arrival at Dir Balut. We were supposed to begin a session with a group of women, as was agreed with them last week. The feeling is festive. To our surprise, a lad arrives from the council house and informs us that the women will not come. Without prior notification, without explanation. Nadim calls Nivin, the organizer. At first she is evasive. And bit by bit the truth is exposed: one of the council memebers opposes our activity and under his influence it was decided to cancel our activities.
How can such a step be explained? One reason which, as far as we are concerned, it is easier to digest is – "the conservative men don't want to expose the women to "modernity". A more difficult reason – "we don't need your favours". Be it as it may,the fact was that we were kicked out. Sad.
10:15 Departure for a tour.
As we had time on our hands, we decided to make it an expanded tour. We didn't imagine that we would find ourselves in the heart of a terrorist attack which would develop into Price Tag. On the way to the Tapuah junction we already saw more military vehicles that usual. At the junction itself. Near the bus station, there was a big gathering.
Policemen, soldiers, armed settlers. We approach and try to find out what has happened. It turned out that around 09:00 hrs a Palestinian fatally stabbed a settler from Yitzhar, snatched his weapons, and tried to get away. Soldiers shot at him and wounded him. He isn't around anymore, was evacuated by ambulance to the hospital.
A woman settler tells us assuredly that the assassin is from Kafr Yassuf, near Yitzhar. Later it transpires that he came from afar: from the village of Shwayka near Tul Karem (it may be hoped that at least for the moment Kafr Yassuf is saved from a retaliatory act…).
We tried to extract explanations: what led to the stabbing? After all it is not logical to assume that a person looking for revenge would choose such a long trail so far from his home (which makes his rescues in a hiding place more difficult) just in order to stab somebody? Just like that? What was the trigger that cause the violent outburst? Was there a prior acquaintanceship between them? What inflamed the atmosphere between the settler and the Palestinian prior to the stabbing?
We didn't get any answers to our querries. Will the investigators eventually try to find out whether the stabber had a motive? This remains to be seen.
While the military Zaka people (a religious organization of volunteers for finding and rescuing people injured in a disaster) perform their work, young people who fit according to their looks the description of the Youth of the Hills arrive from nowhere and the atmosphere becomes heated. One young man tries to shoo us away. "Who are you, are you the police?" we ask. And the answer, directed at Natalie is: "If you weren't a woman, I would crack your skull".
11:00 We leave. On the radio we hear the details of the event. Military jeeps patrol along the road. Every 100-200 meters there is a group of soldiers who block with spikes vehicles which drive in the direction of the Tapuah intersection. We, driving in the opposite direction. Pass without being checked.
All along the way, at the entries to each village, there are road blocks. Nobody can enter or leave. We arrive at Huwwara. Surprisingly the main road is lively. But in sporadic conversations with people it transpires that they are aware of the going-ons: "There is a mess". And indeed there is.
Ambulances pass with sirens, driving at high speed in both directions. And that's the reason: at the exit from Huwwara, at the roadside, there is a parked bus which drove girl pupils from their school. The front window is smashed. Wounded girls are transferred by ambulance for medical treatment. The price tag has begun its activities.
At the order of the border policemen we turn around and go in the opposite direction. Large groups of settlers, some of whom are armed, are seen along the road. How did they manage to pass through the police and army checkpoints??
12:30 Back to Rosh Ha'Ayin, to another reality, to another country. The news announce that the price tag activities which we witnessed are only the beginning.
09:45 Leaving Rosh Ha'Ayin.
10:15 Arrival at Dir Balut. We went there in order to meet a group of women. Today's meeting was coordinated with the organizer, Nivin two weeks ago, in a preliminary meeting which Dvorka initiated in order to promote in the village the opening of new groups for language learning and handicraft.
Very slowly as was to be expected, seven women gathered in the council building. All of them expressed their wish for "both this and that": learning Hebrew and handicraft. Their interest grew when Yehudit present to them some handicraft specimens .
We agreed to begin next week already, in the hope that till then the number of participants would grow.
Nadim performed an excellent job of translating and communication between us and the women.
In the village itself we saw a few phenomena the likes of which we didn't see in other villages. Marketing entrepreneurship: A loudspeaker on a tender driving slowly in the street of the village and announcing the sale of "friki" – germinated wheat. Women sitting at the entrance of their houses and offering to the passersby their merchandise – houmus and garlic plants. A Maternity center, the local parallel of "Tipat Halav" (Drop of Milk – the Israeli maternity care). Vine arbours on the roofs, paint the landscape green and give it pastoral feeling.
