Hamra, Tayasir, Tue 30.3.10, Afternoon
Paraphrasing the canonic Beitar song: Two banks has the West Bank – this one’s ours and so is that one…
Flying down the highway from Jusalem towards the Dead Sea through Ma’ale Adumim colony, along the Separation Wall, asphalt smooth, Israeli cars winged, it’s a calm holiday morning, and we open our shift with a peek at the northern tip of the Dead Sea, then proceed along the Jordan Valley and after witnessing the checkpoints, blockages, long running dirt mounds that look like fresh mole highways, ditches and all we are reminded for the Nth time how unbearably easy and cruel the system is blocking the West Bank off from the outside world – on its western side by the body of the Israeli State proper to the sea line, and on its eastern side by the body of the by now for all practical purposes annexed Jordan Valley to the river line.
Beit Ha’arava Checkpoint 12:00
A blue (civilian) police officer and a single soldier operate a ‘mini-checkpoint’ that but for a few small concrete slabs and piece of shade would have seemed a flying checkpoint, with two red plastic ‘jerseys’. As we come they are checking a Palestinian car heading for the Dead Sea.
Less than a minute later they have already folded up their business and to our query since when they have been ‘on duty’, the police officer answers: “This is not to the point. I end my job when and how I see fit”.
We proceeded towards the Dead Sea beside dilapidated buildings dating from the time of the potash plant enterprises pre-1948, and the adjacent small army camp. One of the old buildings is fenced and shows a sign saying “Dangerous structure” and is covered with soldier graffiti (see photo).
Continuing in the direction of Jericho, facing the entrance way to Vered Yericho colony, the standard red plaque warns us of entering PA areas, but no checkpoint in sight.
We turned back (not intending to enter ‘forbidden’ territory) to get back on road 90,The spinal column of the Jordan Valley.
Shortly before Na’ama colony we stopped to take a photo of the mighty barrier put up where once the main access road to Jericho joined the main road, and naturally within two minutes flat a yellow-lights-flashing army jeep was on us to figure out what we were sniffing.
Tyassir Checkpoint 14:15The checkpoint rather empty, the soldiers begin their waving-us-away ritual but change their minds. A single cab arrives from the Nablus hills, its passengers disembark for the individual checks, and the ‘one by one!’ mantra resounds in the still air of this middle of nowhere. The turnstile creaks doubly loud and slow, grating on the mind to remind us that the army does not bother to oil its monster.
At 14:40 we proceed to the checkpoint Gochia which is supposed to be opened by the army for Palestinian passage as it is supposed to be opened every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday once in the morning, once in the afternoon. As we arrive at the appointed time – 3 p.m. – and stick around, no one comes to use this gate now, and the army does not send anyone visibly to open it. We waited for over a quarter of an hour and then left.
This gate embodies the whole evil story. Palestinian children who live in adjacent hamlets in what remains of the Palestinian enclosed Jordan Valley – scattered in the midst of blooming date tree groves, vineyards and some industry all maintaining the flourishing Jewish colonies in the most fruitful soil attainable – six year olds and up, are forced to leave their parents and live with relatives ‘inside’ the West Bank (across the hill-line) in order to be able to attend school at Tamun village, for example, which is so very close but beyond the checkpoints and blockages and ditches and fences, for the Valley is not really their any longer.
Hamra Checkpoint 15:25Everything is run at top… slowness. At present this checkpoint already has some of the markings of the old Huwwara version: X-ray truck, Military Police soldierette, shaded area for … the soldiers’ food water and rest, not for the Palestinians who in the summer are forced to waste in the sun. Passengers, having crossed and been inspected, have to wait over 20 minutes until their vehicle is finally checked as well and crosses to pick them up to continue their journey east.
A woman tells us that last time she came through here, a soldier instructed her to unbutton the over-gown she wears as part of her traditional garb. Inside the shack.
A male soldier. Alone. She did. What else could she do?
We left Hamra at 16:00.
Photos attached. Some of them show the fresh warning signs – “No entry, firing zone!” in Hebrew and Arabic, pasted to standard concrete slabs at the entry to every single footpath, dirt track, dirt road and any sort of access to human living quarters, tilled farm plots, shacks, tent encampments. Palestinian, naturally. We find this urgently in need of investigation, legal inquire!