12:00 Tapuach checkpoint – unmanned but many uniforms seen in the car park next to the checkpoint itself.
12:20 Ma’ale Efrayim Checkpoint – unmanned. Nor was it manned at 17:00 on our way back.
13:30 – Bekaot (Hamra) Checkpoint – a long waiting line of 12 vehicles on the east side of the checkpoint, found for the West Bank hills. A soldier approaches us and asks “Who are you?” I answer politely and ask him about the checkpoint – and he turns his back and leaves. Totally ignoring my question. We sometimes encounter such crassness in soldiers, result no doubt of habits acquired during their army service – when one treats other humans as inferior creatures on a daily basis, this sense is entrenched in one’s consciousness.
However, nearly immediately the soldiers begin to allow the cars through and within minutes the line disappears. IDs are inspected in both directions, but passengers stay in the vehicles for the crossing, and the pedestrian crossing remains empty.
14:10 – Tyassir – slow passage, careful inspections in both directions, but the passengers remain inside the vehicles. Again, a soldier is sent to inquire who we are. About 20 minutes later an army jeep stops across the road from us. The driver comes over to chat. He is a Druze from Usfiya. Tells us about the repeated evacuations of Palestinians from their encampments in the area for the sake of army maneuvers. Says it’s a shocking sight. Just like the house demolitions taking place in the Jordan Valley. The sight of people remaining without a roof over their heads in the harsh weather conditions of this region. He is deeply moved, he said. Blames the Civil Administration that only wants to hurt and remove Palestinians. The soldiers are good, he says, it’s all the Administration’s fault. Well…
At the checkpoint, too, the soldiers are good now. They are there for 3 months. The ones before them made trouble, but the unit that mans the checkpoint at present is okay. Thus the soldier-driver. And he returned to his mates who waited for him in the jeep.
We paid a visit to our friend A. His children were scurrying among the sheep pens playing hide and seek and catch, laughing and making the kind joyful sounds that have long disappeared from the streets of my own neighborhood. The girls reluctantly went to milk the sheep and goats, and the parents sat with us along with a neighbor who dropped in. We are told that the water tanker that used to supply him and his neighbors with water - because Israel has blocked all their wells and does not allow them to pump any – was impounded at Hamra Checkpoint 2 days ago because it weighed half-a-ton more than the 15 ton allowance. How the soldiers at the checkpoint established the half-ton overweight is not clear. I have never seen a truck-scale at the checkpoint nor witnessed the weighing of trucks at the site. Police was summoned, the driver paid a 1700 NIS fine, and still the tanker is being held. In the meantime dozens of families are thirsting for water. Women, children, the elderly, the ill, all without water. And the weather is already heating up…
The Palestinian Jordan Valley
The heat in the Valley reaches 36 degrees centigrade.
Brutality of military maneuvers – again, 200 families Palestinian are evacuated from their homes for 24 hours.
Fires are started by the army to prevent Palestinians from grazing their flocks.
Maale Efrayim Checkpoint
Unmanned in the morning, manned in the afternoon.
Passengers remain in the cars as they cross in both directions. This is a significant relief in the horrendous heat that has descended on the Jordan Valley these days. But the cars are inspected, one by one, even when Nablus-bound, driving into Palestinian-controlled areas.
Forced evacuation – the suffering inflicted upon hundreds of humans as a result of the Israeli army’s war games is indescribable, and intended apparently to make them leave. About 200 families received evacuation orders from today at 6 p.m. until tomorrow at 4 p.m. All the areas near the road leading to Tyassir and the Checkpoint – Al Maleh, part of En Al Hilwa, and the area east of Alon Road (no. 578), Samara, as well as Ras Al Ahmar – west of the Alon Road, parallel to Bekaot.
These days are sizzling hot. The Palestinians say “Al diniya nar” – The world is on fire. The sun bakes the earth and one can hardly breathe. And out of all possible days, now is the time they choose to expel people – women, the elderly, sick people, and children, along with their livestock – from their homes, to sit without any shelter in the sun for a whole night and a day. This isn't the first time – in recent months, inhabitants of Al Maleh and Ras al Ahmar have been evacuated every two weeks. But this time,
because of the extreme heat, is particularly brutal. The Palestinians watch many of their sheep to die.
It is hard to view this misery and the fear of what awaits them in these 24 hours. They clasp their hands and repeatedly ask, “Shu binsawi?” What are we to do? Some hours before the evacuation, we sit wi
th the elderly couple who in January, and before that in December, lost their home to the army’s demolition action – and we have no words for them.
I have contacted the OCHA office and was told they know and have tried to persuade the army to let
the people stay, but in vain. They will bring the people water!
