Eyal Crossing, Eliyahu Crossing, Qalqiliya, Thu 30.7.09, Morning
James is making a film about a number of human rights organizations in the territories, including Machsom Watch. He filmed during the entire trip.
There's not much new at the checkpoints we visited. But we encountered a serious problem in the village of Wad-Rasha'a, on the road to Al Ras-Atiya. They haven't had water for two days. We tried to help. We took photos, and were ourselves photographed... We also visited Abed, the shepherd living near the checkpoint (details follow).
4:00 Eyal crossing
We arrived just when the first people came through the checkpoint. Since the gate was open, we went over to the patrol road from which we could see the line on the other side of the fence. We were surprised to see that it was sparse. We'd never seen that before. We photographed whatever we could. After a few minutes Mark - from the crossings administration - appeared, asked us to go away and, of course, not to photograph. We didn't argue, nor was there any reason to remain.
There's provision for water in the parking area, which wasn't working the last time we were here, but was now. The bathrooms, on the other hand, which stank to high heaven the last time we were here, are now locked. The laborers complain that they have to go far away in order to relieve themselves.
We asked people who had been inspected why there was no line coming in. We received various replies. Some said that it might be due to Tish'a B'Av. Some said that a jeep is blocking the Palestinian road between Habla and Qalqilya, below Route 55, which is restricted to Jews. Maybe both reasons are correct. In any case, there was no crowding.
Most of the complaints were about the inspection in the room. They say that up to 20 people are brought in at one time, and until inspection of the last one is over, no one leaves. So they're stuck crowded together and annoyed for at least half an hour. They don't know the purpose of the scanner. They want an explanation, and don't get one. They're afraid that it causes cancer.
They also complain about the number of inspections: the first, outside, before entering; then at the entrance; then in the room; then ID's at the window.
"What's all that for? Either they believe us, or they don't! So don't give us an entry permit to Israel. But if you give it to us after checking and giving us the run-around, why all these unnecessary inspections, unless you simply don't want us here."
Next to the "café" we met a laborer who told us how his friends disappointed him. "I'm trying to organize them to demand changes in the procedures. I'm asking them not to be inspected for one day, not go through, and demand that they talk to us and change the procedures. But I have no one to talk to. Everyone wants to solve his own problem as fast as possible." He despairs.
Many taxis in the parking lot, waiting for laborers, and hordes of laborers waiting for taxis. Many of them are sprawled tiredly on the ground to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Many gather together to pray, and others pray alone.
Taxi drivers call out their destinations and wait for their passengers to go through the checkpoint. They'll wait until 6:30.
5:45 No change, and we decide to leave.
The checkpoint is empty. No soldiers inspecting. Two soldiers in the tower, who don't even look in our direction.
Eliyahu gate - we go through the lane for Israelis, passing the cars in the Arab lane. We come to pedestrian checkpoint 109. We approach the fence and talk with the laborers. Most are employed in construction in the settlement of Alfey Menashe. The line is very well organized. One person acts as an usher and writes down everyone who arrives, and they enter in order. The inspection takes 10 minutes. Anger and frustration at the soldiers' attitude and because of the situation. The inspection procedure: through the turnstile, put ID's in a kind of mailbox, enter the room 4 at a time. Three soldiers come over to us, wondering what we're doing, and what our motivation is. Though we hardly have a common language with them, Raya finds a way to their heart in her own special manner. Their attitude changes, but not their opinions (of course). But that's a start of an opening for some kind of change.
6:45 Ras Atiya checkpoint
There's usually heavy traffic of teachers and pupils at this checkpoint in the morning, but now there's vacation and the checkpoint is fairly empty. The bored soldiers approach us and ask that we not photograph. We're not even standing in the checkpoint area; we're in civilian territory. But the soldier insists. Again Raya explains quietly, pleasantly, that he has no reason to forbid us from standing and photographing. Finally, all of us have had our say... We went down to visit Abed, the shepherd, who lives with his flock next to the fence.
We've already said that he lives in the village of Wad-Rasha'a, where he has a house. But since the fence stole his sheep's grazing land he was forced to move, and found good pasture here.
We brought a present for his family - a photo we took on our previous visit. We framed in and presented it ceremoniously. The children were blissful. This may have been the first time they'd seen themselves in a photograph (it's attached). James didn't stop filming. The atmosphere was very pleasant. Abed agreed to be photographed on his horse, as did his son, aged 16.
We thought of inviting them to our day camp on the Bat Yam beach. The father was hesitant at first, but agreed. We took all the necessary information about each of them. We stressed that we couldn't make any promises, but that we'd do our best.
7:45 We left.
I sent to Tzvia Shapira our request to include the family in one of the upcoming day camps. I also sent the photograph. My request was received enthusiastically
It seems they'll participate in the day camp on 17.8.09, together with children from Bil'in. I hope it happens.
A driver stopped us as we were leaving and asked us for help. He's the head of Wad-Rasha'a's local council, the nearby village. He said that the people working on the security fence damaged the water line to the village. They haven't had water for two days. He's on his way back from Qalqilya with the material he needs to repair it, and he's just been informed that the pipe has been damaged again, in another place. He's still fixing one break, and they cause another one. He's angry, bitter, upset, and asks us to come with him. To see, and to photograph.
We, of course, get involved.
To our astonishment, the line supplying water to the entire village is a rubber hose approximately 1.5 cm. in diameter...Unbelievable. And it's simply been cut. It didn't even lie in the bulldozer's path. Someone came and sabotaged it.
While we're wondering, and taking photographs, cars immediately appear from everywhere. They chase us away and demand that we stop photographing. None of them made an effort to report the damage, but us - they immediately start yelling at us.
We're not frightened. James intends to stop filming, but I tell him to continue. Suddenly a vehicle appears belonging to Netz Bitachon. A man gets out and photographs each of us, my car and its license plate.
The torn hose doesn't interest him. I photograph the hose, and his vehicle.
Raya doesn't give up and notifies her contacts in the media. They're interested. The reporter interviews the head of the local council over the phone, and Raya keeps in touch with him for the rest of the day, until finally...nothing. Apparently the incident doesn't really interest whoever's in charge of the media.
The head of the local council invites us to his home. We entered the village and sat on the sidewalk in the shade of his house. People gathered around. We went in, to the bathroom, and saw that there was in fact no water. Fortunately, we had candy with us to give the children.
We said goodbye in a friendly manner, after exchanging phone numbers.