'Anabta, 'Azzun, Deir Sharaf, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Ras 'Atiya, Sun 1.11.09, Afternoon
On driving back from the OPT today, Tennyson's "The Brook" came to mind. Maybe the poet won't mind his words being transposed to meet the exigencies of Occupation in today's Middle East: "For men may come and men may go, but I (the occupation) go on forever." Instead of the "men," we have checkpoints and barricades which are put up and taken down, checkpoints that are manned or unmanned. No matter, the Occupation continues. In fact, one of the most serious aspects of what we observe in the OPT these days is the situation at the Seam Line, at the Separation Barrier.
12:45 Ras Atiya
We've passed the works near Alfe Menashe where the Separation Barrier in all its individual concrete slabs is being erected slowly and carefully, blighting the landscape and, for sure, deepening the distress of the Palestinians who happen to live or own fields around it.
The children are coming out of school across the Separation Barrier, walking stoically past the three soldiers on their way home, usually in the next village, except for the Bedouin kid who lives in the tent alongside the checkpoint. The three soldiers take turns in telling us that we cannot take photos, but already a Palestinian youth has told us that the commander is "good." He does, in fact, chitchat with us, and doesn't bother about where we stand or what we do.
This week there's nothing to write about. No checkpoint functioning, just a lone soldier in the military lookout tower, fiddling with his mobile phone, and vehicles, both Israeli (yellow license plates) and Palestinian travel freely, seemingly wherever they want to go.
We note the large US AID advertisements on either side of the dormant checkpoint as well as along Route 55. On one, a mother looks fondly at her small child, on another a young woman is learning to handle a video camera.
As last week, the town is not barricaded with the monstrous mound and concrete blocks provided, every now and again, by the Occupier.
The four soldiers loll about at the side of the checkpoint, and vehicles, both Israeli (yellow license plates) and Palestinian, travel freely.
Vehicles also travel in both directions freely here, but there is a blue police jeep, standing at the side, and a policeman, wandering into the center of the roadway, bent on stopping vehicles.
There are eight soldiers at the checkpoint; a change of shift is evident. The commander says "It's good to see you," and soon after sends a soldier over to unlock the gate, so that we can drive up to the village and on to:
15:15 Gate 753
Two miserably torn and dirty Israeli flags flutter in the breeze. A car and a truck are ready to cross from the east side of the Separation Barrier. A group of four men who live in Sur but work in Jubarra have to get out of the car in which they've been traveling from the village and, as at the big checkpoints in the past, have to go one at a time towards the checking booth - here nothing but a makeshift tent - where the usual laborious process takes place. The men know the routine and wait patiently as the soldiers check their IDs and permits against the list they have at their side. A detainee sits by the open gate, but immediately after we park our car, the soldiers go up to him, evidently tell him to stand up, and he begins to walk, and then run across the Separation Barrier and on in the direction of A-Ras. Clearly, the arrival of MachsomWatch has had an impact!
15:45 Shaar Efrayim/Irtah
We have to wonder if our presence didn't also have an impact here. When we arrive there's a line of men waiting to get into the "terminal." When we get to the turnstiles at the entrance, we see that the area of the terminal has been cut in half, since there's a folding metal door across the width of the hallway. Only one window has been open, but by the time we look inside, there are two working. Passage is quick, and Palestinians, almost to a man, and one woman, complain about the mornings. "You should be here in the mornings." As we leave, we see one of the terminal's civilian operators at an open window right above the entrance. He follows us with his eyes, going to another open window, as we make our way back to the car in the parking lot. We wonder!