Beit Iba, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 15.3.09, Morning

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Ricky S., Estie T. ( reporting); Natanya translating

Today the checkpoint at Beit Iba was canceled.
10.15 On the way to Beit Iba we passed the freight terminal at Irtach. There were many trucks.
10.30 Irtah.
There are hardly any people. In the nearby garden area of the checkpoint, the terminal, in the direction of the parking lot work is being done on the foundation. All the flower beds have been uprooted and in their place are cement circles as preparation for something but that something is not clear. On the other side of the building we meet two people who already had been to the DCO offices and returned disappointed because again and again they had been refused the permit that they needed. They have the magnetic card but no permit.  
11.00 At the turning from road 60 in the direction of Deir Sharaf is a terrific traffic jam. It is soon clear that the soldiers are working to put up a new checkpoint instead of Beit Iba. Most of the drivers are standing outside their cars. They are confused and trying to maneuver in all this confusion. They advise us to pass quickly as soon it will be closed. And truly close to the new checkpoint at Dir Sharaf many heavy vehicle are present with all that is needed to put up a checkpoint within an hour.
Two cement booths on both sides of the road. Concrete blocks for the checkpoint, a yellow iron rod, a Hummer, soldiers, the Israeli flag. The decorations are nearly complete.
11.20 Beit Iba
Many newspapermen and photographers. Many arguments but also little clarity in the air. "At 12,00 the checkpoint will be taken down," the DCO tells us , Omer. The last people go through the checkpoint, some cars. The turnstile area and the checking area are empty. A strange feeling.
 12.00 The checkpoint is down. Hurrayyy!
Newspapermen and photographers run from side to side. Everyone is smiling. Soon Fares, the head of the DCO will arrive. The soldiers are comfortable, microphones are pushed at anyone who is willing to say a few words. We are also interviewed by a local Palestinian network. Fares arrives ....there is much excitement, everyone runs to the white jeep. Fares is interviewed especially in Arabic. "The checkpoint has been canceled! It is very important to us to make things easier for the Palestinians. From Thursday the exit and entrance to Beit Iba will be completely free."
At Dir Sharaf there will only be "vehicle checking." In other words only cars will be checked. Checking as usual. They will go through freely.
In the meantime there is a commotion. The taxi drivers are confused "people who wish to return and do not know that the CP  is open. They do not know from where to take a taxi. No one has told them anything.
The proclamation demands that all the taxi drivers move from the checkpoint. They refuse. They want to go on as usual at least for today. Tomorrow they will move eastwards and wait for passengers at the new place.
The area of the checkpoint, the checking booths, the fences, the cement fence which divides between the pedestrians and the car, the soldiers, everything is empty and stands orphaned. Empty. Really? A strange feeling.
13.30 On the way back. A long line of cars and trucks twists on the road exiting Beit Iba in the direction of Dir Sharaf and of Shavei Shomron. Also Fares's white jeep is "stuck" in this enormous traffic jam.
From conversations with people it is difficult to say that they are truly satisfied. Most have strong doubts about the future. As one of them said to us, "What did they do? They moved the checkpoint from here to there. "From a small prison there will be a larger prison."