It’s a New Year for many, the third day of Eid el Fitr for others. The
problem is that after 43 years of occupation, and Israel’s continuing
determination to maintain sovereignty and confiscate land, generations
of Israelis have ceased to see the other side, the Palestinians, as
human beings. Whereas, of course, MachsomWatch volunteers go into the
West Bank to monitor violations of human rights, the fact is that, we
also assume a “people to people” approach, visiting those we’ve gotten
to know over the years, at or near checkpoints, outside terminal
buildings or at agricultural gates. True, we are there to “bear
witness,” but we are also there to meet and greet our fellow human
beings who, just like us, wish to live a “normal” life.
14:00 we are there at the usual opening time, and the gates are open.
But since it is the first day of the “fall back” clock, we ask about
gate opening. So far, only the evening opening time has changed, now
from 16:45-18:00 (instead of an hour later).There are people waiting on
both sides of the Separation Barrier, more on the Habla side, about 15
that we can see, half that number on the side where we watch. Since it
is a holiday, there are less horse or donkey drawn vehicles than usual
and not one tractor.
14:10 -- the gates are closed by the three soldiers working
lackadaisically on a not too hot late summer day. Why are the gates
closed? “There’s been an incident.” Nevertheless, an elderly man and his
cart are let into the middle of the Separation Barrier road, and his
sweetly, aromatic guavas, hidden beneath a blanket, are uncovered for
inspection. On the far side of the checkpoint, the metal barricade,
which has been closed, is now swung open, and this cart passed. A
similar incident with another guava carrying cart, with its owner having
to leave the cart and horse, as usual, to go to the concrete bunker
which serves as a checking booth before proceeding.
14:20 -- a white jeep, “police” written on its side, arrives and
soldiers and police talk. People wait, nothing moves. A usual situation.
The speed, sorry, slowness by which the soldiers function has nothing
to do with the heat but with overall policy: let them wait, check
everything over and over (even of people who pass not once but twice a
day, etc. etc.)
Nothing to report on Route 55 other than many military vehicles
on the road. The only rolling checkpoint, if indeed it was to be one,
was at the old entryway to Shavei Shomron where a group of soldiers
stood at the side of the road with two Hummers. Anabta is busy with fast
flowing traffic, no soldiers in view and just one vendor – of figs.
Once again, we took the newly paved road past Jit and Sarra and drove
down to Beit Iba on the new asphalted stretch of road given “by the
American people to the Palestinian people.” Below, Beit Iba is as dusty
and forlorn looking as ever, its days of full time checkpoint duty and
We could be in an Israeli town, since the parking place outside the
minimarket is filled with cars bearing yellow license plates. The
Palestinian Israelis have been so busy shopping in Nablus and its
surrounds, that the minimarket was open around the clock in the days
before the start of Edi el Fitr, and even today, business is brisk.
We drive up Route 60 to the checkpoint and, not unusual, we attract the
attention of the sleepy soldiers on duty here, and two of them come over
as we prepare to turn and go back down the hill. As last time, the
commander, who still seems to know little of who we are and what we do,
has to shush his officious underling who wants to ask questions of us.
16:05-16:40 Just like the other Israeli cars, we stand in line and wait
and wait. There are hundreds of vehicles it seems, waiting to go back
into Israel proper, and we see, from afar, a long line of vehicles also
entering the gateway from Tulkarm directly: the first time Jubara has
been used as a junction in many years.
16:50 There’s a barricade across the roadway, no entry into the terminal
parking lot. Few returning Palestinian workers, but a number of mini
vans offload workers near by.
Translation: Suzanne O.
Azun Atma southern roadblock
A small lorry arrives in the direction of the exit.
A soldier opens the gate, the driver alights and shows his documents and another soldier inspects the goods in the back. They release it after 2 minutes.
A young man arrives wanting to enter. He crosses the roadblock within half a minute.
Again there is no one. We moved to the Nablus roadblocks.
There are 8 cars queuing. The soldiers inspect quickly, they do not demand documents, they glance at the passengers and signal with their hands to cross.