The novelty now is that Palestinians east of the road, in Samara, were also evacuated. The army told them it intended to fire from there towards the western side of the Alon Road. And we ask – if it’s dangerous to the point that people have to be evacuated from their homes, will the road be closed off too, the road that serves mainly Jewish settlers? Or do Jews have some kind of intrinsic special protection?
The single consolation is that the army has created an opening in the dirt dyke that separates the Jordan Valley from the hilly West Bank area, in order to deploy tanks and troops westwards from the Alon Road, and contact between the inhabitants of Hadidiya, Humsa and Makhoul and their life-center in the West Bank is now totally open.
North of the Jewish settlement Ro’i we saw an charred area of a few hundred square meters, around the army base “Sea’ra”. On our way back we witnessed the mountain southeast of Hamra Checkpoint in flames – a huge, thickly smoking fire (we were told it has been on fire for the past three days). Around the Jewish settlement of Mekhora we also saw hundreds of square meters up in flames, up to the periphery of the settlement and its fruit tree groves, as far as the eye can see. All is black, the color of the arsonists’ soul. Evidently these are controlled fires where the safety of the settlements and army camps are well looked after. The army is burning all of these areas in order to prevent Palestinians from letting their flocks graze. As if stealing all their water and denying them the possibility of tilling their fields were not enough. As if it were not enough to deny them access to most of their lands. Herds of sheep and goats are these farmers’ last resort, but the grazing area is meager and as the summer desiccates it, the Palestinians wander on and on in search of a bit of greenery. But the occupier will not grant them even this, and burns the sparse vegetation in order to prevent even this minimal source of existence. (see photos).
It’s a gray, hot, hazy day; the world around us seems to have passed out…
13:00 Tapuach Junction checkpoint
Unmanned. On our way back, at 17:30, still unmanned, but 3 Border Policemen sit there, openly bored.
13:20 – Maale Efraim checkpoint
Unmanned. In the afternoon, at 17:15, 3 reservists man the checkpoint but cars pass unchecked.
15:00 and 16:45- Hamra checkpoint
Manned by reservists. Passengers in both directions are not required to disembark. This is a relief, that can be repealed at any moment as we saw on March 19, when in the morning people could cross in their cars and in the afternoon they were forced to disembark and cross the checkpoint on foot.
Cars traveling to the Jordan Valley are checked, their driver made to disembark and stand beside the car. Cars traveling into the West Bank were not checked.
On March 23, the checkpoint was closed for about 3.5 hours (according to a phone report). It was evening and the soldiers directed the Palestinian vehicles to the fields south of the checkpoint and instructed them to bypass it, unchecked. A bus load of school children on their way home from a school trip was not able to manage the dirt road and the children had to sit still inside the bus for all of 3.5 hours. Around 8 p.m. the checkpoint was reopened for traffic. A phone call to the DCO produced the following answers:
1. A Palestinian reached the checkpoint and tried to attack the soldiers.
2. (later) An explosive charge was discovered in his things and they were waiting for a robot to come and detonate it.
Before the checkpoint was reopened a blast was heard.
Talking with a Palestinian today, we heard there’s a rumor about that a 15-year-old boy was arrested following the blast incident and passed on for interrogation to the Palestinian security services. Admittedly, this is but a rumor and has not been verified by anyone.
15:30 Tyassir checkpoint
Here too, the soldiers are reservists, friendly and smiling. The traffic is scant and passage swift. Passengers cross inside their cars, wave to us in greeting and say that crossing this morning was alright, too.
Generally speaking, things are calm, we saw no army forces on maneuvers, and the presence of soldiers on the ground was relatively scant. The Palestinians also report an easy day at the checkpoints, and that they’ve suffered no extraordinary violence in the past few days. Just plain old quiet routine oppression.
freedom theatre in the jordan valley
jordan valley solidarity and freedom theatre bus building a school
Zaatara checkpoint - passengers taken off a bus on thier way home
The Freedom Bus (of the Freedom Theatre, Jenin) goes down to the Jordan Valley;
Don’t discard me when I get old – the elderly couple whose home was demolished on January 24th, 2013, what is happening with them now?
Dog trainers practicing at Tapuach Checkpoint – at the expense of Palestinians.
10:50, Tapuach Checkpoint – unmanned,
but two bored Border Policemen are busy sitting and eating at the roadside. On the hill overlooking the roundabout, a single soldier stands next to the watchtower.
11:10 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint- manned by 3 soldiers checking vehicles entering the Palestinian Jordan Valley.
