The main goal: To gather information about Palestinians in Kafr Jamal who aren’t able to cultivate their lands in the seam zone on a regular basis.
13:00 Habla checkpoint
A number of Palestinians and cars wait on both sides of the checkpoint for it to open.
13:05 The military vehicle arrives, though late; the soldiers get organized quickly and soon the first group of seven Palestinian crosses toward Habla. An Israeli vehicle belonging to a pesticide company is also permitted through after a discussion with the soldiers. The Palestinians we spoke to don’t have any complaints.
13:30 The children’s bus goes through.
14:00 Eliyahu gate checkpoint
No delays in the lanes to Israel.
14:30 Kafr Jamal
After a few phone calls and help from local residents we found the place we were to meet H.K., whom we’d met two weeks ago. We’d asked him, as did Petahya and Chana A. who’d met him last week, to prepare a list of the people who can’t get to their lands and aren’t able to cultivate them. A few other residents of the village joined us, including one who spoke Hebrew. We received a list of 14 residents who aren’t able to cultivate their lands as they should because they can’t bring a tractor and equipment to them.
They explained that in order to reach their lands after going through the Falamya gate, which is open for 12 hours, they must drive north along the security road to five gates scattered along the concertina wire fence west of the road. Three or four families used to go through each of those gates to their lands which were nearby, and they could raise various crops, other than olive trees. But these gates have been long closed. The stated reason for the closing had been damage caused by wild boars. They’ve been opened since only for a few days during the olive harvest.
They say that olive groves also have to be worked from time to time and today they have no convenient way to reach their land, and tractors can’t get there at all. They’d like those gates, at least the middle one among the five, to be open at least two days a week all year long so every farmer can reach their land, cultivate it and grow what he wants without hindrance. A reasonable request everywhere no fence separates a person from their land – that is, where there’s no occupation. About a year ago they toured the area with ‘Adel (Roni mediated) who promised he’d try to have the army open at least the middle of the five gates. The army didn’t agree.
We drove together for about one kilometer along the road to observe the area. Their lands extend all the way from Sal’it with its red roofed homes in the north to Tzur Yig’al. Large areas among the groups of vineyards seem uncultivated.
15:30 We returned via Kafr Elias.
16:00 Eliyahu gate
We noticed the signs. The right lane is for Palestinians with permits. In front of us, in the Israeli lane, the security guard had a long conversation with a driver, inspected his ID card, his car, and sent him to be checked in the shed to the right. She also was curious about us and asked (among other things) whether we weren’t afraid.
Habla and the roads leading to Dir Sharaf and 'Anabta
06:45 Agricultural Gate, Habla
The Palestinians report that the gate opened on time, at 06:30. Very rainy and muddy. The crossing is quick, one group of 5 waits at the turnstile and another leaves the building after about 2.5 minutes.
One man goes through and there are no more waiting. A slow dribble of people and a dribble of rain. In a conversation with a Palestinian who was going from Habla in the direction of the nurseries, but was waiting, we found out that he was waiting for his grandson, who was supposed to bring some special tools for work in the hothouse. The grandfather had already risen at 3 AM and had taken care of the flock of valuable sheep which he has in Habla (his sheep do not go out to graze), but now he is angry with his grandson who is keeping him waiting. He hopes that there will be livelihood for all, and doesn't enter into politics...
Two buses of children arrive, the drivers get out to have documents checked, meanwhile the soldiers open the gate for a wagon coming from Habla.
The buses leave. 3 vans, full of small plants, leave Habla, inspected and passed. The elderly guard of the nursery arrives in his nephew's car, they go through quickly.
07:45 Eliyahu Gate
At the police station, at the entrance to the checkpoint from the direction of Israel, there were a number of trucks standing and it seemed as though their documents were being checked. The crossing point of the workers was empty and in the area of vehicles' inspection we saw only 2 cars.
At the isolated house, which used to be called "Shvut Ami" (my nation returns), one could still see Independence Day decorations. Is that a sign of something to come? At the turn in the road before Kedumim there was a military vehicle.
One armed soldier was guarding the hitchhiker's station of Kedumim.
Opposite the entrance to the village of J'at there a military vehicle was parked. At the crossroads itself, there wasn't any IDF.
Beneath Kedumim, they are paving a new road which seems to be preparation for further expansion.
We traveled in the direction of Dir Sharaf and went onto highway #60. Opposite the remains of the checkpoint which had been there at the turnoff to the village of Nakura, there was a military jeep. Further along highway #60 (in the direction of Jenin) there was a street sign, "National Park of Samaria, Sebastia".
