11:45 Bezeq CP
We went through.
Alon Road - Road 578
The embankment is in place. The Gukhia Gate is not there.
12:00 Hamra CP
It is hot and dry and deserted. Four reservists and two women soldiers ask us what we want and offer us water. For the most part workers coming back from work are going through in minibuses.
12:35 We left.
13:05 Tyasir CP
Soldiers are in maneuvers in the area north of the road leading to the CP. There are signs of a big fire in the area. Traffic on the road is very thin and so is the traffic through the CP, which is manned by reservists. One of them approaches us and asks us to wait until he gets his orders about how to relate to us. We continued walking up to the post. He returned to his three friends. All four stood at the post and told us that throughout the whole month that they have been here, and maybe even before that, the sleeve for pedestrians has not been in operation.
There are no pedestrians in Tyasir. Everybody goes through in vehicles. And indeed, the post, the turnstile, and the sleeve look deserted.
13:20 We left.
113:45 Bezeq CP
We went through.
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.
Translator: Charles K.
12:00 Bezeq checkpoint. We crossed. The green landscape is fading away.
Alon Road. The earthen berm is still in place.
12:15 Hamra checkpoint.
A military vehicle stands at the junction, next to an Israeli car missing two wheels and without a driver. Is the IDF guarding a stranded vehicle? Perhaps! We didn’t ask.
Reservists. Only black/red banners (MP’s). Light traffic. The soldier approaching us (reservist, armored corps) explains that they – and also soldiers doing compulsory service - shouldn’t have to serve here so frequently. We showed him where we intended to stand; he didn’t argue, didn’t object and went on his way.
12:35 We left.
13:05 Tayasir checkpoint
Strong winds, dust and haze.
Light traffic on the road and at the checkpoint. Reservists (infantry) at the checkpoint. One approaches us, wants to know who we are, why, he never saw or heard about a group like us. The soldiers stand with their weapons as if ready for battle. We asked why; they said that’s the correct way to stand with a weapon. He said they’re very polite, don’t stop anyone, say hello to the drivers and allow them to continue.
They’ll celebrate the seder at the checkpoint.
13:30 We left.
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.
Translator: Charles K.
1. The detained youth (photographed by the guest)
2. Barrier on the road to the Tayasir checkpoint
3. Tires placed by the Palestinians to mark road repairs
11:45 Bezeq checkpoint
We went through.
The greenery and spring blossoms are glorious.
The occupation continues to be disgusting and infuriating.
Alon Road – Highway 578
An army jeep parked by the roadside opposite the entrance to the Ro’i settlement. Across the way, at the intersection, stood a large, sparkling Toyota pickup truck.
We stopped to photograph.
A reservist approached to explain that the military security coordinator (with the sparkling Toyota) reported on a Palestinian youth who had been “watching the settlement.” He has no documents, no flock and “has no business near the settlement,” so he has to be detained and taken to the Beqa’ot checkpoint where they’ll know what to do with him. At our request, the polite soldier gave us the youth’s ID number. We explained that if the youth should happen to disappear, the family will know why.
12:15 Hamra checkpoint
Cars going in both directions. At about 12:25 we saw that the youth had been released and left.
Suddenly (12:25) the loudspeakers announced, repeatedly: Checkpoint closed, checkpoint closed.
There were no cars on the road, so we stopped to see whether the checkpoint closed because we were there. That was the reason. One of the two soldiers who approached us made it clear, in a rude and despicable manner, that the checkpoint will remain closed until we’re out of his sight.
In brief – he chased us away.
He refused to give his name; he said his commander ordered him to chase us away so we won’t bother him…
Meanwhile a few cars had arrived, filling the road. We saw the soldiers signaling to cars coming from the west to turn around and go back.
12:45 Even when we’d returned to our car and began driving away the loudspeaker kept announcing “Checkpoint closed, checkpoint closed.” We could still hear the announcement from afar as we drove north. The road shoulders were too narrow to pull over.
We tried to use our rear-view mirrors to see what was going on; it was hard to know when the soldiers opened the checkpoint.
13:05 The road up to the Tayasir checkpoint runs through a green, flowering landscape; the sheep enjoy the bounty.