A lorry is stopped, documents and goods are inspected, two minutes and it crosses.
At the entrance to Huwwara there is a serious road accident. An Israeli and a Palestinian police vehicle direct us to move on.
2 soldiers are behind concrete blocks at the entrance to Nablus, there is no civilian police presence. Just now they inspected a car at the entrance - looked at the documents and let it cross.
There are four soldiers at the exit from Nablus; there are no cars in the queue. The soldiers wave cars through. Lorries come and go.
The roadblock is closed to traffic. There is a soldier in the lookout tower.
We drove along a winding road via Madma (everything is closed!).
Asira el Kabilia (a crowded village, narrow lanes, just one grocery shop open, not a person on the streets).
In Urif a lot of shops are open, many people on the streets, they smile and wave hello.
In Jemayn it is also quite busy, we drove onto Road 505 which until recently was closed by a high pile of earth (the entrance to Zeita).
Za'atra/Tapuach Junction again
There is now a queue of 18 vehicles. Some are stopped and documents inspected; the inspection is quick.
Huwwara roadblock again
There are no hold ups at the entrance to Nablus, but at the exit there is a huge queue!! It is impossible to see the end of it!
We drove up to the road to Bracha; from there we could observe the roadblock and counted at least 150 cars queuing in 3 lanes which narrowed into one towards the roadblock.
A bus which joined the queue at 12:15 p.m., crossed the roadblock at 12:21 p.m. The crossing is quite fast and the number of cars was also reduced.
On Road 60 a surprise! The roadblock has been removed! When did this happen? There are no concrete blocks barring the way and the traffic can go to and fro. Great!
There is a sign saying Entrance to Area A. It doesn't look like Area A according to my map but we didn't go in.
In Punduk too it appears to be an ordinary Saturday, lots of activity. There is no military jeep in the area.
There are at least 15 soldiers and 3 jeeps surrounding a Palestinian vehicle which has stopped on the Israeli side, in the middle of a traffic island. What is happening here?
We stopped to observe from the car park.
A young Palestinian walks around the vehicle, speaking on the telephone.
A second Palestinian sits behind the steering wheel without moving. Every minute someone approaches him and looks. Has he fainted? Is he wounded?
A police vehicle arrives as well as a military ambulance.
An Israeli ambulance arrives, kippah wearing paramedics alight, hug the soldiers but no one is in any hurry to approach the wounded person. For his part he doesn't move! Perhaps he is dead?
An Arab ambulance arrives. They also do not approach the wounded man. What is going on here? We don't want them to send us away so we don't go over, just observe.
The police leave, the military ambulance leaves, the civilian one as well, another 2 military jeeps arrive and still the driver doesn't move!
Suddenly we see him put his leg out, and then put it in again! He is not dead! Phew!
The driver alights, a young man, he supports his neck with his hand and goes over to the Arab ambulance. What a surprise! We were waiting for a stretcher...
The ambulance drives off in the direction of Kalkilya. The car is driven away by the second young man.
Summary Our starting point is the Green Line, Route 6. East of it we are well aware of notions about the land being "disputed," "colonized" or "separated." What is obvious on our tour are the combination of apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a manner that must be unique in the world!
The upshot of the process of land acquisition and demographic engineering is a sorry spectacle on the one hand, a human tragedy on the other.
Route 55 Nothing to report, a hidden military jeep off on the side of the road at Al Funduk, and no signs of life, for now, at the outpost of Shvut Ami near Qedumim.
Jit and the road to Beit Iba and Nablus Nothing going on at the junction itself, but a surprising scene as cars, taxis and even a Taneeb bus, are seen, coming down from the road to Sarra. We decide to "explore." The road is wide open and where, once, in the dim, distant past, four, five or more years ago, was a checkpoint and trucks delivered water to the villages beyond, today the road is wide open (and the villages, we know now have piped water, as does, and did the settlement of Qedumim). The roadway is in good shape, and, near its crest is a gorgeous view to the north and west, whereas just east of us is Nablus, close by with smart looking new residential buildings near where we turn around.