And at the exit from the village, on both sides of the road, meticulously cultivated vegetable gardens on a large piece of land. This too is a non conventional view in the west bank villages, which are mainly surrounded by olive trees.
And then, while we drive on, the threatening reality comes to view: on the ridge to our right the villas of Peduel. On the left – those of Aley Zahav. On the edges of the two settlements one can see new house at different levels of accomplishment. How long will the relative calmness of Dir Balut last, before the greedy neighbours on the left and on the right will continue expanding and will rob the land of the village?...
In the villages of A Diq and Barukin it is quiet. There is no sign of military presence.
12:15 Back to Rosh Ha-Ayin.
10:00 We drove to Deir Balut. Heading southwest on Highway 446 we see Jewish construction continuing on both sides. North of the road, on the ridge where the settlement of Alei Zahav sits, the neighborhood/locality (?) of Leshem is being built diligently. The same is happening south of the road, on the ridge where the settlements of Beit Arieh and Pdu’el are located. The tempo of construction is really frightening. On both ridges building extends almost to the junction of the road to Ramallah and Jerusalem, where there was once a checkpoint. On both sides of the road from there to Deir Balut are cultivated fields with well-cared-for crops. Let’s hope no one covets them…
Southwest of Deir Balut we see troubling new fence construction.
We came to Deir Balut to meet the coordinator of activities for women; about two months ago she asked to speak with us about possible activities in the village. In the absence of the elected local council head she was joined by the city engineer. She lives in Bidiya but works in Deir Balut. Nadim was very helpful translating and explaining what each side was saying. The city engineer speaks a little English, which also helped.
We told them about Machsom Watch and why we’d come, and heard a little about the village. It turns out there are almost no community activities for women – except infrequently, when outsiders offer help or training (non-professional) in various areas. We offered to teach English, handicrafts and perhaps lead exercise classes, and told them about the “Beach Days.” The coordinator preferred Hebrew classes. We decided to return in two weeks to meet with the women themselves to find out what they’d like.
12:00 On our way back we drove through the villages of a-Diq and Brukin. We saw almost no cars on the road and in the villages, nor any sign of the army.
We shortened our shift because of other commitments. Nadim was asked for his ID at the Shomron gate. We weren’t delayed.
En route on Highway 5 we see accelerated construction at the Ariel industrial zone, Barkan.
Kafr ad Diq
We met with J.A., the new village head, who welcomed us warmly. He has no complaints with respect to permits and the seam zone. But about a week ago they began seeing surveyors’ marks in their agricultural lands. They’re afraid Israel has its eye on a hill overlooking the area and the settlements of Fadu’el and Aley Zahav. The area has olive groves which are intensively cultivated by the Palestinians even though they’re in Area C. We drove there with him; a pleasant spring day, pastoral, amazing flowers. Alongside an agricultural track we see red numbers on boulders. We photograph some of them for documentation, to find out what they are and to give them to Dror Etkes. We met a farmer on the way building a stone wall to keep out goats. He describes the route of the numbers cutting across the fields and up the aforementioned hill. On the way back to the village, J. shows us two buildings in the final stages of construction which received "stop work" orders two days ago because they lack required permits, even though they’re on privately owned land. But, unfortunately, they’re on the border between Area C and the Palestinian Authority. We take photocopies of the "stop work" orders to find out what will happen to the buildings, without making any great promises.
On our way to Deir Ballut the infrastructure work at Aley Zahav and Fadu’el and the expansion of the settlements is obvious.
The head of the village isn’t there; J.H., the young village engineer, meets us instead. She lives in Biddya, studied architecture at Al Najah University in Nablus. Deir Ballut has 8000 dunams of agricultural land beyond the fence, but because they were used for growing non-irrigated crops like wheat and barley their owners aren’t entitled to agricultural permits, so the agricultural gate in the fence doesn’t open to give them access to their lands. In 2004 and 2006 the villagers tried to return to those lands, planting olive trees which were uprooted. Since then they’ve stopped trying. The village also suffers from the army’s surprise visits and from arrests.
[Local atmosphere - photo of a pond formed by rain at the entrance to Deir Ballut.]
In the past, A’adel, the DCO head in Qalqiliya, had been relatively cooperative and demonstrated good will, but recently he doesn’t respond when we try to contact him, claiming that solutions have to come from the Palestinian DCO and the Israeli appeals committees.
We’re not sure how to continue our activities in the seam zone, because of this stiffer attitude as well. One thing we’re considering is becoming more involved in cases of people denied permits, encouraging and accompanying Palestinians appearing before appeals committees, and/or keeping a record of applications for the coming olive harvest like we did, in part, in the past. We’ll be glad to hear additional ideas.