11:35, Hamra Checkpoint – cars traveling in both directions are allowed through without passengers having to disembark for
inspection. The soldiers attempt to force us away from our usual (distant) spot, we insist on staying, they give in. Even when cars are not inspected, every car that arrives is required to stop about 50 meters before the checkpoint and await the soldier’s slight gesture signaling it to approach. How do the Palestinians know they must stop? There is no sign instructing them to do so. Just like the apartheid roads, here, too the instructions are kept unwritten, so as not to be photographed and seen publicly, but they are the law and woe to any who dares overlook them.
12:10, Gokhia Gate – a single soldier with lots of gear and five submachine guns pointing north, stands by the closed gate, waiting for his unit. When it arrives they will cross the gate east-bound for another series of maneuvers (a few days ago the inhabitants of Ras Al Ahmar were forced away from their homes for 24 hours, for the sake of these maneuvers).
A Palestinians arrives at the gate from the Jordan Valley side, to pick up his brother. They tell us that the gate is never, ever opened. Neither at 3 p.m. nor at 8 a.m. (when it is supposed to be opened at their disposal, as agreed upon at the Red Cross’ demand). Neither when Palestinians show up nor when they don’t. The occupier has decided to forego even this faint illusion of passage and now it is official – the prison that is the Palestinian Jordan Valley is closed.
12:40, Tyassir checkpoint – scant traffic, fast passage, no delays. The passengers are allowed through inside the vehicles, without disembarking.
Fighter planes and distance explosions resound throughout the afternoon.
We stopped at Hamam Al Malih to see the elderly couple whose hovel had been demolished twice (the second time, January 24th, 2013, the tent supplied by the Red Cross and all their effects were taken as well). The woman, N., came out to greet us from their neighbors’ tent, where she and her husband have been dwelling since the demolitions. They are prevented from returning to the place where they lived for years (I personally have been their guest often in the past 6 years), where they raised their children who have long since flown away to live elsewhere. In their advanced age, the two have become homeless. N.’s arm is still very swollen since she did not get medical treatment for injury, fearing she couldn’t afford such care. Only yesterday she finally went to have it examined and was informed that her shoulder is fractured and forearm badly bruised.
13:30, Samara (south of the Um Zuka reserve) - members of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, founded by Arna Mer and her son Juliano, have come out on a wondrous journey to visit the brave residents of the Jordan Valley who are holding on to their land steadfastly in both the Palestinian Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills (the bus will be visiting there next week). In daytime the young actors keep the children busy with games, singing and dancing, and in the evening they perform for the adults. In between they sit under a tree and play music – strumming the oud, drumming the darbouka, playing the accordion and other instruments whose names are unfamiliar to me, but their lovely tones float up in the warm breeze above the reddish hills of the Jordan Valley and carry a message of freedom and rectitude. Next to them a group of youngsters from Finland, Wales and even Majdal Shams has joined the activists of Jordan Valley Solidarity in order to build a schoolhouse for the children of the region, out of mud bricks.
Two of Samara’s inhabitants approach me, seeking help. M. and his brother graze their flock, and at the end of summer when the grass is scarce, they enter that miserably neglected place which the occupier has named “Um Zuka nature reserve” in search of food for their livestock. Every time they are caught there with their flock, they are fined thousands of shekels. They say they have documents proving their ownership claim to the land inside the reserve from those days when the region’s people were allowed to make their living out of the valley’s growth. They have consulted with a lawyer who told them there was nothing to be done. On the other hand, while a nature reserve, the area is also a “firing zone” for the army (the two signs stand next to each other…) and the army’s maneuvers often set the reserve in flames. M. and his brother tell us how on different occasions they recruited their extended family to fight the flames, as none of those authorities who so hastily fine them for grazing there never came to the rescue… They are seeking some protection, help against this abuse.
15:00, Hamra checkpoint – 4 Palestinians are standing at the side, detained 15 minutes for inspection. As soon as we showed up, their papers are returned to them and they get on their way. One of them wants to go back to Nablus but does not know the way. He tries to walk back, but the soldiers run towards him to prevent this and make him get on the road. He goes around the fence and proceeds towards the soldiers on the road, but then they remember there’s a special track for pedestrians bound for Nablus, except that it means going back 50 meters to the junction and that is where they send him. The man, embarrassed and rather scared, signals to the soldiers that his leg hurts. They relent and let him use the road.
Unlike this morning, now all those arriving from the West Bank hills are required to disembark about30 meters before the checkpoint, cross on foot and wait for the vehicle on the other side. Everything, after all, depends on the whims of the soldiers manning the checkpoint. In the middle of the checkpoint a military vehicle stands, blocking the road, so no car is able to get through, for about 20 minutes. When the cars begin to cross, every driver is asked “Where to? What for?” as if that should be the soldier’s business…
16:30, Maale Efrayim Checkpoint – manned, every car entering the Jordan Valley is checked.
