'Anabta, 'Azzun, Deir Sharaf, Jubara (Kafriat), Ras 'Atiya, Sun 4.10.09, Afternoon
We heard a lot this summer from Netanyahu saying that in addition to the classic, top-down peace process, he was building peace from the bottom up by boosting the Palestinian economy. The shot in the arm which Palestinians hope for at this time of year is not to be. Mother Nature has not been cooperative: the olive harvest, about to begin, will be another poor one. To return to what we are told by the government over the past few months, we heard a lot about the removal of internal checkpoints. We didn't hear that even while one checkpoint was being taken down -- as at Beit Iba, out of sight beyond where it's not permissible to go -- another was being laboriously assembled, widened, improved and upgraded at Anabta. Evidently, in this Occupation theater of the absurd, checkpoints go up, checkpoints come down, and now Anabta is abandoned, deserted.
11:45 Ras Atiya
Although there's complete closure for the Jews' holidays, it's business as usual at this Seam Line checkpoint. Three soldiers and a military policeman check IDs, rummage through pink, or other colored, plastic shopping bags, found in the cars whose seats, floor and trunks are also inspected. As usual, cars from the village are stopped west of the barrier road, driver and passengers get out and enter the compound's concrete structure for ID checking,. Return to their cars, after which its contents are checked. As usual, too, the soldier engaged in this task munches on an apple.
11:50 -- the driver of a large truck, filled with boxes, all similar, has to open one. Another large truck tries to enter the village at just about the time that the white jeep of the DCL representative arrives. It is W., a sergeant, who tells us to stand way back from the checkpoint, way back from the Seam Line. He and the commander, another sergeant, stand arms akimbo in the center of the Separation Barrier.
11:55 -- a Palestinian on his way out of the village, greets us, "they are making problems for us all the time," it being understood that "they" are the soldiers. We drive away from the checkpoint with a man who is advising us that it's better that we learn Arabic to speak with the Palestinians, many of whom don't know Hebrew: we are invited for a cold drink or coffee - "any time."
A supposedly open checkpoint where, true, there are no soldiers in the center of the roadway but a couple are clearly visible in the military lookout tower on the side.
This town of 15,000 is more sealed up than ever. A high earth mound is now topped with concrete boulders as well as razor wire, completely blocking access. A piece of the wire, however, lies on the ground, demarcating a steep, narrow pathway as a way over, but it's fit only for a mountain goat.
12:45 Shvut Ami (cave outpost by Qedumim)
Unlike most outposts, there is no caravan here, but there are settler youth who seem to be constructing a stone wall outside one of the caves gouged out of the hillside, where they no doubt live.
13:15 Deir Sharaf A steady stream of Palestinian vehicles, trucks and private cars, but no Palestinian Israeli cars (yellow license plates) are seen: never on Sunday.
There is not one soldier at ground level at this huge, multi-laned vehicle checkpoint. Everything is spic and span, the roadway newly asphalted, the checking booths also spic and span - but deserted. On the other hand, the window of the military lookout tower is open, and we see figures moving. In other words, at a moment's notice, this checkpoint is set to function again. Today, traffic flows freely in and out of Tulkarm, plenty of cars with yellow license plates emerging from the Tulkarm direction.
As usual, the settler cars whiz by in the special lane, the rest of the world waits and waits, not that there is much traffic. A soldier munches on slices of sweet red pepper, telling us that the commander is not around, so we should wait for him to grant us permission to go through the gate.
The commander soon arrives in the company of the Border Policeman supervising checking on the far side of the checkpoint: vehicles entering the Palestinian Territories. He tells us, gratuitously, "I, too, am a commander." The army's commander asks if we are allowed to go into the village, sees no problem with our reply, opens the gate. As he moves away, a "taxi" (of the kind that we know from Jubara - a private car which ferries people) stops, a man emerges, calls to the commander, who returns and opens the gate for him. That's a first for us: we've not seen that gate opened to any Palestinian since it was put up and permanently locked.
Up in the village, we are delighted to see that Al Ghadban Poultry Co., which has looked so forlorn and deserted for all these years, seems to be flourishing, in a minor way. On one side of the road are coops of white hens, on the south side of the road, what looks like growing turkeys, also white. The little mosque now sports a sparkling white minaret.
14:00 Gate 753
A large school bus crosses the Separation Barrier: it's entered by the soldiers for examination of the elementary school children, returning home from school on the other side of the Separation Barrier; the luggage compartment is inspected, after which the bus lumbers and zigzags its way around the new concrete boulders as an army jeep speeds by on the Separation Barrier.
Closure, so the place is dead, completely dead. Not a soul in sight.