Ordinary day, sun shining and the occupation continues as usual. A childrens' bus went through with no problem at Habla.
06:10 'Azzun 'Atma
A lot of people outside; medium sized line of about 60 waiting; someone we marked went through in about 20 minutes - not bad for this location. The turnstile is operating and a number of people are allowed to go through each time it and to wait until a turn is ready at the inspection booth. Now there is also a magnometer and those approaching remove their belts before they arrive and empty their pockets. In this way, they go through quickly without any delays. Some of them are already experienced - not like in the terrible days of Beit Iba, when every other person would get stuck in the magnometer because he had left something in his pocket, or his shoes set off the alarm. There is also an inspection table between the two booths and, if someone finished the check and has equipment with him, returns to an additional gate which a soldier opens for him and behind which he can leave his stuff, and he goes through an inspection by hand. And to "freedom" in the State of Israel.
One illegal infiltrator was caught going through a hole in the fence and brought back to the checkpoint - we didn't see what happened to him, because we noticed this only after we had left for the house of the coffee salesman. There is a huge rip of about 3 meters in the fence to the east of the checkpoint, already there for several weeks, but they don't fix it, just run after the infiltrators to hunt them down. Always successful - but that depends on for whom.
The childrens' buses arrive and go through, except for one that has a huge rock caught in the wheel - after a lot of pushing and pulling and banging, the stone was released and they could go on their way. There is no one left in line, and those coming now are particularly those with tractors, wagons, vans, and they go through quickly.
Pastoral as usual and only remains of black on the floor next to the gate and on the gate are reminders of the fire that was set here during the demonstrations a few weeks ago. People come constantly, little by little, wagons with horses, vans, go by after inspection.
We wanted to see how the new fence is coming along - and, in fact, it isn't finished yet but, when we went up to the highest place in a-Ras, we could see that it is already paved and looks really "nice". But it is not yet connected to the old fence beneath a-Ras. One can also see them working on the fence next to Jayyus.
Translator: Charles K.
A shift during which we had various contacts with the army and representatives of security companies working for the Ministry of Defense.
The army’s clarification regarding the legality of commerce at the Habla plant nurseries.
A suggestion: During our shifts we should make lists of lands in the seam zone that aren’t being cultivated because the owners have trouble accessing them.
Car owners from Hars are transported from the junction to their workplaces in the Barkan industrial zone because there aren’t enough parking spaces there.
13:30 Habla checkpoint
A horse harnessed to an empty cart waits for its owner to return from document inspection. He opens the large gate and takes the cart through.
A group of army personnel on the other side of the checkpoint. Three civilian Israeli cars and two military vehicles park next to the security road.
Some officers approach us a few minutes later. Col. Ofer H. introduces himself as the commander responsible for the entire seam zone. He’s accompanied by a colonel – a unit commander – and a captain responsible for the compound who’s very familiar with the area. Col. Ofer wants to know whether we’re aware of the reason for the Habla checkpoint (an agricultural gate).
After we reply, he explains that the purpose of the gate is to enable Palestinian farmers on the West Bank to cultivate their lands that remained on the other side of the fence or to work in their plant nurseries: butthe sale of plants to Israelis by the nurseries is illegal, because they’re in fact importing merchandise to Israel. Passage of goods is permitted only at designated crossings – the nearest being Efrayim gate. It’s true that sales are on a retail basis but (he points to the rows of olive trees), the merchandise comes through the checkpoint in wholesale quantities. The army allows it because the State doesn’t want to harm the Palestinians’ livelihood; we should be proud of the army. When we ask why people returning home from work aren’t allowed to bring with them shirts they’d received or small household goods they’d found discarded, he replies infuriatingly that often those clothes have been stolen, along with the clothesline and clothespins.
We asked the purpose of his visit; he said that every few months they visit every location in the seam zone to see what the land situation is. He’s the one who testifies in court to contradict the Palestinians’ claims they’re not able to work their land because access is difficult. He declares he doesn’t depend on others’ reports but goes to see for himself and tries to identify reputed uncultivated land in the seam zone (lands made inaccessible elsewhere in the West Bank aren’t his responsibility). He tells us he respects us, that we’re doing difficult work.