16:45, Tapuach Checkpoint at Zaatara Junction - a bus is parked in the lot, having brought a detector dog unit to the checkpoint. Every female soldier-trainer has a dog. 3 cars stand parallel to each other, a dog is made to enter each, climbing on the front as well as back seats, salivating and sniffing. About 10 meters to the back stand the passengers in a straight line, looking on with disgust, having been ordered by the soldiers. The dog is an unclean animal in Islam and the Palestinians have a very hard time with having dogs introduced into their cars. The large number of trainers attests to this being no security matter but rather a training practice for the soldiers and their dogs. I believe that only a security need of the highest degree might be an excuse to hurt people’s religious feelings so severely. The practice should be done some other way…
The dog trainers don't like our photographing the situation and summon the policeman to order us away. The obedient policeman tells us to keep our distance and not take pictures, claiming it's forbidden. We explain we're photographing from behind but he is not convinced. Finally the practice is over, IDs are returned to the Palestinians standing in line, and they angrily get on their way. The trainers continue hanging around the checkpoint, each with her dog.
In the meantime we notice that on road 60 vehicles bound for Nablus are being stopped. We didn't notice this before because the inspections are usually held in cars coming from Nablus and heading south, and the whole structure of the checkpoint is built accordingly. But this time, "to confuse the enemy", some Border Policemen stand on the north-bound lane, and have stopped a red car and a bus full of youngsters heading back from a demonstration in Ramallah. The passengers of the red car disembark and the car is thoroughly checked, as if the soldiers have some kind of information on it. 15 minutes later it is released. THe soldiers order all male passengers off the bus, while the women remain inside. 25 young men stand on the sidewalk, their IDs taken. "Photograph this!" they say. "Take a picture of the driver!" they laugh, and he, a jolly chubby type, poses for us, sporting his paunch with a good natured smile, and everyone has a moment's relief in this imposed halt...
Two of the youngsters have no IDs, they've forgotten them at home so they are made to stand apart. A third young man is led to the shack in the middle of the road and is held there, with the soldiers trying to turn him around so he wouldn't "observe" them, but this is rather impossible for he can "observe" something from every angle. They give up. The youngster looks stressed. Finally, after 220 minutes, he is allowed to get back to the bus. The soldiers check the ID numbers one by one on their radio. They even bother calling the homes of the two ID-less persons, asking for their numbers to check their legitimacy. When the soldiers are finally satisfaied, half an hour later, the bus continues home to Tul Karm.
Translator: Charles K.
Why do the soldiers hate the leftist organizations?
Za’tara/Tapuach junction checkpoint.
Border police soldiers in the booth on the Huwwara side. We saw no vehicles detained or being inspected. We picked up an ultra-orthodox hitchhiker. He was born in Emanuel, and was doing national service in Yitzhar as a janitor in kindergartens and dormitories. His older brothers serve in the army.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint.
Genial (to us) reservists explain that the only people not allowed through the checkpoint to the Jordan Valley are Palestinians coming from Gaza (???). There were no soldiers at the checkpoint when we returned.
Ein el Hilweh.
A children’s theater group from Ramallah has erected a tent. The performance will be at 6 PM. There will be an additional show at Hamam el Malih. M.’s two wives said they won’t be allowed to watch it. When we returned we saw many volunteers from Jordan Valley Solidarity and other organizations, as well as the actors (we didn’t stay to see the show…).
A scathing speech from a reservist, a kibbutznik, a leftist who’s against the occupation and the settlements. Why do he and his fellow-soldiers hate all the left wing groups, without exception? He and his friends man the checkpoints unwillingly (no one wants to be there!), but the left wing groups who come to the checkpoints, instead of supporting the soldiers, who are in a difficult position, accuse them of carrying out a terrible assignment, photograph them, take things out of context, and unfairly portray them as brutes. He compared us to the settlers – both of us make his life as a soldier unbearable.
What does he recommend we do to end the occupation? We should focus on convincing Israelis within the Green Line.
Reservists here as well. They say pedestrians are selected randomly for inspection. Sometimes people exit their vehicles out of habit and come to be inspected as they were used to doing in the past. There are no restrictions on vehicles entering from the western part of the West Bank, but Palestinians with Israeli IDs aren’t allowed through.
Za’tara/Tapuach junction checkpoint.
