Soldiers at checkpoints
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
The Palestinian person enters the world and exits it without any rights. The rules of occupation don't grant him the right for privacy in health or in sickness. Moreover, a dying person doesn't have the right for basic hygiene when his body's immune system is at its lowest.
Only due to her being a Palestinian cancer patient (from Nablus) who was returning from treatment at Augusta Victoria hospital, she was transported while exposed to the dust, the filth and the blazing sun above the parking lot.
When the paramedic told me about her condition, in spite my witnessing hundreds of similar incidents of women, men, children and babies, who had all been moved from one ambulance to another at that site, what came out of my mouth was: "wow", and the paramedic nodded.
The only testimony to the events of the Nakba day were the colour stains on the tower from which the teenagers were shot at with stun and gas grenades. In response they took out their rage on it.
To the parking lot on the Jerusalem side of the checkpoint arrived an armored vehicle of the border police, six Palestinian lads were taken off it and expelled into Palestine. The six who worked in Jerusalem without a permit from the GSS, were hunted down in the morning and were then detained for the entire day until their expulsion.
Two stray dogs were resting between the two checkpoint posts.
Once again the checkpoint hadn't been active during the entire day. The soldiers man it only on occasions, during the rest of the hours they stay in the pillbox. They came down on my behalf. They warned me it was dangerous to stand there and proceeded to argue that I was breaking the law because the checkpoint was in A territory. I suggested that we take a look at the map. To my surprise, for the first time in the years this ritual has been taking place, the checkpoint commander agreed, I took the map out and the commander together with the soldier that escorted him, learned that it wasn't territory A.
I left them work out the rest for themselves.
The Nakba Day at Qalandiya
On the 15th of May the Palestinians mark the day of the Nakba Day, the day of their catastrophe.
During all hours of the day there were confrontations between the soldiers and Palestinian teenagers on two front lines- the two entrances to the checkpoint.
Representatives of the strongest army in the world were shielded from head to toe and armed with various weapons, constantly shot ammunition at the Palestinians who were armed with car tires, stones and empty glass bottles that they had picked up at a thorny field nearby where they hid.
The superiority of the soldiers was evident not only in their equipment and ammunition, but also in their high locations and their sniping posts from the holes in the wall.
They shot at the thorn field until the place filled with clouds of gas that rose above the area and with them the heads of the teenagers lifted, as their breath stung and their eyes welled with tears. They began to escape the site while the soldiers' bullets flew after them.
And there was a boarder police officer who was looking for pray and went head hunting, people said that: "This redheaded officer" arrested during the afternoon a couple of lads. We didn't see that happen, but we did see him hassling a wretched panhandler with a mental illness, he invaded his privet space with his hands, looked through his pockets, took out their content and only after humiliating the weakest of all he let him be. But he was still not satisfied, he detained two teenagers, confiscated their IDs, forced them with his rifle to stand aside while he made a phone call to find out if there was anything suspicious on their records. There was nothing suspicious and the teenagers were released.
The heart goes out to the group of brave teenagers, the second generation to degradation and occupation, who since birth had never experienced freedom, but know that this is their country, this is their land, this is their homeland and to those who fight and protest against the representatives of the invader, the degrader and the thief.
And at the sound of their commander the shooting soldiers switched to a new strategy, they started surrounding the teenagers from a different side, it was only natural to warn them so that they wouldn't fall in the trap that the armed men prepared for them.
Naomi Gal translation
4 windows are open, there’s hardly any queue. The passage is not fast because of the requirement to press the finger on the biometric identifier ... Also in one of the windows a soldier reminds everyone they must show a magnetic card. He Indeed does so politely and even with a smile but he sends one person home to bring the magnetic card. To a comment about the amount of time wasted he responds: "I am sending him just because there is no pressure right now and he will not get stuck for a long time when he comes back.”
Other people who arrived without the magnetic card were not sent back, but were warned that next time they will have to go home and bring the card.
At the beginning of the shift a police officer came out from the inner rooms and bluntly and with great hostility commanded me to stand by the door and not inside the checkpoint, as we usually do. I tried to argue but he threatened to arrest me, to the soldiers who were nearby he said that he doesn’t want me to hear what he was saying to them. I moved a little farther and tried to call the DCO. One of the soldiers told him I was calling and he reacted very angrily and very loudly, so I won’t miss a word: “I don’t care if she calls her grandfather as well!"
He went back into the inner rooms and I went back to my place, and then the courteous policeman, who turns the checkpoint to a place that’s almost bearable for Palestinians, came out and apologized for the behavior of the police officer, but said that he is the boss and I should stay away for at least some time.