At a junction, a brand new junction, well laid out and engineered is a big sign that this road is made with the help of US AID. Had we continued straight on, we would have been in the center of Nablus.
Instead, we drive down the steep asphalted (still black) road, the live trees at its side made more silvery than ever with the roadwork and summer dust, straight into the middle of what was once the Beit Iba checkpoint. All is quiet, little traffic in the few hours remaining before the end of Ramadan, the old kiosks all tightly closed up: the whole setting, with the deserted quarry behind, looks like something from the back set of a Hollywood movie. The closed Huwwash Brothers' carpentry workshop sports an impressive looking new iron gate, a new shopping parade, still not open, has been created near Deir Sharaf, and there are now some places selling inticately designed clay pots alongside the road. At the mini market, we learn that the new road we have just "explored" has been open only about four days.
The newly paved Route 60 to Jenin, also courtesy of US AID, is now open to traffic, and there's a checkpoint as for many years, at the crest of the hill, outside the military base entryway to Shavei Shomron. Quite a bit of traffic here. We note a large IDF tank parked not afar away (empty), a "stretch" Hummer in front of us, barring the way up the barricaded hillside, and as we make our way to turn back down the hill, a gaggle of soldiers surrounds us. We learn from the commander that the roadway is open although "they" are still working beyond the checkpoint ("there's nothing of interest there for Israeli Jews") that permits to go to Homesh (the disengaged settlement may be reached: really?) At this point, the commander from the "stretch" Hummer tries to ask more aggressive questions and is shooed away and silenced by the commander stationed at Shavei Shomron.
Our starting point is the Green Line, Route 6. East of it we are well
aware of notions about the land being "disputed," "colonized" or
"separated." What is obvious on our tour are the combination of
apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a manner that must be
unique in the world! The upshot of the process of land acquisition and
demographic engineering is a sorry spectacle on the one hand, a human
tragedy on the other.
We arrive early at Gate 1393, firmly closed in the intense heat, as a
dozen or more men sit on the bench, waiting, in the boiling hot ex
container (from Zim shipping line, we wonder). The army arrives after
13:45, and then only two soldiers step from the Hummer as it hurries off
into the hot dust of the Separation Barrier.
13:55 -- the gates have still not opened, and the soldier, on our
complaining, says he cannot "open the gate on my own," that he is
awaiting another three...
When they do come, another five minutes wait, as they work in
excruciating slowness, while horse, donkey cart, tractor, bicycle and
about 20 male workers take their place to get through the Separation
Barrier. Just one woman -- a woman we know from Ras Atiya, since, once
long ago, we were able to cross the Separation Barrier checkpoint there,
(now no more) and join her in her home, to eat watermelon. Today, she
still has her same job in Israel, she still pays 50 NIS a month for her
work permit, good until the end of this year, but now she can no longer
get near her village without coming through this gate and then taking a
taxi from the other side all the way to Ras Atiya. She is but one
example of the continuous political and economic control over the
Palestinian people by the Occupier.
On our way deeper into the Seam Zone, we take a small tour
alongside Alfe Menashe, the settlement which proudly boasts
advertisements for new housing on the road leading up to it, close to
the sadness and poverty of the Bedouin community a few meters away. Just
before the barred entryway to the settlement is a lookout which
portrays only too well how the contours of the land have been gouged out
to create the Separation Barrier, a roadway below and the "Wall" -- as
high as the wall in Jerusalem, as a soldier once boasted to us -- above.
The way the Separation Barrier curves as it does is clearly to
demarcate the growing settlement and its expansionist plans to swallow
up what remains of the Seam Zone.
Nothing to report, a hidden military jeep off on the side of the
road at Al Funduk, and no signs of life, for now, at the outpost of
Shvut Ami near Qedumim.