Two cars detained. Border Police soldiers on the road from Nablus directed them to the plaza where they were inspected by a dog. The passengers were required to move away from the cars and waited a few meters away during the entire inspection – they were all young, most of them male. A car is stopped for inspection about every five minutes; the inspection lasts about 10 minutes. Six female soldiers conduct it; one handles the dog and the others inspect the contents of the trunks, instruct the passengers waiting outside and observed the inspection. It looked like a training exercise for the Oketz dog unit, and that the cars had been stopped randomly for that purpose (in particular since the passengers were young men…).
We should note again that, according to Islam, the dog is an unclean animal, and everyone who comes into contact with one must purify themselves.
Translator: Charles K.
Photos from the archives:
1. The remnants of an encampment belonging to a family with five children that the IDF demolished, October, 2012.
2. An earthen berm blocking Jordan Valley Bedouin from moving westward.
3. The Gochia checkpoint – a locked iron gate in the middle of nowhere blocking a dirt road used by Jordan Valley Bedouin.
Tomorrow (4.3.13) the army will conduct maneuvers in the Hamam el-Malih area. All the residents were ordered to evacuate their encampments for 24 hours with their children, the elderly and their flocks. In other words – they were sent to spend the night outdoors. It’s very cold in the Jordan Valley during this time of year. This is a new phenomenon in recent months in the northern Jordan Valley. It happened to the residents of Hamam el-Malih about a month ago; tomorrow will be the second time.
Only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the police eventually come to court. The remaining 97% of the cases are closed, even when there is incontrovertible evidence. Thus the State’s Attorney collaborates with the police, backing the racist policies as part of what’s known as “justice for all” and “equality before the law.” That’s what we learned from “Yesh Din,” which has been following up on the vicious beating last year of M., a member of the D family, last year by D., the military security coordinator of the Rotam settlement.
11:15 Za’tara checkpoint – Tapuach junction
Two loaded trucks detained in the plaza. Another commercial vehicle has been detained and is being checked by a dog. ID cards are taken for inspection. The driver of the commercial vehicle has (apparently) been sent for interrogation by the Shabak on the other side of the white wall at the northwest side of the plaza. An additional car was detained while we were there.
We’ve already seen delays and interrogations of young men at this junction a few times, and heard from those interrogated that the Shabak tried to recruit them.
We gave a ride to a hitchhiker who was born in the Gitit settlement (established in 1975). He said his parents, secular people from Tel Aviv, were sent by state institutions to settle there, were given a house and land at no cost, along with all they needed to farm. He doesn’t view himself as a settler, and it’s clear to him that the Jordan Valley must remain part of Israel forever, for security reasons. We asked about the price of water: NIS 6 /cubic meter for household use, NIS 2 for agriculture. For comparison: K., the Bedouin, pays NIS 20 per cubic meter for water which he gets from water tankers, not via pipes. In Israel we pay more than NIS 9 per cubic meter for household use.
The fields of Gitit settlement, which are worked by two Israelis (one from Tel Aviv and one from Tayibeh) are covered with plastic sheeting. A spectacular sight.
12:30 Hamra checkpoint
A settler from Hamra followed us to the checkpoint, photographed us from every angle and cursed us rudely. Two reservists from the checkpoint came over to see what the trouble was and he disappeared.
13:00 Tayasir checkpoint
Reservists here as well. Very sparse traffic.
The K. family
The four families from Hama el-Malih whose encampments were demolished last month are still living out in the open or in improvised sheds far from their previous place of residence.
About a year ago M., one of the family members, was terribly beaten by D., the Rotem settlement’s military security coordinator, and was hospitalized for two days. A complaint was submitted to the police, with the help of Yesh Din. It now transpired that the police closed the case even though there were witnesses to the beating.
A few months later that same military security coordinator shot and killed three of K’s cows and buried them. They called the police, which found the slaughtered cows. There were witnesses to this incident as well, and this case was also closed.
Yesh Din told us that’s what usually happens, that only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the Israeli police reach the courts. The police and the State’s Attorney collaborate to ignore Palestinian complaints against Jews. Racism has penetrated every organ of the Israeli regime. Jurists are also part of the rot. Yesh Din plans to appeal the closing of the case involving the beating. It will take two years for the appeal to come before a judge.
We gave a ride to a laborer who’d finished working for the day in the Ro’i settlement. He earns NIS 85 for an 8-hour day (about half of the Israeli minimum wage), with no benefits. NIS 10 goes for transportation. Since the residents of the settlements are Israeli citizens, Israeli labor laws apply to them, including minimum wage laws, but who’ll enforce them? And so the Israbluff about the only democracy in the Middle East continues. It’s not surprising that the settlers hold on to what they’ve got – where else could they get such wonderful conditions? Even workers from Thailand are paid more.
16:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers here at this hour either.
Summary: more house demolitions, more life destruction, “voluntary transfer”
11:45 – Ma’ale Efrayim Checkpoint – unmanned.
12:15 – Hamra Checkpoint is manned by reserves soldiers. Two of them approach us as soon as we appear at the junction. They are friendly to us. From the Palestinians we hear they are much less friendly to them… A Palestinian with whom we conversed was then questioned at length and checked by the same soldiers as he wanted to cross the checkpoint Nablus-bound.
So far, and for a long time, Palestinians on their way to Area A were not inspected here. They just had to wait for the soldier’s hand signal to advance and then crossed without any further ado. Now every third car is stopped, IDs are checked, doors opened, the cabin rummaged, crates are unloaded for inspection etc. The process is slow and waiting lines of over 8 vehicles accumulate during each such inspection.
Cars traveling from the hills of the West Bank down to the Palestinian Jordan Valley are inspected but there is no passage restriction – after all the passengers disembark and are forced to cross the checkpoint on foot. And provided no one is wanted for a “Shabak interrogation”.
Close until the next army maneuvers when some tank will crush it again.
House demolitions: we received a phone call informing us of demolitions which just took place in the Jiftlik village and at Hamam Al Maleh. In the Jiftlik 3 homes were destroyed and one animal shelter (according to OCHA reports).
At Hamam Al Maleh we met an elderly couple whom we have known for years now, standing helpless amidst torn plastic sheets and aluminum rods bent out of shape and useless, next to an empty square space that was obviously a dwelling, its earthen floor straight and neat. Now it’s empty. A week ago, on January 17th, there were massive home demolitions, among which the tent dwelling of the couple was destroyed. Their children have long since left the area, and two of them – a son and daughter – now live in Israel. Two days later, on Saturday, January 19th, the Occupation authorities imposed a closed military zone order for several days. After the order was rescinded, the Red Cross brought some tents to the site. Today, before we arrived, the army simply crushed and took the Red Cross tent and all of its contents – the scant possession of this elderly couple. So they wouldn’t be able to recover their lives, God forbid. It’s been hours, the couple stand next to the wreckage – no tent, no belongings, and apparently no one left to help them. The woman has visibly aged years in this recent week. Her arm is fractured (she fell) and very swollen. No money for medical care, nor for medication. How will they get through the freezing night without a roof over their heads or a mattress under their bodies?
Five months ago I was stuck next to this encampment – my car wouldn’t start, and I waited for two hours in the scalding heat of midday to be towed away. The whole time this same woman ran back and forth from the family's stove with a tea pot, begging me to drink so as not to get dehydrated. Now, I had no way of helping her in this predicament.
The typical sights of torn plastic and bent rods and piles of personal effects and papers are repeated time and again. But the bent back, the lost gaze, the tear in the corner of the eye are unbearable. You look for words of consolation, something encouraging, and find none, for you do not know what it’s like to suddenly find yourself exposed in the world, in summer heat or the frost of winter, aged or a child – the world stops and no one is there to help.
Next to the debris of this encampment, east of the stone house at Hamam Al Maleh is a new encampment. About10 tents and new sheep stalls. We inquire – there are some of those who were expelled from a higher site nearly in early January (see report of Jordan Valley of January 3rd, 2013) for a single night during a military maneuver, and decided to remain here where they camped, even after they were allowed to go back. Luckily, perhaps, because most of the encampments in the area of the maneuvers were destroyed by the army on January 17th.
On our way home we see numerous soldiers arriving at the area, disembarking from buses.
16:30 – Ma’ale Efrayim – unmanned.
Late addition: January 27th, 2013 – I receive a telephone call from X ( I have his name and telephone number) – two days ago metal stakes and other building materials were taken off a pickup truck traveling from the Tubas area. The soldiers threw them next to the entrance of the army base and they are still scattered there. No Palestinian dares approach and retrieve these rare materials.
Today the soldiers did not allow a resident of En Al Beda (northern Palestinian Jordan Valley) to cross with his tractor because he was carrying animal feed. They told him: Either leave the feed here or drive back to Tubas. And where would he get feed for his livestock? All the produce that the Valley inhabitants consume comes from the central West Bank.
Translator: Charles K.
11:45 Za’tara/Tapuach junction.
Not manned, but there’s a soldier in the observation post.
12:10 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. Not manned.