With regard to the request by residents of Khirbet Asla that the gate also be opened in the middle of the day, the captain who’s in charge claims that the farmers, in the presence of the head of the village, preferred, (when they had to choose) that it be opened twice a day for half an hour rather than three times a day for fifteen minutes. Everything’s agreed and based on the farmers’ requests. With respect to the gate’s location, which makes it impossible for some of the farmers to reach their land with agricultural equipment or vehicles, he replied that they have to access their lands via the Thult gate. It was neither the time nor place to get into a long discussion about it. We should ask again in the villages.
Had we mentioned the unconscionable requirement that farmers must coordinate with the army access to their own land because the state decided to erect a fence , we would have been treated to a lecture about security.
The two red minibuses with pupils go through. Soldiers get on to inspect and Col. Ofer continues lecturing us and his officers about the importance of maintaining the security of Israel’s inhabitants and about how wonderful, powerful and moral the army is. He gave us his business card!
We drove through ‘Arab a-Ramadin. The children had all gone into their “homes” and the “streets” were deserted. The school is still standing; another room has been added. Earthworks are underway in the village center; a broad area has been prepared – for construction?
14:15 Eliyahu gate
We parked in the lot. To cross the road we proceeded on foot through the “security area” and were amazed by the spectacular landscaping in the strip dividing it from the road. The seasonal flowers under drip irrigation are in full bloom. The drainage channels are elaborately decorated in a Gaudian style (I just returned from Barcelona) with broken pieces of colorful tiles. We wanted to photograph. A security man appeared immediately declaring that we’re in a security installation to which entry is forbidden. Two additional security men arrived, allowed us (this once) to photograph the flowers and demanded we move to the bus stop across the road. They showed us that no people waited on line. To the right we noticed five dog cages. Four cars with Palestinian license plates and one with Israeli plates were being inspected on the other side. A security man arrived with two German shepherds; the sight was shocking, particularly for someone seeing it for the first time who didn’t know such things existed.
On the way to Azzun we drove through Izbet Tabib, the tent and the remains of the protest against the demolition order for the school are still visible, and through H'irbet Asla, the village discussed previously with the army.
Two of Z’s sons were at his shop. We unloaded merchandise and acceded to his request to come home and meet his wife. Apparently the recent tests brought results, but he won’t be able to keep the appointment he has in Ichilov because he submitted the request to (re)enter Israel only one week in advance instead of two. His children (the little one is sick) again enchanted us. The covered porch at the entrance to the apartment has become a second-hand clothing store which Suhad runs.
From Azzun we drove back east on Highway 5. After driving through Al Funduq briefly to explain the problems of the village most of which is in Area C instead of Area B we returned to the junction and turned south on Highway 5066 that leads to Ariel via Emanuel.
We stopped at Hars to solve the mystery of the many cars parked at the village entrance. Most appeared in working order. The explanation: the cars belong to people who work in the Barkan industrial zone. They park where there’s room; their employers pick them up.
16:30 Azzun Atma
The crossing went quickly at the Shomron gate; no cars were detained.
There was no line at the Azzun Atma checkpoint. Few Palestinians arrived, mostly groups of 4-5 getting out of Israeli cars, a few on foot from the other side of the road carrying small marble panels. They went through quickly.
We waitedin vain for a Palestinian we’d arranged to meet regarding fines, he didn't show up, had to work late. It’s not clear why it can’t be done In a Palestinian post office, but that seems to be the procedure (meanwhile it turned out that if we give him the paperwork he can take care of it himself). We had a lively discussing with the soldiers who were interested in us. I. asked whether there was a bathroom there; a pleasant soldier opened the door to their “living quarters.” We were astounded to see the soldiers’ living conditions (in harsh contrast with the luxurious installations of the Security Company at Eliyahu Gate): the control tower has 2 narrow benches, one on top of the other, serving as beds, one filthy chemical toilet, a large water tank for washing.
