Hamra, Tayasir, Thu 3.9.09, Afternoon
TRANSLATION – Deborah Lipetz
This is my first shift at the Jordan Valley checkpoints and possibly my first time in the Jordan Valley, period. The view is breathtaking. It is the end of the summer and the heat is overwhelming. The impressive desert mountains are barren and dry. It is a period of draught and severe water shortage. On the sides of the road, to our left and to our right, are dotted oasis of green, very green, which are the settlements and their greenhouses. In contrast, there are the camps of grey, dark Bedouin tents with herds of goats or sheep. The skinny cows whose ribs are painfully sticking out make do with the clumps of yellowed grasses. Occasionally there is evidence of old stone structures that have been destroyed. Perhaps they are what are left of Palestinian villages, memories of other times.
11:45AM Gititt Checkpoint
Barely any traffic, no one is being checked. A lone soldier sitting, looking bored, on the side of the road. The booths are not manned.
12:10 Hamra Checkpoint
When we arrive there is a line of about three or four vehicles. There is a lazy feel to the operation of the checkpoint. Two soldiers are in the vehicle checking booth and they both check the vehicles – one time the traffic coming from Nablus and the next time the traffic coming from the Jordan Valley. The vehicles going toward the west bank are stopped and questioned while the vehicles coming from there are checked thoroughly—the trunk, the passenger section, and the IDs of the drivers. Passengers coming from the west must leave the vehicles and go through a pedestrian check point.
We see some passengers coming from the east who go by way of the vehicle checkpoint, and those who choose to go by way of the pedestrian checkpoint. It is very hot, about 40 degrees Celsius, and the area where pedestrians are dropped off is a 3 minute walk to the checking booths. All the passengers coming from the direction of Nablus must walk—women with babies in their arms and the aged along with the men and the young.
We wonder who these people are that are traveling in the middle of the day and we try to get the attention of two young men leaving the pedestrian area on their way to the Jordan Valley. However, a soldier from the watch tower doesn't want this communication to happen and he hurries the men along by shouting to them to continue on their way.
We are standing at the edge of the pedestrian shed and we hear some of the conversation between the soldiers. They are speaking to someone or something that we can't see. It sounds like asomeone talking to a dog—actually a loving tone, not an aggressive one. However, we don't see anyone from the trained dog division nor do we see a dog or a cat roaming around. We try to get a bit closer to see what's going on but the soldiers warn us not to. We then hear the soldier from the watch tower on the other side of the road as he shouts to the other soldiers at the vehicle checking booth, "The man who is tied up wants water." We also don't see any person tied up anywhere. The atmosphere is heavy from the heat and from the mysteriousness of what is going on.
Deborah calls the DCO and they tell her that there was, indeed, a detainee at the CP but he has since been picked up and taken for a medical check. We didn't see a detainee being picked up and the answer we got bothers us. I call Saed of the DCO. He also says that a detainee has already been picked up and is having a medical check up. "I was at the headquarters when he arrived," Saed says and he is convinced that there is absolutely no detainee presently at CP Hamra. "A medical check-up", I ask?"Yes, it is routine," Saed answers. Hmmm…I haven't heard of that routine at the checkpoints but what's more important at this point is that "the man who is tied up…" issue will be cleared up. I repeat what we heard from the soldier in the watch tower and Saed again says that he is sure there is no detainee at the checkpoint. We don't succeed in getting any other information.
13:10 We leave Hamra checkpoint and continue to the checkpoint at Tayasira. Bqa'ot, a settlement on the way which is on our right, is green while the plowed fields on our left our dry.
13:20 Tayasira Checkpoint
Very quiet here with almost no traffic.A minibus arrives near the vehicle checkpoint from the west and about ten passengers, including women and babies, get out and walk toward the pedestrian checking area. Soldiers in the pedestrian area take a megaphone and shout at the small group of pedestrians as they are approaching (they are walking slowly since it is too hot to hurry): "Taal, Waachd, Waachd." And again, "Taal, Waachd, Waachd," as if a mass of people are about to run the soldiers down. Every pedestrian is checked, as well as his possessions. One youth is holding a plastic bag which has two transistors. "Do they look stolen", asks one soldier to another? But the air is to hot, the atmosphere too sleepy, and the question too illusionary to relate to seriously. The second soldier returns the transistors to the youth and signals him to move on.
14:30 We leave Tayasira.
14:55 Gochia Gate
This agricultural gate is opened twice a day, three times a week.When we arrive the gate is still locked. A family with a tractor that is carrying water containers waits for the soldiers to open the gate. Two young women and an older woman are squatting in the shade of the tractor. Three young men come to chat with us. They tell us how they are related and we try to understand with the little Arabic that we know.
The gate is scheduled to open at 15:00. It is now 15:05 so Deborah calls the DCO and in 2 minutes an army jeep with soldiers arrives and opens the gate. However, before they allow the family to continue on their way, they check their IDs and ask some questions. After a few minutes the whole family gets on the tractor and they wave good- by continuing on their way home to prepare their end of the Ramadan fast day meal. There are no others waiting and the young men told us, if we understood correctly, that they were the only ones who would pass through today. The soldiers tell us that they are forbidden to talk to us. We don't have anything more to do so we head for the car. As we are still walking, a soldier shouts at us, "Maybe you'd like to interview us after all?" We say no thanks and return to the air conditioned car.