Palestinians tell us: There’s another extensive military maneuver in the JordanValley, from the Jiftlik to Homsa (about 20 km. further north). Residents of al Ajaj and Homsa received written orders to vacate the area from 4 am to 4 pm. For their own good, so they won’t be injured. The settlement of Beqa’ot is also located in the heart of that area, but the military exercise bypassed it, of course, and Israeli bullets are intelligent enough to distinguish during exercises between Israelis and Palestinians, which is why only Palestinians are in danger… Residents of the Jiftlik report that the firing was so close to their homes that they felt as if they and their families were under attack.
We also saw a large group of soldiers on the road between the Tayasir checkpoint and Hamam el Malih, and another unit north of Ro’i (right across from a Bedouin encampment). Both units appeared to have just arrived and were getting settled – part of the same exercise? Or is another maneuver getting underway there as well, to the north of the first one?
After the checkpoint gate was shattered during the previous maneuvers at the beginning of November so that tanks could go through freely (and also during July’s summer maneuvers), and dumped into the ditch cutting through the Jordan Valley and dividing it from the central West Bank, as if there was no longer any use for it, the checkpoint stayed open and Palestinians were able to go through for a month and a half. Yesterday a new gate was erected; it’s still open, but we can assume that it will soon be closed to Palestinians and children will once again be unable to get to school or the sick to reach a doctor. And the question arises, whose security is being increased by erecting a gate between the farmers of Hadidiya and Homsa and their livelihood, when for a month or two it was wide open and nothing happened?
13:20 Tayasir checkpoint.
For the past week Palestinians have been allowed to go through the checkpoint without leaving their cars. They no longer have to wait 30 meters from the checkpoint for the soldier to beckon them forward, no longer must children cross on foot and face the threatening guns while their father drives the car through, but still each person and car is inspected, and the occupier controls all movement. If he chooses, he’ll allow someone to cross; if not, he will delay or refuse permission.
We don’t approach but two soldiers come to us. They have no idea who we are and ask whether we’re allowed to park here. After we explain they leave us alone and return to the checkpoint.
Traffic is light; inspections aren’t consistent. Sometimes the crossing is quick and sometimes the driver is made to get out of the car and open the trunk. Palestinians stop their cars at the line on the road and wait for the soldier to wave them forward. The soldiers delay for a minute or two, sit conversing at the entrance to the booth. This slight delay makes clear to all – to the soldiers, the Palestinians, and at this moment to us as well – who’s in charge here and who must do what they’re told.
A bus with a sign “Birthright” arrives at the checkpoint. We didn’t see the passengers. It’s delayed a few minutes at the checkpoint so the soldier can telephone and check, and then it crosses toward Area A on the West Bankwhere three large signs prohibit entry to Israelis.
16:30 Hamra checkpoint.
We saw passengers getting out of the vehicles and going through the checkpoint on foot, saw them exiting the checkpoint holding their belts in their hands after being required to remove them in front of the soldier, and we were told that here, unlike the Tayasir checkpoint, Palestinian passengers are not permitted to remain in their cars when crossing to the Jordan Valley.
16:50 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint.
Translator: Charles K.
Tayasir checkpointwas closed yesterday for a few hours. The schoolchildren were allowed through but not their transportation and they were forced walk a long distance. The non-com at the DCO denied that this had occurred.
Those coming through the checkpoint say that residents of the JordanValleyaren’t allowed through the checkpoint in their vehicle, contradicting what was announced in the press. The non-com at the DCO denied this too.
Tapuach/Za’tara junction 10:55
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint 11:10
Two military jeeps parked at the checkpoint and a third at the junction but we see no soldiers and there are no inspections.
In the cultivated fields next to the pumping station between Gittit and Mechora we again met the Israeli from Tel Aviv who leases the fields from the Gittit settlement and receives a generous allocation of water for crops requiring irrigation. He uses the abandoned packing house.
Hamra checkpoint 11:40
Very light traffic
Gochia checkpoint, which three weeks ago had been demolished by tanks during army maneuvers, is still wide open.
Tayasir checkpoint 14:25
The taxi drivers say West Bank residents are still prevented from going to the JordanValleyin their cars, despite press reports two months ago that the restrictions had been lifted.
We spoke with Najid, the DCO checkpoints non-com, who said that the restriction had been cancelled and every Palestinian is allowed through the checkpoint in his vehicle.
We later visited K., who lives not far from the checkpoint. We were told that yesterday (2.12.12) the checkpoint was closed for a number of hours. The family’s children who attend school in Tayasir were allowed through on foot, in the afternoon, but their transportation was turned back. So they had to walk more than five km. home from the checkpoint.
Najid denied that the checkpoint had been closed to vehicles yesterday at any time.