It was sad and painful to see the effects of the occupation: the humiliating gate limiting the conquered Palestinians on the one hand, the occupying soldiers’ denigrating, inhumane living conditions on the other.
Translator: Charles K.
While Barack Obama, the President of the United States, is in Israel giving a speech about peace – a notice posted on the fence of the Huwwara checkpoint announces the establishment of new settlements in Palestinian territory.
Note: While conditions have been eased at the checkpoints in comparison to what we’ve seen in the past, the occupier’s presence has been expanded, as will be seen from this report.
14:00 Habla checkpoint
We arrived as the gate closed. It will reopen only in the evening for laborers returning from work.
14:07 Eliyahu crossing
The driver of a car with Israeli license plates is having his documents checked as he leaves Israel.
14:13 An army jeep is parked before the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement.
14:20 An army pickup truck going in the opposite direction passes us near the Gil’ad Farm.
14:25 Jit junction
A new observation post has been
erected on the northern hill.
14:30 The Israeli police stopped a Palestinian car before the village of Asira al Kabaliyya to ticket it.
14:35 A military jeep drives toward us from the junction of Highway 60 and the Huwwara-Burin road.
We wait at that junction behind a military Hummer for a break in the traffic so we can both turn north toward the Huwwara checkpoint.
14:39 Huwwara checkpoint
Soldiers stationed in the observation tower at the checkpoint, the guard tower at the hitchhiking station at the exit from the Beracha settlement and the hitchhiking station at the settlement’s entrance.
Stones have been arranged in the form of a low wall
on the fence at the Huwwara checkpoint – where the
adjacent area has recently been “upgraded” – and carob trees have been planted, opposite the plaza that has also been “ungraded” – Who paid for the work? What’s it for?
It’s too bad Obama hadn’t been there and didn’t see with his own eyes how the settlements surrounding Nablus are choking the city.
There’s only one notice now on the fence from which the signs posted by the settlers were recently removed: “New localities in Judea and Samaria. To join, call [phone number]. The Nahalasettlement movement.”
14:40 A military truck turns toward the Huwwara DCO.
14:42 Awarta checkpoint
Closed as usual. No access to Nablus.
A military truck next to a military firing range located on the way to the village of Huwwara.
14:45 Beit Furik checkpoint
A minibus driver coming from Beit Dajan says that occasionally the army unexpectedly sets up flying checkpoints at the entrance to the village.
15:05 An army jeep drives through the village of Huwwara.
15:30 Za’tara checkpoint
Soldiers relax in the parking lot. No inspections.
16:00 The bus terminal at the Oranit settlement
We waited to see whether the police arrive. The police have been in the habit of making Palestinians get off the bus and not allowing them to continue. The police didn’t come. Let’s hope that continues. In any event, we’ll keep checking.
16:50 Azzun Atma checkpoint.
There was no congestion while we were there as laborers returned home through the checkpoint.
06:00 'Azzun 'Atma
The turnstile is working, it seems there are about 70 people waiting in line. The new installation for checking IDs is operating, but there are still only 2 inspection stations. There are loud arguments going on in front of the turnstile, who will go in next. I was reminded of the lack of patience of Israelis while waiting in long lines. Those going through inspection on the east side of the inspection counter, have to backtrack on their route after the inspection, to go through the west side of the structure and only get out of the checkpoint from there. This is annoying. All the time we were there at the checkpoint additional people kept coming and the line never shortened. A man whom we tracked at the end of the line took 27 minutes to go through.
Two small girls arrived from the Israeli side, on the way to school in the village which is on the other side of the fence. Pretty braids, nicely dressed in their school uniform, packs on their backs and they were standing and waiting; meanwhile, no solider took pity on them and took the time to get them through the checkpoint. A third girl joined them and still nothing happened. Only after a number of minutes did a soldier appear with the keys and opened the gate for vehicles for them.
The checkpoint is open and people have already gone through. Turns out that the hour was changed and it now opens at 06:30. There are about 20 people waiting in line.. From our viewpoint, 15 people went through in 10 minutes. The line doesn't get shorter.