There were many disturbances reported on the West Bank the morning we went to the villages, many incidents and violent confrontations because of how inmates are treated and the death of the prisoner Arafat Jaradat. The radio also reported rioting in Huwwara
. To our amazement, when we passed there on our way back the entire area, including Za’tara junction, Huwwara and the crossing, was open and calm. What could it mean?
10:00 - Eliyahu crossing Not many vehicles or people in the new "installation". 'Azzun: We stopped to buy water and a number of people immediately approached us in order to tell us their problems. A father of a child receiving treatment in Tel Hashomer Hospital, who had undergone an operations on his hands, needed a permit for the next operation and ran into problems; a youth whose travel permit had expired in July, who is unemployed, while his elderly parents are still working their fields on the other side of the fence; a metal worker from a factory in Karnei Shomron who, along with many of his co-workers, is owed quite a bit of money for his work, and his Israeli employer forgets to pay them. We tried to help everyone by giving them the appropriate phone numbers and explanations, hoping they will find solutions to their problems. We continued on route #3, very well-described by Daliah, and arrived at the southern checkpoint of 'Azzun Atma, through which, of course, one cannot pass. Returned to 'Azzun Atma where we clarified, with the shop owner, if the army visits at night. The answer is yes. Sometimes they stop, sometimes just pass through. One of the residents told us that he has olive groves in Oranit and, until 2 years ago, they let him pass through and harvest them. Now, however, he has not been able to get there for two years. Once, as a boy, he worked in the shuk in Petah Tikva; today he is an infrastructure builder and has been building the new roads.
By way of Mascha we arrived at the southern checkpoint of Mascha (near the Hani Gate), at a time when the gate is open, at 12:30, for a couple of minutes. The 3 families who received permits to harvest the olives in the fields close to Elkana - opposite the gate - came back with their donkeys laden with olives. We spoke with Ayad, who didn't get a permit this year and was waiting in the car for his family. Opposite them, they are building 120 apartments. It will be interesting to see whether they receive permits for the harvest when these apartments are occupied... We continued to Bidia and crossed underneath road #5 to Dir Balut and from there back to Israeli at 13:00.
Translator: Charles K.
The gate opened at the appointed time. The first 5 people to be inspected are being held up in the booth. Yael asks the commander what’s happening and he says there are problems with the computer.
Yael calls the humanitarian office and suggests that the people entering be checked manually.
07:02 The first ones finally exit. Meanwhile the line lengthens.
People exit at the rate of five every five minutes.
07:15 A truck with seedlings that has been waiting since we arrived, goes through.
People waiting on line sound irritable. Yael calls the humanitarian office again.
A father and 13 year old son cross to work at the plant nursery.
In answer to our questions he says, “We’re not in school; there’s no money.”
A woman is stopped at the checkpoint because her permit is said to be forged. She swears she got it at the crossing. The commander promises us that they’ll make an exception and bring someone from the DCO to issue a crossing permit.
07:35 We leave. A Palestinian who read what’s written in Arabic on our ID tags applauds.
07:44 Eliyahu crossing: There are no more people at checkpoint 109.
08:00 We enter the village of Immatin to give documents to A.
We turn onto Route 60.
08:40 Huwwara checkpoint:
Traffic flows, a doghandler and her dog walk back and forth, a few trucks are turned back.
Merchandise isn’t allowed through.
10:00 ZA'tara/Tapuach junction: No delays.
Access to Marda from Route 505 is open. Access to Zeita is open.
10:10 After turning onto Route 446 we enter the village of Bruqin. An amiable woman standing in front of a second-hand clothing store answers Yael’s questions. She’d like to obtain used clothing for the shop.
10:40 The road to Deir Ballut is blocked.
10:50 We turn north from Route 446 toward Mas-ha, but there’s no way to cross into Israel.
We return to Deir Ballut, turn onto Route 5 (the cross-Samarian highway) and return to Tel Aviv via the Shomron crossing.
Chana S. translating
8.00 We began on route 5 towards the southern checkpoint at Azzun Atme.
We got out of the car at the side of the road opposite the checkpoint. Under the fig tree there sat a group of men waiting for transport to work.
At the checkpoint itself a number of Palestinians wait to pass out of the village, passing one by one through the carousels to be checked.
At first the woman commander was hostile. But after a short conversation (in which we explained that our previous reports also contained positive remarks) she told us that they opened the checkpoint at 4.30.
She said also that passage at the northern checkpoint was free and if we entered there we could come out through the southern one.
We returned to route 5 and continued to the turnoff to 446 and southwards towards Beth Aryeh until the Deir Ballut junction. There are road works preparing a road to Deir Ballut. On both sides of the road are fields of cucumbers, onions and garlic. Women carry loads of these to a shed near the junction.
