Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tue 22.9.09, Morning
Trans.: Revital S.
Good news (in hope they are harbingers of better days): Following Defense Minister Barak's announcement, that road blocks would be pulled down in tribute to 'Id al-Fitr, many road blocks on Roads 60, 317 and 356 have actually been dismantled: may they never be reconstructed. Still, the main blocks - Dahariya (the southern entrance to Hebron, below Beit Hagai) and the entrance to Hebron from Beit Anon remain unchanged.
Strongholds - Facing Shama, on the outskirts of Dahariya, we notice a new construction which does not appear to be Palestinian: a lone building on top of the hill. The stronghold north of Kiryat Arba has been extended to include a large tent.
Along the road, security personnel of Mekorot (Israeli Central Water Authority) are checking, to ensure that water is not stolen off pipes. Themselves protected by an armed guard, they ask how come we're not afraid.
We arrive after the workers have all crossed. Nine buses carrying families to prison visits are waiting for inspection. Three are already waiting, with a full load of passengers, on the Israeli side, in order for them all to proceed in a single convoy. The prisoners are only entitled to forty-five minute visits anyway, so it doesn't really matter when they arrive. The families have been waiting on the Israeli side since 6:30am and we are again surprised - they know inspection won't begin before 7:30am. On days with so many buses going to the prisons more inspection points could and should be opened, but all in all the place doesn't seem too crowded. There are benches and the turnstiles turn both ways so you can go back if you wish and not crowd in a queue.
Today, in the military and police jargon, is "an exceptional Jewish day" in Hebron, when only Jews are allowed to pray in the large hall of the Patriarchs' Tombs' Cave. The allocation of praying days to Muslim and Jews is determined by the Civil Administration, Waqf representatives and representatives of the Chief Rabbinate according to the Holidays' calendar.
During the ten days of atonement (between New Year and Yom Kippur) Jews get their own special days. Then busloads arrive in Hebron with thousands of orthodox Jews. Special parking lots are prepared for them (by the Pharmacy CP, e.g.) and special security measures are enforced in order to ensure their safety in H2, including greater diligence in inspecting Palestinians at the various CPs. More youths are detained and more Palestinian IDs taken for inspection; it is also evident that more parachutists patrol the streets and there are soldiers in pairs on every corner and in every alley.
People are positioned on the roof of the House of Dispute and the Border Police CP there has been reinforced.
The house by Curve 160 CP has been taken over: a flag of the brigade as well as an Israeli flag fly on the rooftop, a military shading net has been put up and the entrance to the stairwell carries a sign saying "Kidmat Yehuda". It looks quite surrealistic - three military vehicles, one police car and a generator making an incessant noise - and on the steps by the house with the occupied roof sits a Palestinian road sweeper, looking on.
A member of the family whose roof has been occupied tells us that the soldiers spoke with his family and did some soldiering to the banister around the rooftop. They promised not to disrupt the household rhythm. They seem civil enough - two are on constant guard below and two are positioned on the top of the stairwell, in addition to all the rest, on the rooftop itself. Who can credit that it does not disrupt inhabitants' life?
The house overlooks the route to the Patriarchs' Tombs' Cave and from subsequent inquiries we learnt that it's the standard procedure every Friday and Saturday, but then only two soldiers man the rooftop. In general, even the 15-20 Palestinian cars which are permitted to usethe Zion Route can not do so on Fridays and Saturdays.
Palestinian children are still about in the streets as their vacation is not yet over. The soldiers gave them a friendly warning, not to throw stones. The soldiers said that as far as they knew they were scheduled to come off the roof tomorrow. We asked a Palestinian friend to let us know.
At the top of Tel Rumeida Quarter we were surprised to see that the military shading net has been taken down from the roof overlooking H1 and the roof itself, vacated. We went up to check and found the roof tidy, washed and clean! Unbelievable! The only sign of the recent occupation is a holiday edition of a daily newspaper. The Palestinians seem to have grown used to everything.
Squills are blooming along our homeward journey. We stop at Um al-Hir to hand over some things Ofra has sent to the inhabitants and take some peace activists to Khirbat Tawani, and then home.
"An exceptional Jewish day" or the usual humdrum of occupation - you choose.