The passage is calm and even those arriving from the Israeli side go through quickly.
Buses arrive from the Israeli side with children on their way to school on the other side of the fence. The buses go through quickly. A child goes by with a donkey and wagon - not going to school?
07:55 Eliyahu gate
Three cars are being inspected, and no pedestrians are waiting.
The occupation routine at 'Azzun 'Atma: hunting people in Israel illegally.
06:16 The road from the Oranit terminal to 'Azzun 'Atma – Some cars are parked on the road; perhaps there had been an accident. There’s also a police car and a car in the middle of the road. It seems strange, until we notice a number of Palestinians and a police officer on the roadside and another who comes running from the road into the field. We stopped and went to see what was happening: a few Palestinians fleeing through the field to the 'Azzun 'Atma fence, chased by a police officer. We hear a shot, but nothing happens as a result. The police officer who ran along the road joins his pursuing colleague. The police officer standing next to the Palestinians is holding something that looks like a shiny, sparkling, silver pistol which he puts in their car. A Taser?
Meanwhile the men fleeing have disappeared into the olive grove, followed by the police officers. The group detained by the roadside (four young men and one older man) is gathered around the police officer, conducting some kind of dialogue with him. One stumbles; it looks like he has trouble walking. At one point he lifts his shirt to show his companion his back. Had he been hit by the Taser?
It’s clear that the young men went through a hole in the fence to the road trying to get a ride to work in Israel, without permits.
After 15 minutes, the pursuers returned empty-handed. A discussion is held with the youths who were caught; they give their IDs to the police officers. We decided to continue to 'Azzun 'Atma, expecting the group to be brought there. Meanwhile all the cars drove away, except for the police car and the one standing in the middle of the road.
06:45 'Azzun 'Atma – Many laborers are waiting outside; the line is short and advances rapidly. The revolving gate is finally working, allowing the soldiers to control the crossing and prevent congestion.
We didn’t see the young men who were caught. When we returned to that spot we saw them still standing there with the police officers.
07:15 Habla checkpoint – Many have already gone through; people cross in record time.
07:25 The children’s buses arrive and cross quickly. There seem to be more people than usual today, but it doesn’t slow down the crossing. Everyone’s smiling, saying hello to us; the occupation routine.
08:00 Eliyahu gate – Cars are being inspected; there is no line at the pedestrian crossing.
08:15 Falamya checkpoint – Quiet. Signs of the fire are still visible next to the repaired gate. A flock of sheep arrives, goes through without inspection. Carpets of hyacinths are in full bloom along the way – magnificent. A constant trickle of people at Central West Bank
Translator: Charles K.
More military traffic than usual.
13:55 Habla checkpoint
At the last minute the soldiers allow two Palestinians to enter their village.
Although the checkpoint closes exactly at 14:00, two vehicles that had been delayed by an upgrade to the inner gate that was being carried out by workers and soldiers were allowed to cross after the scheduled closing hour.
Bedouin who live nearby invite us for coffee, to tell us about their problems and the difficulties they’re being caused. We promised to come another time.
14:10 Eliyahu crossing
A number of impatient tracker dogs from the Oketz unitare penned in cages on the eastern edge of the parking lot.
14:43 Highway 60 junction with the Huwwara-Burin road.
Four different military vehicles and two police vehicles speed toward the village.
15:00 Huwwara checkpoint
Heavy traffic on the way to the
checkpoint in the direction of Nablus.
It eased by the time we reached the
Three armed soldiers stand alongside
the inspection station at the entrance
to Nablus. A soldier observes from the
15:30 A military jeep is parked in Huwwara. Three armed soldiers stand near the curb, watching the busy traffic.
15:40 Za’tara checkpoint (Tapuach junction).
Many police cars parked there.
A small Palestinian car has been detained. Three guys stand next to it. Soldiers stand not far away, their weapons pointed at them (see photo).
16:00 Shomron crossing
A very long line of cars waiting to leave Israel.