We watched the checkpoint from a distance. Not much traffic at this hour. Three soldiers seated in front of the booth on the road. We see only two cars waiting from the west. The soldiers sit talking, the cars wait. Five minutes later one soldier stands and signals the cars to advance for inspection. A woman who’d been riding in one of the cars came through on foot four minutes after submitting her documents for inspection. In other words, it took her 9 minutes to cross – at a time when the checkpoint was almost empty.
The same thing happened again.
One driver complained they must wait for passengers far from the checkpoint (more than 100 meters away). Sometimes the passengers include the elderly, babes in arms and little children, all of whom are forced to walk in all weather (it’s more than 40 degrees here in the summer).
Hamra checkpoint 16:25
A detainee sits on a chair, waiting. The soldiers say he’s been waiting an hour. The Shabak ordered he be detained. The soldiers are permitted to detain him for three hours.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint 16:45
Translator: Charles K.
We see two civilian cars parked on the roadside near Ma’aleh Efrayim – one Israeli, one Palestinian – their drivers standing and talking. What drew our attention was that between them and the road a security man stood in a threatening manner with drawn weapon, facing the cars driving by. Since we noticed it too late we had to drive two more kilometers in order to turn around; by the time we returned they’d begun leaving.
11:30 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint is manned. Heavy traffic of Palestinian vehicles, inspections go very slowly, a long line of cars; we didn’t see any cars turned back to the West Bank.
We drove by the new settlement near the Jiftlik where a boarding school is planned. The place is closed and locked, nor does it look like they’ve progressed with construction since I was here more than a month ago. We saw no one there.
Tayasir checkpoint. I walked up to the checkpoint by myself to ask the soldiers about the crossing without arousing hostility. The shifts had just changed. I said hello but didn’t get a reply. I gradually realized the checkpoint was closed. I thought it was because of the shift change, but I suddenly heard the commander on the phone to the situation room: “We have visitors. Women from ‘Watch.’ I closed the checkpoint.” Thus, without a word, with unbearable ease, they deny Palestinians the right to get home… Having no alternative, I left.
The drivers waiting for their passengers, who – as usual – were required to cross on foot, told us: Only someone who lives in the Jordan Valley or has a special permit can enter the Jordan Valley in his car. Many cars were turned back during recent weeks and not allowed through. The statement by the Ministry of Defense spokesman is a lie!!! Restrictions haven’t been eased; not everyone is permitted to cross!! For more than a month, until a week ago, the unit stationed here made the lives of Palestinians hell – hours upon hours of delays and humiliations. They say it’s better now.
Gochia checkpoint – It doesn’t exist. Two concrete blocks, nothing between them. Many tank tracks next to the gate, a souvenir of the large exercise conducted here a month ago. That’s why there’s no gate – the Palestinians said the tanks broke it. Now, like last summer, the gate will remain wide open for the benefit of the Palestinians who’ll drive back and forth between the Jordan Valley and the central West Bank (during the summer the gate remained broken for two months). Lo and behold – there’s no threat to security!!! Palestinians told us that from November 6 to November 12 many residents in various parts of the northern Jordan Valley were evacuated from their homes and forced to wait all day until the army of occupation, together with the US army, completed their exercises in their areas. The inhabitants of Ras al Ahmar, El Malih, Khirbet Yirzeh, Khirbet Humseh and others watched from a distance as missiles flew, bombs exploded, planes flew low and tanks raced forward near their homes and flocks, and you can only imagine how frightened the people and animals were in the midst of that madhouse. The residents of El Malih were evacuated three times!!!
Of course, it never occurred to anyone to evacuate the nearby settlements (Beqa’ot, Ro’I, Maskiyot and Hemdat). The army even took care not to approach them too closely.
And regarding firing ranges – opposite the Ro’I settlement’s cultivated lands there were Palestinian grazing areas on which, like on many others, signs were erected three years ago reading “Firing Range!!! Entry Prohibited!” But in the meantime the settlers in Ro’I began to covet those lands, fenced them and planted a vineyard. A Jewish vineyard is there today, the only one with a sign reading “Firing Range…” next to it.
A Bedouin shepherd living near the gate told us that during the attack on Gaza five or six taxis with about 30 Palestinians arrived and tried to demonstrate opposite Beqa’ot. They’d just arrived when the army was rushed in, fired tear gas even before the demonstrators reached the Alon road and arrested three of them.
16:00 Hamra checkpoint. People cross smoothly toward Nablus (though only after the soldier permits with a wave of his hand). People crossing to the Jordan Valley aren’t delayed, but all the cars are carefully inspected. One car arrived at the checkpoint with its passengers – women and small children - and was sent back for them get out about 50 meters before the checkpoint and cross on foot.
17:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – not manned.