Jit and the road to Beit Iba and Nablus
Nothing going on at the junction itself, but a surprising scene as cars,
taxis and even a Taneeb bus, are seen, coming down from the road to
Sarra. We decide to "explore." The road is wide open and where, once, in
the dim, distant past, four, five or more years ago, was a checkpoint
and trucks delivered water to the villages beyond, today the road is
wide open (and the villages, we know now have piped water, as does, and
did the settlement of Qedumim). The roadway is in good shape, and, near
its crest is a gorgeous view to the north and west, whereas just east of
us is Nablus, close by with smart looking new residential buildings
near where we turn around. At a junction, a brand new junction, well
laid out and engineered is a big sign that this road is made with the
help of US AID. Had we continued straight on, we would have been in the
center of Nablus. Instead, we drive down the steep asphalted (still
black) road, the live trees at its side made more silvery than ever with
the roadwork and summer dust, straight into the middle of what was once
the Beit Iba checkpoint. All is quiet, little traffic in the few hours
remaining before the end of Ramadan, the old kiosks all tightly closed
up: the whole setting, with the deserted quarry behind, looks like
something from the back set of a Hollywood movie. The closed Huwwash
Brothers' carpentry workshop sports an impressive looking new iron gate,
a new shopping parade, still not open, has been created near Deir
Sharaf, and there are now some places selling inticately designed clay
pots alongside the road. At the mini market, we learn that the new road
we have just "explored" has been open only about four days.
The newly paved Route 60 to Jenin, also courtesy of US AID, is now open
to traffic, and there's a checkpoint as for many years, at the crest of
the hill, outside the military base entryway to Shavei Shomron. Quite a
bit of traffic here. We note a large IDF tank parked not afar away
(empty), a "stretch" Hummer in front of us, barring the way up the
barricaded hillside, and as we make our way to turn back down the hill, a
gaggle of soldiers surrounds us. We learn from the commander that the
roadway is open although "they" are still working beyond the checkpoint
("there's nothing of interest there for Israeli Jews") that permits to
go to Homesh (the disengaged settlement may be reached: really?) At this
point, the commander from the "stretch" Hummer tries to ask more
aggressive questions and is shooed away and silenced by the commander
stationed at Shavei Shomron.
Traffic slows down as it crosses the intricate access point to Tulkarm, but there's not a soldier in sight.
A polite military policewoman speeds our way on to:
Many people hurrying, good naturedly, to the terminal building where,
unbelievably, all eight counters are open to service the few returning
workers on this horribly hot day. A man, carrying a standing fan,
struggles to get through the narrow turnstile to the hall inside,
saying, good naturedly, "Well, it would be better to have air
conditioning, but meanwhile..." And only a few more hours to "iftar."
Translation: Suzanne O.
We photographed the late Beit Iba roadblock.
Road 60 opened 2 days ago to Palestinian drivers to Jenin. That is, there is no roadblock at Shevei Shomron.
At Jit Junction a police vehicle was parked but did not stop the traffic.
At the road leading up to Sara a military vehicle was parked.
We brought parcels of clothes to Mahmoud who works for a charity organisation in Tulkarm. He himself is refused by the Shabak.
We visited a family in Anabta. Edna used to transport their little girl, when she was two years old, for treatment at Ichilov Hospital after surgery to remove a tumour from her head. The little girl is blooming but the family has to deal with a difficult genetic disease. The disease leads almost to a vegetative state and has attacked two little girls aged 2 and 4, it cannot be treated in the hospitals in the territories. They asked for help to get treatment in Israel. Their belief in Israeli medicine borders on the supernatural. Edna approached the Peres Centre.
Beit Furiq roadblock
Traffic flows in both directions with no hold ups.
Apartheid (or in decontaminated language - sterility - from what?) is protected on Madison Way as previously. There is even a sign (for the first time openly and publicly) ordering it.
We visited more friends of Edna in Beit Dejan.
There are two military positions even before the roadblock - one opposite the settlers' hitchhiking point and one at the entrance to the car park (empty). Perhaps this is to discourage Jews from going into Nablus.
At the entrance to Nablus there is no additional roadblock. At the exit there is an inspection and people queue to receive permission to cross.