The women were friendly and offered us cucumbers. The man responsible for the fields tells us that he fears that after the road has been completed they will block this junction to Palestinians, as this road also serves settlers.
At the junction itself there is a sign that clearly denotes both the settlements and the Palestinain villages that the road leads to.
We returned north-east to Haris. The gate at the entrance is open so we wandered around the village.
The roads are in a very bad state, half the shops are closed.
Lots of children in the streets, some of them in school uniform.
We continued through Biddya, Mas'ha, Sanniriya and Beit Amin and reached the northern checkpoint of Azzun Atma. The checkpoint was open, without soldiers. We entered and crossed the village in order to exit the southern checkpoint. There we were refused passage, contrary to what we had been told.
As we insisted, the soldiers phoned for instructions. At the same time Nava tried to find out if there was indeed permission to pass. While waiting for an answer we sat with some locals who told us that soldiers regularly enter the village and ask to see documents. They even asked a 13 year-old for his and took him home to see his birth certificate. This morning the officer in charge wouldn’t let one of these men pass as she saw from a distance that he was holding a bag with electrical equipment.
One man said that a few days ago settlers from Sha'arei Tikvah threw stones at him. Another said that before they were surrounded by walls and fences there had not been problems with settlers.
We were not given permission to pass through this checkpoint and returned via azzun.
The shift concentrated on areas near the green line and the separation barrier.
It seems that because of the closure there was little traffic between the villages as if it were Friday.
Report on existing checkpoints, old and new.
The exit from the village of Adik to the main road (continuation of road 446 in the direction of road 5). Because Palestinians are allowed to travel in this area it is not clear what the security reasons are for still blocking this exit while all the other barriers in the area have been taken down and Palestinians travel the road.
But if one looks on the map of the settlements all along the road, Peduel (a completely new settlement) , Bruchin, Alei-Zahav, at all of which one can see the continuous building it seems that the real reason is: to prevent the tractors going through to the area of olive groves and nurseries. Cars have no problem getting through Bruchin but for a tractor to travel 10-20 kilometres each day to the olive groves and back is a considerable expense.
The checkpoint of Deir Ballut on road 446 is not manned but also not taken down.
On the road north in the direction of Zawiya is a red sign stating that the area is area A (it should only be so). As we did not know about new Oslo agreements this is an incorrect sign.
The passage from the road which enters Ariel towards Salfit is still blocked even though there is a new sign there showing the way to Salfit.
The checkpoint at the entrance to Kifl-Haris is not manned but the sentry tower still stands thre and the iron gate as well.
The checkpoint south of the village of Azzun-Atma. The entrance is limited to people living west of the checkpoint. Also goods are limited. The commander is quite at ease in his role as the "economic superintendent" “Why should Arabs make a living? One has to give Israel the opportunity” so the corporal tell us.
A new fence has been built which joins the old fence near to the fork in the roads of Alfei-Menashe – Ras-Tirah , encompasses from the north and east Ras-Tirah and joins the existing fence south of Ras-Tirah.
The traffic from the villages which were in the enclave of Alfei-Menashe : Ras-Tirah, Dabah, part of the tribe of Wadi Rasha, to Qalqiliya and the villages in the area are free but a large amount of their lands still remain on the side of Alfei Menashe and can only be reached through two agricultural gates and is therefore access is limited.
The checkpoint at the exit and entrance south of Qalqiliya of the Palestinian security forces. The checkpoint of the Palestinian police is at the first exit, east of Qalqiliya.
The agricultural gate at Habla. This is the passage of the residents of Habla and Qalqiliya to their lands.The hours of opening in the evening are 16.45 to 17.45. IN winter the opening hours are later. So the IDF sees to it that they cannot work until late in the summer on their fields. Of course it is only the highest security reasons behind the decision of the army as to at what hour the gate should be opened.
The checkpoint at the Eliyahu crossing/gate 109 is active today even though there is a closure of workers entering Israel.
Checkpoint which have been taken down in the area in which we travelled:
The exit from the village of Bruqin to road 5, which goes on to road 446. The barricade was taken down during the olive harvest. The Palestinian road which was closed by a grey gate is now open to traffic.
The exit from Haris to the crossroads of Bruqin is open.
The checkpoint at Qarawat Bani Hassan which has not been manned for a long time, the gate if taken down but there are two big boulders of which one has no warning in the middle of the road.
The entrance to Azzun-Atma is open , the northern checkpoint is not manned, since the beginning of April . The buildings of the checkpoint are still present.
The fence south of the village of Dabah and Hirbet Ras and from the east to Ras Atiah, has been taken down.