The question should be asked, who is allowed to go to this "Park", since, at the turnoff, there is also a red sign saying that it is forbidden for Israelis to travel on this road, since it leads to the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority...
We traveled to Dir Sharaf to visit our old friend, the shop/bakery owner. We stopped for coffee and falafel and a talk about what's happening...his son finished his second degree, with distinction, at the University in Nablus and was accepted for further studies in Germany towards his doctorate. It turns out that all of his children, including those who help him all the time in the shop, are excellent students and his wife also completed her second degree at the University, but doesn't work outside the house. He is the only one in the family who didn't study, but provides very well for his family. He told us that, during the closure, "in honor of your holiday", there were a lot of soldiers and military vehicles everywhere, as though they were just waiting for something to happen.
Again, there was a conspicuous lack of compatibility between the abilities of people to adapt themselves to every situation and the existence which they are forced to endure.
We traveled to the checkpoint of 'Anabta, where he reported that there were exchanges of fire 2 weeks ago. (we also read about that in the paper).
09:20 'Anabta checkpoint
At the entrance to the turnoff, there was a large sign warning Israeli citizens, in red letters, that the road leads to areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and the entrance is forbidden for Israelis.
An Israeli flag was flying on the guard tower, and there were soldiers there who didn't come down, even when we approached in our car. There is an endless stream, undisturbed, of Palestinian cars going in both directions. We didn't see that the road to the village of Ramin from this crossroad had been fixed or renovated as had been promised a few months ago.
We continued on highway #557, in the direction of Jabara. All the turnoffs to the villages on the way had the same large red signs warning Israelis not to enter the villages (demonization?), which, of course, were not named.
On the contrary, the road to the village of Shufa was renovated and there is a sign with the village's name in Hebrew (before the turnoff to the settlement of Avnei Hefetz). We turned off toward Avnei Hefetz, to check if the blockage before Izbat Shufa had really been removed permanently; we were happy to see a lot of traffic of Palestinian cars as well as Israeli Arabs passing through there with no problem. We continued in the direction of Avnei Hefetz and met up with a military jeep observing the road. We continued to the checkpoint of Te'enim and saw the new fence being slowly constructed around the house of the late Abu Hatam.
The soldier at the checkpoint asked us where we had been, and we answered that we had been on the roads and at the checkpoints and inspected them. Without any answer, he opened the checkpoint for us...
I lengthened this description because I always feel that everything is fine, while really everything is not fine; so very not fine, but I can't get this feeling across...
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.
13:40 Habla gate. The children’s bus comes from Habla to the exit, three girls get off and are taken to the scanner for inspection, the bus awaits them outside. When they came out I asked them why they in particular were taken to be inspected. The answer: they’re older and have ID cards.
Two Palestinians waited under the canopy near the gate. When they saw us they began complaining that they’ve been waiting half an hour and the worker they hired to pick lemons isn’t being allowed through. The soldier told him that “you can’t go through because of the holiday.” I telephoned ‘Adel who didn’t understand what holiday she was talking about. He promised to take care of it. Meanwhile the two men got tired of waiting; they said they wanted to return home before the gate closed and they’d have to wait until evening. I told them that it was being taken care of; they said they’d wait on the other side with their worker. Meanwhile Tedesa telephoned me (after ‘Adel spoke to him); he said he’d spoken to the soldier in charge who told him that nothing like that had happened. Meanwhile I see the three of them approaching the gate and told Tedesa that she’d just released him.
14:10 The Eliyahu crossing was filled with military vehicles; something must have happened, but they wouldn’t answer my questions. We continued; two Hummers were parked opposite the entrance to Ma’aleh Shomron. There were also soldiers at the entrance to Qedumim, and two jeeps. Well, the lords have to be protected, no?
Jit junction. A new military position on the north side behind the railing is manned.
Huwwara is empty.
Za’tara. Manned, inspections underway with dogs.
16:10 A group of soldiers stood at the Hars traffic light on the north side behind the railing. Five vehicles were detained for inspection.
16:20 Azzun Atma. No laborers crossing. We drove to the parking lot opposite Oranit where the Palestinian laborers get out of their transportation. Three laborers were there. They told us they were from Aqraba, planning to walk to the checkpoint and get a taxi from there because there are no taxis to their villages from where they’re let off. It’s so disheartening…
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
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".