A private vehicle is held up at the side. We don't know since when. We tried to find out but when we approached the position a soldier came out and firmly, but politely, insisted that we move away and did not answer any questions. About a quarter of an hour later the car was released to go on its way. The rest of the cars crossed without hold ups.
At the entrance there is a military vehicle. There are soldiers in the look out post.
When we were in Anabta people from Hares told us that religious Jews come to pray there at a 'sacred tomb'.
We read in a previous that the tomb belongs to Calev ben Yefune
Translator: Charles K.
14:54 Za’tara checkpoint.
Random inspections. Passengers in a white minibus wait for their IDs to be returned to them after inspection. They were released 6 minutes later (we started timing them when we arrived).
Heavy vehicular traffic from the direction of Ramallah toward Nablus.
15:15 Huwwara checkpoint.
The checkpoint is manned in both directions. Random checks of people leaving Nablus.
An additional soldier in an observation post in front of the checkpoint.
Signs of last week’s fire between the village of Burin and the settlement of Bracha are visible near the checkpoint. We’ll send photos.
On the concrete walls of the hitchhiking stations near the checkpoint are recent posters opposing the constructing freeze; announcing a planned hike from Nablus to Jericho for masses of participants; and other similar proclamations by settlers.
15:40 Beit Furik checkpoint.
A soldier at the observation window in the tower. A command-car is parked next to the tower.
Local vehicular traffic isn’t interfered with.
A vehicle with Israeli plates, driven by a woman, isn’t allowed into Nablus.
We’ll send a photo of a hand-drawn sign forbidding local Palestinian residents from turning onto the Madison route/apartheid road (toward Elon Moreh).
15:50 Awarta checkpoint. No vehicles waiting.
Two army jeeps pass by us in the village of Huwwara.
16:50 Za’tara checkpoint.
Two people detained by the Israeli police. The lids of their car trunks are open.
17:20 Azzun Atma checkpoint. No line.
"The Sewage from Sha'arei Tikvah flows into ‘Azzun ‘Atma"
07:04 - ‘Azzun ‘Atma About 70 people are waiting in line at the exit. 2 gates are open. The average waiting time is 7 minutes. We spoke with a few workers who came through. Some of them are not from ‘Azzun ‘Atma, but from the surrounding villages. They claimed that the gate opened late today and, after a wait of an hour and a half, an additional gate was opened. One of them complained about the sewage which flows to their villages from the settlement of Sha'arei Tikvah. The terrible odor bothers them a lot, and the mosquitoes. He said that it is impossible to sit outside in the evening because of the stench. I would like to point out that I have heard this complaint several times already and I even wrote about it in my previous reports. Is it possible to help them? To whom should we send this complaint? Esti W. asked Nivah to give certain information to a resident of ‘Azzun (we have his name), in connection with the studies of his daughter. We asked several people, but couldn't find anyone who knew him.
08:10 ‘Azzun villageEverything is open.
08:15 JayyusThe agricultural gate is closed and there are no people. A military jeep patrols along the fence.
08:45 We went passed the Habla gate. It is now closed. There are no people.
06.30 Eliyahu crossing is empty and nobody is waiting.
06.40 We arrive at Habla. The gate is opened 5 minutes later and there are the usual lines of people waiting. One soldier checks documents and bags before the Palestinians go through the turnstile in groups of 5. During the 12 minutes we wait, 15 people go through.
07.10 We go through ‘Azzun to Jayyus and to Falma (gate 927). We are told by the sentries on duty that the gate is open from 05.15 to 17.15.
07.45 We then go to gage 943 which is open and told it will be open again at 12 noon and at 18:00 for 30 minutes each time. We meet an interesting Palestinian on a tractor who speaks excellent English, having lived for a period in the U.S.
08.10 Shvut Ami – no presence on the hill though a few settlers’ posters remain. Jit junction is open without any military presence.
08.20 Shavei Shomron. The road to Jenin is still closed and under construction.
We return the same way as we came, noticing that the house on the opposite side of the road to Shvut Ami has been painted blue (?)
Translation: Suzanne O.
There were rumours about new Urginea but we didn't see anything.
