'Atara, 'Atarot, Qalandiya, Sun 18.4.10, Afternoon
There was a long line of vehicles which continued to as far as the eye could see (at least 15 vehicles). While we were leaning on the balcony at the side of the road, watching the inspections (nothing special- usually a simple nod of the head towards the Jews and an ID inspection of those whose ethnic origin wasn't clear), the checkpoint commander approached us and informed us that we were disturbing him to "run the checkpoint". We told him that we were permitted to stand where ever we chose, so long as he didn't have a general-majors decree that stated the checkpoint was a closed military zone, adding that he was the one to start talking to us, so if anything he was the one that was distrusting the traffic at the checkpoint. After ten minutes we decided to leave.
While we were crossing the checkpoint in our car towards the northern side, we noticed two ambulances. We parked our car at the lot on the side of the refugee camp, and hurried to the fence to see what was going on. One of the ambulances had already left and we understood that the patient (according to the paramedics it was two year old baby with a heart condition) was on his way to a hospital at Jerusalem. Right at that moment the megaphone that is attached to the pillbox started yelling, and with an incomprehensible mélange of languages, he probably asked us to stand back (according to Tamar's interpretation, the megaphone had already tried to engage in conversation with her a couple of times, so she is familiar with its secret language). However, due to the terrible racket we couldn't know for sure he was talking to us, so we continued to check on the ambulance through the fence.
As we decided to head off, a BP jeep arrived and from it two soldiers came out and started to drive off the cab drivers, who had been parked beside the exit from the checkpoint. The drivers were very upset, especially because it was obvious they weren't in the way and that it was merely a show of force. We started taking photos of the two in action, apparently they didn't appreciate it, so in return they approached an elder man who was sitting in the waiting shed with two of his friends, and asked to see his ID. They told him that since he had a green ID he wouldn't be able to pass, because of the closure. He informed them that he worked at Atarot industrial zone and therefore the closure didn't regard him, and that in any case he had already finished working for the day. The soldiers then replied "either you leave or you pass to the other side". The man was forced to stop his conversation and return home.
The person who sells coffee at the checkpoint told us that he saw policemen standing at Jaba checkpoint, that morning. They came to inspect the whether the traffic laws were being kept and impose on the residents of the West Bank the rule of the Israeli state. As a result, many refrained from passing through the checkpoint and decided to park their cars on the side of the road until the policemen left. The police car was there from 4 AM to 6.
In spite of the closure there was a long line at the pedestrian's checkpoint (and also at the vehicle checkpoint). A person we know told us that it was because the soldiers were performing their job in the slowest way possible. When we got in line, three lanes were open and it took us 20 minutes to pass. The soldier at the inspection post asked us whether we were against the Israeli soldiers, and I was asked whether or not I had even served in the army...
Bir Zait/ Atara checkpoint:
We headed off to this checkpoint knowing that although many think the army had left the place, in accordance with the orders of the Minister of Defense, there are always soldiers manning the pillbox. When we told some of our Palestinian acquaintances that this was our next stop, they promised us that we would find nothing there. As we were parking our car we noticed a soldier who was observing the checkpoint from above. When we pulled out our camera he yelled at us that we weren't allowed to take photos. While that same old routine argument was being held, he was more than happy to share with us his perception: "the Arabs are primitive and stupid". After a couple of minutes his colleagues arrived (they were all from the Nahal), two soldiers and the commander of the checkpoint, they came out form the gate the opens the fence around the pillbox and walked towards us. They wanted to know where we were from, that is, on whose behalf did we come there, and after a short conversation (during which the commander informed us that there are security cameras and that inside the tower they do have screens- but the cameras weren't working), the commander contacted his supervisors to ask whether or not it was "permitted" for us to be there. This took quite some time and we had already begun to get ready to leave- and as we were getting into the car we saw the three soldiers making their way towards the middle of the road, they looked as though they were getting ready to perform inspections on those passing through the checkpoint. We got out of the car and watched them for a while, they did nothing but the Palestinians who drove through the checkpoint did none the less slow down as though they feared one of the soldiers might pull them over. After ten minutes we decided to leave.