Oops! A jeep parked perpendicularly to the road blocks our way just before Hamam el-Malih.
No one may pass!!
A soldier explains that explosive devices may have been planted on the road.
He clarifies: “They [the Palestinians] did some work on the road and we’re afraid they might have planted explosives. A tracker will arrive within half an hour to take a look.” We asked him about the two ATV’s we saw on the way. “We made all the Israelis touring Hamam el-Malih to leave.”
There were four tires on the road in addition to the jeep that blocked the way.
The Palestinians who stopped behind us explained. They repaired the pits that had opened in the road by filling them with cement and placed tires at those locations to warn drivers not to drive over the repairs (which they had, in fact, done by themselves). An army water truck was allowed through the dangerous area.
The soldier who spoke to us said, as if revealing a secret, that they know who did it; he’s even detained in their jeep.
We asked for information about the detainee, even though the entire story sounded like a bluff, to spread a rumor among the Palestinian drivers and passengers that what appear to be road repairs were really sabotage, and that they caught the person responsible
13:25 We left.
14:45 Bezeq checkpoint
“Everything’s OK,” and we went through.
I called Dafna in the afternoon, in case that driver had been in contact with her. She and Tal were then in the Jordan Valley; she said that at about 14:00 they reached the Tayasir checkpoint and had seen no roadblock.
Translator: Charles K.
On Thursday, 17.1.13, the army demolished 12 Bedouin encampments at El Malih in the Jordan Valley. Bulldozers destroyed the tents in which the families lived and the sheep sheds, then loaded them onto trucks and left them on barren ground. Since then they’ve been living in the open, in the rain and the cold Jordan Valley nights.
On Saturday, 19.1.13, peace activists tried to come to express solidarity with them (in two buses) but the army closed the entrance to the road from Highway 578 (the Alon Road) all day. A truck that came from the west with tents for the residents was stopped at the Tayasir checkpoint and the army confiscated the tents.
The residents hesitate to re-erect tents, afraid the army will demolish and destroy them again.
09:45 Za’atara/Tapuach junction checkpoint – No inspections.
10:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – No soldiers. Two private cars with Israeli plates parked at the checkpoint. That was also the situation when we returned.
The cultivated fields between the settlements of Gitit and Mechora – These broad fields belong to the Gitit settlement which leases them to various people along with the generous water allocations they receive from Mekorot. It looks as if the settlement received more land and water than it could handle so it makes money from the resources it received for nothing or for almost nothing. While at the same time the Bedouin are expelled from their lands and refused water for household use and for agriculture.
We spoke this time to people working for one of those leasing the lands, an Israeli from Tayibeh. The workers are from Aqraba (Palestinians from the West Bank). They said they weren’t allowed to enter the Jordan Valley through the Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. That’s strange, because there are now no restrictions on entering the Jordan Valley. They were forced to walk a very long way through the hills. Since then, they’ve been sleeping there. Someone brings them food for NIS 30/day, which is deducted from their daily pay of NIS 80-100 (they aren’t all paid the same amount). But it’s still worth it to them to work and walk a long way through the hills because it’s hard for Palestinians in the occupied territories to earn a living.
10:55 Hamra checkpoint – Very sparse traffic.
We saw soldiers training all along the way, also with live ammunition, very near the shepherds and their flocks, and also near the K. family’s encampment, about 200 meters away.
Hamam el Malih – We visited two encampments that the army had destroyed ten days ago. At one we found N., a handicapped old woman, and her two granddaughters. She showed us the remains of the encampment and the sheep pen. Now they sleep in a tiny shed left from the demolition.
At the other we found only signs of destruction. The people had fled down to the wadi.
We met Amira Hass there, people from B’Tselem and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
13:30 Tayasir checkpoint – We chatted with a few particularly nice reserve officers.
15:30 Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint - Two Palestinian taxis detained in the fenced plaza, the drivers’ IDs taken to be checked on the computer. They were released shortly after we arrived because the computer wasn’t working. We couldn’t stay to see whether the Border Police are again sending people to be interrogated here by the Shabak, as we’ve seen in the past.
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.