'Azzun 'Atma, Mon 13.7.09, Morning
06:10 Eliyahu Gate
We don’t stop at Eliyahu Gate or enter to see the Qalqilya checkpoint because we want to arrive as early as possible at the checkpoint between ‘Azzun ‘Atma and the Palestinian Authority. We enter ‘Azzun ‘Atma and drive through the village to the village of Tult, go through that lovely village on a new road with paved shoulders and sidewalks and continue on, pass the smoldering garbage dump and from there up to Sinira, past Beit Amin and down the steep road to the ‘Azzun ‘Atma checkpoint. Cultivated olive groves line the road along its entire length, and we even see new young trees and cultivated fields. At the end of the road we again meet the occupation in the form of settlements, fences and “security” roads.
06:35 ‘Azzun ‘Atma.
About 30 workers are waiting in line, and a line of 5 cars also wait to enter the village. The drivers get out of the cars and wait in a line to go through the metal detector, then return to their cars and go through the gate for a quick inspection. In addition to the line for the metal detector, which takes about 20 minutes (15 minutes before entering and about 5 minutes inside), the soldiers have people form another line and inspect documents, which hastens the process significantly. Everything is done quietly and politely. The soldiers seem to recognize some of those going through.
07:10 There’s no longer a line; people arrive one by one.
We ask to go through the village, and are permitted to do so. We leave the car outside and ride with one of the villagers in a “taxi” that takes us for a tour of the streets we’re not familiar with, the ones bordering the settlement of Sha’arei Tikva, with only an ordinary fence between the buildings and yards. The road on which we’re riding is attractive, nice homes, though Palestinian building is restricted, for example, the driver tells us he’s not allowed to complete the second storey which he began constructing a few years ago. We see many greenhouses and he tells us that the village has 1950 residents, most of whom make a living from agriculture, which is quite well-developed. They market to Nablus and other towns. The atmosphere is almost pastoral, until we reach the checkpoint on Route 505, and once again meet all the ugliness and arbitrariness of the occupation.
We meet a family with two children who’ve had bone marrow transplants in Italy. They have a genetic disease that has already caused the deaths of two of their children. The operation (and the stay in Italy) was very expensive, and was paid for by donations, partly by the father’s employer who owns the Bagel Bagel factory in Barkan…
The father’s Hebrew is very good, and he asks us for help. The children were hospitalized in Rambam for a long time after returning to Israel, and they still have to go there for a follow-up every three weeks. Until the fence and the checkpoint were erected on this side of the village, they entered Israel without any problem. Now they have to go to the Eyal checkpoint or to Irtach, because the ‘Azzun ‘Atma checkpoint doesn’t lead to Israel but is only for workers in the settlements or in agriculture on the seam line. Entry via Eyal or Irtach is, of course, very dangerous for the children’s health, and the trip takes much longer. Dalya Basa knows about the case, but she’s unable to help; the officer in charge of the entrances in the Qalqilya sub-district knows the family very well and is trying to help but the arbitrary rules are indifferent to any humane considerations.
We’re trying to help the family, and if anyone has an idea, we’d very much like to hear it.
08:00 We returned to the lower gate and turned toward Ras Atiya to see whether the southern Qalqilya checkpoint was in fact dismantled. We drove without interruption past groves and fields and then even along the security road and reached the village of Ras Atiya, drove through and exited via the checkpoint to “Israeli territory.” It was strange to see the checkpoint from the other side. We saw the work underway to relocate the fence, which is destroying Ras Atiya’s olive groves; while it returns the village to Palestinian territory, it robs many Palestinians of their land.
08:40 We said goodbye to Dalya at the Alfei Menashe gas station and continued toward the ‘Anabta checkpoint to see what’s happening there, in view of the repeated reports about how bad things are. On the way we saw people moving around on the Shvut Ami hill; a few people have, apparently, once again decided to “settle” there.
The line to enter Tulkarm did, in fact, stretch past the junction. We counted 30 cars, taxis, trucks, etc. While there are five new roads, traffic lights, booths, traffic markings on the roads and automatic gates, everything is managed by the well-known wave of the bored soldier’s hand.
The checkpoint commander tried to get rid of us. We showed him the letter from the IDF Advocate General, and despite his threats stayed where we were. After a few calls to the humanitarian office traffic began moving, and after a while the line got shorter and eventually disappeared. But at the same time, three taxis and a bus were held for more than an hour in the burning sun at the exit from Tulkarm. The men all had their ID’s taken and mixed up together by the soldiers so that all of them had to wait, including women and children. Slowly, all the young men were taken for “GSS talks.” All the appeals to release first the taxi, which carried mainly women and children, were of no avail, nor was the request to first handle one taxi and then move on to another. We called the humanitarian office a number of times, which was helpless in the face of the GSS. We also called Tami who passed on the report to her contact. After more than an hour and a half the taxis were released. Maybe it was our pressure on the humanitarian office, and Tami’s on the war room, and Osnat’s attempts to convince the soldiers, and maybe the GSS investigators simply got tired, because some of the young men were released without being questioned, but not the last one, from the taxi with the women and children. He was the last to be released…
It doesn’t lookas if anyone at ‘Anabta has heard about easing of restrictions.
Once again we met many soldiers whose attitude was “I do what I’m told;” “We only follow orders.”
10:20 We left.