The children ride on bicycles in the road. Others are breaking up pieces of iron on the side of the road . One boy holds a red sign in his hand which forbids touching the fence that once was there. Tractors are loading the barbed wire which the army left. Villages which were kept apart when the fence was put up are coming together again as it is taken down and people who were kept far from their lands even when these were next to their homes now can enter them as their owners.
But others who have now had their lands enclosed are very far from them.
The route taken:
Road 5, descent to the crossroads of Bruqin and travelling through the checkpoijnt of A-dik village as far as the checkpoint of Deir Ballut on road 446, returning in the direction of road 5, the entrance to Bruqin and travelling on the Palestinian road to Kif'l Haris, the continuation to Qarawat Bani Hassan, Bidiah, Saniriya, Beit Amin, Azzun-Atma. Entering the road to the village and continuing to the southern checkpoint. Back to the graove and continuing to Ras Atiah. Crossing the security road and gong on to the village of Dabah.
We looked over the fence which was taken down and the security road which is now an ordinary road. Back to the area which had been the checkpint of Ras-Atiah and along the former security road where the fence has been taken down until the place where the road is blocked by a part of the old fence which joins the new fence which encircles Hirbit Ras-Atiah. There is now an agricultural fence and we do not know if it is already working.
Back to the former security road and continuing along it to the north up to the place where the new fence meets the old one at the Habla enclave.
Looking over the agricultural gate which is at the fork in the roads where before one turned to Hirbit Aras from the Alfei Menashe road. Back to the old security road, corssing Ras Atiah and going on to the gate at Habla. The soldiers refuse to let us pass and we go back and come out through the southern neighborhood of Qalqiliya admiring the lanes and gardens of the roads of the city.
17:15 Deir Ballut Checkpoint - not manned.
17:25 Azzun Atma Checkpoint
Ten cars and an old man on a donkey from the direction of the West Bank, waiting to be checked at the entrance to the village.
We approached the checkpoint, and even passed the yellow gate to try and count the long line of cars curving around the sloping road at the exit from the village. A commander prevented us from crossing to the other side, or even standing between the checking stations, and declared that these few metres are his private territory and, after two minutes while talking/arguing with us the yellow gate was closed in order that everyone should understand who was causing delays here.
We went out beyond the gate, which immediately opened. Despite the pre4sence of more than ten soldiers on the ground, only cars from the West Bank side were being checked. On the other side the number in line mounted from 12 to 20.
Five pedestrians were checked and passed through, one by one.
17:50 - a phone call to the Centre to complain about the situation perhaps caused them to speed up. The line ended and they began to deal with outbound cars.
Again a line of ten pedestrians coming out of the village, mostly getting rides in the cars being passed through relatively quickly, but at any given moment between 5-10 pedestrians waiting.
18:10 - again two cars are passed through to the village, and they go back to dealing with the outbound traffic.
18:30 Jalud Checkpoint
The southern exit from Qalqiliya. Four cars in line, each being checked including passenger IDs. In response to Hagar's question why they are checking travellers from the West Bank to Qalqiliya, which is also Palestine, the answer was that it is order to prevent drug smuggling...
18:45 - Azzun with open passages.
13:54 – Dir Balut roadblock – the block was lifted and traffic moves freely, but soldiers are present on site. According to the soldiers, they do not inspect cars unless there's a suspicious car. From what they say, Palestinians are now allowed to drive on the road going up from the junction toward Peduel, Aley Zahav, and Kafer Adik, and from there to road 5, a road on which Palestinians were forbidden to travel. There was almost no Palestinian car traffic while we stayed at the junction so that we couldn't verify that they are indeed allowed to travel on this road. We continued driving on road 446 northwards and went under the bridge on road 5 where there was no roadblock.
In Masakha – near the lone house belonging to Hani, inside the separation wall, a wall was put up that divides him from the village houses.
15:10 – Azzun – the main exit from the village to road 55 was opened this morning at 10:00 according to the testimony of one of the residents. The exit to road 55 near Izbet Tabib was also opened, according to him.
Road 574 at the exit from Azzun, under road 55 – there's a rolling block which turns out to be a drill in putting up a roadblock. The soldiers block traffic completely for 10 minutes and then go away.
Ar-Ras checkpoint – 10 cars from the north.
Jubara – a group of 10 detainees – laborers returning from Israel without permits. They are detained by the soldiers as punishment.
Anabta – 25 cars in both directions. Inspection is symbolic only. Each car takes about 15 minutes to cross.
The two blocks at Funduq were lifted.
Kafer Laqif – the block on the exit to road 55 was lifted.