Two command cars are parked there; police vehicles inspect private minibuses transporting Palestinian laborers.
16:05 Azzun Atma checkpoint
The line to enter the checkpoint isn’t crowded
An Israeli taxi has been detained. The soldiers took the (new) driver’s keys because he’d driven Palestinian laborers to the checkpoint. The soldiers asked whether the Palestinians had permits; the taxi driver asked them in Arabic and they said no. The soldiers detained them and the driver for three hours.
16:15 Oranit terminal
Members of Machsom Watch, along with members of Yesh Din, Lo Metzaytotand Kav LaOvedarrived today to demonstrate because on Thursday afternoons the police at the Oranit terminal are in the habit of removing Palestinian passengers from bus no. 286 from Tel Aviv to Ariel.
They’re returning home after their
work week in Israel. All of them
have Israeli work permits.
The police didn’t show up today
after two weeks in which we’d
documented them making
Palestinians get off the bus.
photographer: Esti tsal
We came to demonstrate against the police removing Palestinians from the buses, taking their ID cards and making them walk three miles to the Azzun Atma checkpoint where the soldiers detain them as they see fit, and only then can they catch expensive jitneys for a roundabout trip to finally get home after working in Israel for a week. Were they to continue on the bus on Highway 5 directly to Ariel they’d arrive in 20 minutes at the cost of an inexpensive, subsidized bus ticket (that they already bought and paid for) to this location.
The demonstration is against Israel’s apartheid policy,to arouse public opinion in Israel and abroad against Israel’s actions in the occupied territories.
Even though the police hadn’t shown up today (the demonstration was aimed at them in particular), settlers nevertheless reacted to our demonstration. Miki Fisher documented on video what the settlers yelled at us and Esti Tze’al took photographs.
A Palestinian laborer we’d met last time when he was made to get off the bus saw us today and telephoned to thank us for being there.
The agricultural gate at Falamya was closed because of a demonstration. The childrens' buses at Habla went through quickly.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma
Many people have already come through; the gate is open and, behind it, is a line of about 60 people waiting. Every time, the same number of 4 people go through for inspection; when those are checked and released, another 4 go forward toward the gate. All the rest stand about one meter back from the gate; among them are soldiers who are watching them so that "they don't fight and so that they stand in line correctly". It is for their own good, the soldier tells me, because passing is fast which is to their advantage. During the time we were there, in spite of the fast passage, the line never got shorter since there were additional people coming all the time.
The soldiers have already opened the gate here, and at 07:00 the first people go through into the checkpoint. Here, as usual, the passage is slower than in 'Azzun 'Atma, but there is progress. In addition bicycles arrive, a wagon with horses, donkeys and a herd of sheep is allowed to cross to the grazing land along the border, after this has been denied them for more than 2 months by our authorities. They were punishing a shepherd, or, more exactly, his herd, for what the shepherd did which was not acceptable. At 07:20 the childrens' buses arrive and go through smoothly.
We continued by way of Eliyahu gate - 5 cars are being inspected and 5 wait in the pedestrian lane. On the way back, no one was in the pedestrian lane and there were also no cars awaiting inspection. The inspections were the same, with the dogs and everything.
'Azzun is open, there is no obstacle to entering the village.
It was quiet when we arrived, only a tractor with 4 passengers came to the gate - it makes a U-turn and returns. Strange.
And then we understood. The gate is closed and locked and there is no one in sight. No soldiers. In front of one of the closed gates, one can see a darkened area, as well as the gate itself, and then we understood that there had been a fire here. The tractor driver explained that a fire had been set yesterday, like in Jayyus a week ago. We hadn't known about that.
We rang the DCO, and they said that the gate had been set on fire yesterday evening and that they didn't know when it would be fixed, maybe today or tomorrow, but meanwhile there is no plan to open the gate, and there is also a technical problem as a result of the arson in opening it. He also said - they are "shooting themselves in the foot". We will follow-up by contacting the tractor driver again.