Towards the end of the shift an ecumenical volunteer arrived and reported that only one sleeve is functioning on Bethlehem’s side, and that it took her 25 minutes to pass.
Many Palestinians began to arrive and the courteous policeman stood next to one of the windows and swiftly let Palestinians pass glimpsing their permits, and handling the various problems that arose and they all passed.
As long as there are checkpoints I wish we could duplicate him!
Translation: Yael Bassis-Student
6:00 Barta'a-Rihan checkpoint
Many people who had crossed from the West Bank into the Seam Line zone are waiting from transportation at the upper car park.
Workers come out of the terminal through the sleeve in a fast pace. We spoke with the person in charge of the shift in regards to the opening of the gate on Fridays at 07:00. He claims that this hour was agreed upon by the people of Barta'a and managers of factories at the Shahak industrial zone, to everyone's satisfaction. He thinks that those crossing now hadn'tunderstood this new arrangement and continue coming at an early hour, thus creating crowding at the gate.
B., who works at the carpet factory, told us that one problem is the change of shift, which holds up the passage, and another problem has to do with the late hour at which people working in Israel return home. In Israel the work day ends early on Friday. The Israeli employers won't accept his workers being late on Fridays, so they must get up early and cross on time through the Jalama checkpoint, North, or through the Irtach checkpoint.
7:10 Tura-Shaked checkpoint
Only now the gate opens and there are already crowding and shoutingby the turnstile. Schoolchildren and students go through immediately and cross in the direction of the West Bank.
Vehicles cross on both sides, passage is swift.
People who go into the Seam line zone complain, once again, that one of the female soldiers double-inspects them.
7:40 Exit from the inspection cabin (the computer cabin) is extremely slow and by the checkpoint some cars have been waiting for 30 minutes to take the workers who are detain inside.
Translator: Charles K.
06:33 We drove from Shokat junction straight to Hebron to arrive on time to see the children walking to school.
A military vehicle waits at the fence near Kramim for people in Israel illegally who are clearly visible on the opposite hill.
We didn’t stop at the checkpoint because from a distance it appeared empty; only the last laborers were crossing.
Three buses transporting relatives of prisoners passed us going in the opposite direction.
A soldier at the Kvasim junction walks a kindergarten girl across the street.
Leah, who’d come from Jerusalem, joined us at the Kiryat Arba gas station. The military unit stationed at the Federman farm has been relieved; the new flags fly in the wind.
Curve 160 is full of military personnel.
We stood for about half an hour at the Pharmacy junction with the four foreigners who also observe the pupils crossing. One is a Palestinian Moslem who used to live on Mount Scopus and emigrated to the cold lands. While we were there a bus transporting settler pupils drove by, bearing a sign reading “In IDF service.”
Giv’ati soldiers man the Tarpa”t checkpoint. Since we didn’t recognize them by their caps we asked one of the soldiers which unit they belonged to. He was pleasant and replied, which greatly annoyed one of the other soldiers who’d just returned from a patrol, so when we returned that soldier stopped us and asked for our driver’s ID card but firmly refused to receive ours.
A convoy of water tankers was leaving Kiryat Arba to deliver water to the area around Hebron.
On our way back we saw an archaeological salvage excavation near the Ma’on settlement, and stopped. It turned out that there’s a “Greater Ma’on” outline plan, so the Civil Administration archaeology officer is undertaking a salvage excavation, the second one, about one kilometer above Ma’on. The archaeologist told us that the Tawwani excavation was also a salvage operation since there’s an outline plan for Tawwani as well. He said it had been developed jointly with the residents (do we know anything about that?). The excavation will continue for 10-14 days. The diggers are Palestinians with “settlement” work permits.
We promised to return next week to see the finds.
North, 29.4.13, afternoon
Leah R., Anna N.S.
Translator: Charles K.
15:15 A’anin agricultural gate (on the separation fence, for farmers cut off from their land by the fence)
The checkpoint opens at 15:00. Those waiting said that about 25 people had crossed by the time we arrived, all residents of A’anin returning home after working outside the village. A few tractors loaded with scrap also waited. Everyone was tired. It’s hot, and particularly hot at this hour.