The entrances to Marda and Zeita are open.
When we passed by there were no cars at all at the junction. When we got to Huwwara a convoy appeared behind a lorry but it too crossed quickly.
There are no military vehicles.
On the way between Borin and the roadblock there are scorched hills, reminders of the blaze there at the beginning of the week after the IDF demolished a building on Mount Bracha.
A soldier peeps out and waves hello from the top of the watchtower. There is an innovation at the exit from the area of the roadblock - on the wall where there was an abusive message, there is a new sign: No left turn to Madison Way. This is the first place to state that Palestinians are not allowed to drive on the road. (I regret to say that the camera on my mobile refused to cooperate.)
We searched the sides of the road for signs of the burning tyres which led to Palestinians being caught at the beginning of the week but didn't see anything. One of the villagers told us that it happened near a settlement (?) but did not want to go into details.
The inspection of each lorry leaving Nablus causes a short queue.
The soldiers guarding the entrance roadblock demand to see our documents and do not give in.
The traffic to and from the town flows and the soldiers do not interrupt it at all. There is a dog handler vehicle present but not active. There aren't many vehicles in either direction.
The traffic flows. Here too there is a dog handler in the car park but we didn't see any vehicles being inspected.
Translation: Suzanne O.
We continued on to the Za'atra/Tapuach Junction and, on the way, we noticed that the eastern and western gates to Marda were open, and that there were a number of wide breaches of the fence.
The crossing at Zeita /Jemayn is also open.
At Za'atra/Tapuach a number of vehicles cross, they are stopped from time to time for a rapid visual inspection.
On the way to Huwwara, at Beita a military jeep is parked at the side of the road and the same is true in Huwwara itself. In both cases the vehicles were parked at the side of the road and the soldiers did not alight, at least not while we passed by them.
At Huwwara roadblock a taxi is detained at the exit from Nablus. The vehicles in this direction cross the roadblock slowly but are not inspected. At the entrance to Nablus the vehicles cross without slowing down. Vehicles with Israeli number plates are stopped but permitted to pass.
At one of the positions in the direction of the exit from Nablus a car is parked with a dog tied up beside it. A soldier comes up to us and introduces herself as a member of the Sting unit. She asks us not to take photographs at the roadblock because of security issues related to the presence of her unit, this in spite of the fact that we didn't have a camera with us.
The taxi is released and another vehicle is detained. The soldiers order the passengers to alight and stand at the side. The dog is sent to inspect the vehicle and after about 6 minutes they are released and another vehicle is detained, inspected by the dog and so on and so on. At the same time a bus is detained for inspection and waits for over 10 minutes until it is released.
At Awarta there is one lorry, its driver is required to alight and open the doors of the container for a rapid inspection. After that he is released. On the way to Beit Furiq, opposite Itamar, again there is a military jeep parked at the side of the road while the soldiers sit in the shade of a bus stop.
At Beit Furiq there isn't even one vehicle and the roadblock appears to be completely open. We only saw one soldier in the watch tower who looked at us.
We returned in the direction of Huwwara and continued on Road 60 via Kdumim Junction and there, too, we saw a military jeep parked at the junction. Later, at one of the entrances to Jit, a column of soldiers marched out of the village and at Karnei Shomron there were two female soldiers standing and observing the road. We continued on Road 55 and at the exit from Ponduk we came across a snap roadblock. Four vehicles were parked at the side of the road and a number of soldiers collected documents and checked them on their radio devices. One of the soldiers sits in the vehicle and records all the names of the ID card holders. One of the detained taxi drivers tells us that he has already been waiting for a quarter of an hour but, after a few minutes, he is released. During the time we were there 3 - 4 vehicles were detained for between 5 - 10 minutes.
On Road 55 the eastern entrance to Azun is open but here too a military jeep is parked at the side of the road. We turned to the direction of the inactive roadblock at Kalkilya and from there attempted to continue by the Ayal roadblock, however, in this direction there is a roadblock on way to Tsofim which allows only residents of the settlement to pass. We turned back and left via the Eliyahu crossing.