All this and we can only report that no one can claim that they didn't know there was any problem with the occupation, that it is awful, that civilians are oppressed and also "shoot themselves in the foot", since it apparently is no longer painful. During the past weeks, we frequently see things that the Palestinians do which could be called civil rebellion, even though it does harm their livelihood.
We continued to Madma in order to get the signature of a man on a petition to the court to release him from his status as "forbidden to work in Israel".
Translation: Suzanne O.
On the radio they talk about the budding Intifada – around Nablus only the almond trees are in bud.
'Today the roadblock is not good' say the labourers. It turns out that one of the computer stations is not working and the exit queue moves very slowly. Tens of people crowd around the turnstiles. According to the labourers the waiting time is over an hour. The soldiers are not prepared to put in place someone to take notes manually. According to them their business is to take care of security and order not the welfare of the labourers.
At the entrance to the roadblock there is a new red sign. It does not prohibit the entrance to the village, just warns that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter. Is this not pronouncing a verdict?
There is no police presence at the exit from Israel.
There are no soldiers in the checkpoints.
Almost without our noticing it the settlers' buffet in the car park, which has been there for years, has been dismantled. One of those waiting for a lift says it has been removed because it had no licence. Has the law of the land reached settler country?
There is no military activity.
A military vehicle is parked at the side but does not interfere with the flow of traffic.
In the village itself the children are on their way to school. They have not heard on the Israeli radio that no schools are open on the West Bank so that the children are free to throw stones.
The yellow barrier still bars the crossing.
The roadblock is not staffed.
On the way up to Bracha – a soldier.
Heavy traffic of lorries exiting.
We left for our shift feeling combative because of the drumming of the third intifada in the media. What we found was something very different.
09:10 We left Rosh Ha’Ayin.
09:30 The Azzun Atma checkpoint. Two jeeps at the entrance, about ten soldiers wandering around, 6-7 detainees who didn’t have permits to be in Israel wait inside the checkpoint. One man exits, then two women laden with bundles. The others will be held forever. We try to talk to the soldiers. An impertinent little soldier announces “I don’t talk to women like you.” A less aggressive soldier promises to send the commander to speak with us. We wait; he never shows up; we leave.
09:50 En route to Hars. A settler sits at the bus stop, alongside an armed soldier whose job it is to protect him. It’s a familiar sight. But: in view of what General Mizrachi, the Central Command GCO, said about 18 recent attempts to kidnap soldiers, stationing a lone soldier at an isolated bus stop, thereby endangering his life, in order to guard lone settlers who happen to show up there, is both irresponsible and shows the army’s terrible lack of judgment.
In Hars we meet the club’s director who promises that by this coming Friday she’ll ask the municipality to find a room for the women’s English class.
Kifl Hars is quiet. The checkpoint is open. No military presence.
10:10 Kafr Yasuf. We came after hearing reports of vandalism by settlers, with the army’s backing, a few days ago. We met a man whose car tires had been punctured. His home is opposite the wall on which someone wrote “Price tag – rock-throwing terrorists;” it still hasn’t been erased. He says that the soldiers who followed the settlers to finish the job broke into a number of homes and took a young man away with them.
Meanwhile, hundreds of pupils burst happily into the street. There’s a partial teachers strike. They’re teaching only half a day in protest over not having been paid. It turns out that hospitals and clinics in the area are also on a partial strike for the same reason. Life here is neither quiet nor routine.
10:50 Huwwara. The town is lively. We meet a young man from Afula whose job is to guard the road crew five days a week. He’s very satisfied. “It’s paradise here,” he says. Each to his own.
We see a change in the army’s activity at the Jit junction. Two jeeps partially block the road and inspect Palestinian vehicles.
A pleasant surprise at Azzun. The checkpoint at the exit to Highway 55 is open, and the concrete barriers that were placed to block a small gap through which cars sneaked in have been moved aside.
And for dessert: A high tension line is being erected opposite the Gil’ad Farm, for the settlements in the area. And where are they putting it? In the middle of a Palestinian olive grove.
11:30 Back to the Rosh Ha’Ayin railroad station.