The soldiers inspect every item in the bags people carry. The young men cross last; it’s not clear why. Gradually, everyone but M. goes through. His tractor is loaded with used mattresses, old blankets and some broken plastic chairs. The soldiers aren’t letting him bring the load across. M. asks, pleads, explains how much he needs the goods, tells them how poor he is, how many troubles: “I have seven children and no money,” he says and displays his ID card. It doesn’t help. The soldiers stick to the rules. Correction: there are rules, regulations, laws passed by the Knesset, but there’s also common sense and judgment. But the soldiers insist: only agricultural produce is allowed through an agricultural checkpoint. M. points to his ten year old son sitting next to him on the tractor, describes a school trip to Ramallah which he couldn’t join because M. couldn’t pay the fee. The soldiers don’t care. He removes the blue independence day cap his son is wearing and shows it to the soldiers. “Do you know what this is, huh?” he asks. “I love peace, I love Jews…” M. continues to beg; his humiliation and this ridiculous argument over a pile of junk are heartrending. What must M. think of us? What’s going through his head?
I want to photograph the tractor and controversial pile of junk but M. refuses, and I back down. When the soldiers move to close the checkpoint he unloads the broken plastic chairs next to the fence and goes through. He’s followed at the last minute by three more Palestinians after they were interrogated.
I’ll forgo quoting the crude pearls of racism and ignorance we heard from the soldiers who aren’t aware of the fact that it’s occupied territory. Here’s what one soldier said, more or less: We’re strong. We have weapons, so it’s ours.
A Palestinian sanitation worker collected the garbage around the checkpoint.
16:00 Tura-Shaked checkpoint (a “fabric of life” checkpoint between Palestinian villages in Area C)
Only a few people and one vehicle crossed to the West Bank during the quarter-hour we were there. Only two people crossed to the seam zone.
16:20 Barta’a-Reihan checkpoint (the largest checkpoint in the area, with a large terminal; it’s been privatized)
More than 200 people crowd next to the fenced corridor to the upper terminal entrance. The checkpoint is closed! It’s training time! The DCO didn’t know when the checkpoint would open. People say they’ve been waiting about an hour. Soldiers in a military vehicle who were also waiting said the exercise will be over within 15 minutes. People are tired after a day of work, they crowd at the checkpoint, it’s hot, unpleasant, they’re even too tired to complain.
The checkpoint opens ten minutes later and the mass of people returning flowed through the fenced corridor to the terminal and out to the Palestinian parking lot. The waiting vehicles also crossed. The taxi drivers in the Palestinian parking lot waited together; one prayed. People described their hardships to us; they have many, in particular the fact that no one helps them, not the Palestinian authority, not the occupiers, nor us either.
17:00 We left.
Translator: Charles K.
06:10 A’anin checkpoint
Inspections were carried out opposite the entrance gate to the checkpoint, near us. A few people waited at the middle gate to be called for inspection, and from the shouting we heard there must have been a mess at the lower gate. Soon everyone, including the tractors, arrived at the middle gate, and we were told by those exiting that people were shoving, didn’t want to stay in line and that the soldiers got annoyed. A few young men were sent back home after arguments. A man who came through on a horse asked us to help his friend who’d been sent back to the village right before our eyes. Only after the checkpoint closed were we able to talk to a female MP who politely explained that she sends people (mostly younger men) back who appear likely to be planning to remain illegally in Israel: someone with a bag of clothing and a charger for his phone doesn’t intend to come back this afternoon.
Husni, the redhead, approached us – his 8-year old grandson has a blood disease. He has an appointment this coming Sunday at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, but they haven’t yet been able to obtain an entry permit to Israel. With Chana Barg’s help we learned that the appointment doesn’t yet appear in any hospital’s registry. We explained to Husni what he must do; let’s hope he manages to complete the complicated arrangements by Sunday.
People we spoke to said they didn’t trust the Palestinian state or its leadership. What difference will a state make, they said; all the money will stay at the top and we’ll never get what we need or the rights we’re entitled to, like you have.
07:10 Shaked checkpoint
No one went through the checkpoint before 07:20, though officially it opened at 07:00. The people usually crossing at this hour waited at the gate near us – pupils, teachers, government workers, other workers. The soldiers had forgotten the key to the lock of the fenced corridor and everyone waited for it. The soldiers could have taken that into account and let them go through the center of this little checkpoint, but no – ordnung muss sein. The line at the far gate on the Tura side also grew longer. The lines and the mess hadn’t gone away by the time we left.
07:45 Reihan checkpoint
We drove by on our way to the Zebda bridge. The parking lot next to the bridge was full; the number of Palestinian vehicles increases every day and creates a shortage of parking spaces. Nine loaded commercial vehicles stand on the road to the vehicle checkpoint and merchandise inspection station.
09:00 Jalameh checkpoint (Gilbo’a crossing)
A father and son wait for me to drive them to Rambam hospital. They crossed before the 08:50-9:20 break but we can’t leave yet because we must wait for the mother and three-month-old daughter who undergoes daily dialysis at Rambam.
I approach the closed terminal entrance. A guard in the tower who doesn’t realize I’m Israeli calls “Iftah el bab [open the door].” Another guard, armed with a threatening weapon, tells me to move away from the opening because it’s a security area. Meanwhile Palestinians arrive, open the gate in the fence and cross to the West Bank without having to go through the terminal.
09:20 The terminal doors open. Palestinians now arriving cross quickly to the West Bank through the terminal. Some come through in the other direction, to Israel.
09:55 The mother and infant daughter cross accompanied by the father who carries their belongings. The father returns to the terminal and we drive off.
Throughout my stay at the checkpoint there was a flow of cars belonging to Israeli Arabs at the vehicle checkpoint, on their way to the West Bank. People aren’t yet returning to Israel at this hour.
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...
9:00 to 10:50
Naomi Gal translation
Three windows are open. Many Palestinians are passing but according to their reports the passing doesn’t take long: they say that there are not many people on the Palestinian side and that it takes about 15 minutes to pass. Towards the end of the shift an ecumenical volunteer passed and reported it took her 25 minutes.
A strange event at the beginning of the shift: an older woman passed along with two men, all of a sudden soldiers run toward her claiming she was not checked in the sleeve on the Palestinians side and had surpassed it (how is that possible?). They took her back, checked her and demanded her to return to the other side and go through the security check. Eventually she came back and crossed over to Jerusalem.
By the end of the shift: a 45 year old man presented his permit and was turned down. When I asked the soldier at the window why he was refused passage, the soldier said that the permit was no longer valid. The man stood there between the windows, probably hoping for a miracle. A few minutes later, a security guard led him into an inner room. 5 minutes later the security guard came out apparently summoned by a soldier in window 1 and asked, "Where is the illegal guy?" They pointed at a disheveled young man 25 years old and led him through the same door to an inner room.
15 minutes later he came out with the two men, wagged his finger, rebuked them, and warned them lest they try again to infiltrate, and followed them to make sure they return to Bethlehem.
Translator: Charles K.
06:30 Most of the laborers at the Sansana checkpoint have already crossed to the Israeli side; dozens still wait for their rides. Next to the revolving gate we meet a CPT representative. He says about 4,000 people crossed this morning, without any unusual incidents. A short distance along Highway 60 we see a large sign by the roadside: “Welcome to Har Hebron – Come to visit, come to connect, come to stay.”
We turn onto Highway 317 and…”Fulfill your dreams in Sussiya,” flags of the homeland waving gently along the road in the morning breeze. The highway is empty, deserted, as is the little village of a-Taywwani. We stopped next to the “archaeological excavations” carried out about a year ago. We looked around – the excavations are fine! And the landowner, who wanted only to lay a water line in order to have flowing water at home was”granted” a dubious structure for his sheep. But water? Nope.
We wanted to accompany the children on their way to school but it was too early so we drove on to Hebron.
We passed the Carmel settlement where a sign proclaims “Carmel’s new neighborhood – 13 housing units;” construction is well-advanced. Just this morning Ha’aretz reported that the Americans gave their tacit consent to construction “only in the large blocs.” Is Carmel also in one of the “large blocs”?
We drive on. Poor villages line the road. A woman carries a pail of water on her head and holds a second in her hand, just like in the … 16th century… Along the road, before Zif junction, dozens of children walk to school.
The Ja’abari family built an additional house near the beginning of the Kiryat Arba –Hebron road. We hope it will stand a long time.
On the upper road past Beit Hameriva/Hashalom is a roadblock where some Palestinian cars whose drivers have crossing permits are allowed to stop, the driver may lift the roadblock, go through, then replace it without having to “bother” the soldiers guarding the house, and thus be able to use the road. But they’re only a chosen few. Most have to take a detour on a bumpy road restricted to Palestinians…
“There’s no limit to idiocy,” Yael says.
CPT women at the Pharmacy checkpoint tell us that Issa was arrested the day Obama met Abu Mazen and has been in jail since. They don’t know what happened to him. They also said children told them that in a booth at one of the crossings where they’re often stopped to have their schoolbags inspected there are photos of children on the wall and many times they’re asked to identify the children in the photos and asked their names. We promised to try and find out what’s going on. They also said that during 65 days, 45 children had been arrested! We later phoned a local acquaintance to find out where Issa is. It turns out he had been held for two days and then released without having been charged with anything.
We saw new signs at Tel Rumeida (only in Hebrew, of course) directing visitors “To the tombs of Yishai and Ruth – to Admot Yishai.”
There’s also a large new sign on Shuhadah Street (“King David Street,” according to Anat Cohen) at the corner of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood: “The ancient Jewish Quarter Avraham Avinu Synagogue.”