Hamra, Tayasir, Mon 19.4.10, Afternoon
An organization, like a country, needs goals. MachsomWatch's goal is clear, and we work towards that with our monitoring and reporting every day: "an end to the Occupation" with the corollary dictum of accountability on the part of the authorities. But the country to which we belong and which is about to celebrate its 62nd Independence Day? What seems clear only is that it is clinging to settlements; that it is dominated by the army, and is subservient to the settlers, as the Occupation carries on with aggression against people who are not Jews in lands that they, Jews, have occupied and a stagnation that is cruel and heartless and entirely contrary to what this country should have been about.
13:00 Beit Dajan
Where Route 578 joins Route 57 is a hamlet, Beit Dajan, whose name we learn from the forlorn sign lying at the side of the road, telling that "additional classrooms at Frush Beit Dajan" have been provided by US Aid, the Village Council, etc. We decide to explore and follow a dirt track alongside what must be a lovely "river," since there is lush greenery, palm trees and other shrubs in stark contrast to the barren hillside above. A group of men sit under the shade of a tin roof, their tractors at rest, and as we drive carefully along the road, a group of smiling children, of all ages, girls and boys come, obviously from school, and we search, in vain, for the "additional school rooms" and wonder who will provide for this poverty stricken area, other than non Israelis.
There's a quite a walk to the checkpoint at Hamra, but, after our expedition to the hamlet of Beit Dajan, we make our way there, by car, and find that many of the children live around the hamlet and must walk, to and fro, from home to school and back again, in what is an augur of the hot summer to come in the Jordan Valley.
13:30 Hamra Checkpoint
We're greeted by a soldier who stops eating his lunch under the shelter of the tin roofed walkway, used by nobody except soldiers, and mutters to us, as if saying something by heart, about this being a "closed military area," (which is why there are so many Palestinians here, of course), and that we must stand away from the checkpoint. We stay where we are as many men come through the checkpoint, putting back their belts which have had to be removed in the usual fashion in these occupied parts. Everything is so slow moving at the checkpoint that the truck affording them a ride gets to the other side before they do.
13:30 -- the school kids, girls and boys, arrive at the checkpoint (it's taken them half an hour's walk in this heat), and we note that some live in the Bedouin encampment above the checkpoint.
The vehicle with the open X-ray machine hums in the heat, and birds sing, while the same soldier with his weird muttering hovers around us, as we ask if he has something he wishes to say to us or ask us. No response. Somewhat mentally challenged, is what we decide!
The commander seems now to have finished his lunch, as he appears, as does somebody in the lookout tower above the checkpoint, and suddenly five soldiers are at work. The commander, a sergeant, tells us, once again, that we cannot stand where we do, and gets out his mobile phone to show us a photo of the red sign (indicating that we are in Area A - but who cares about Oslo any more).
13:35 -- there's now a line of cars waiting, at a safe distance, of course, to come into the checkpoint and more people, young and old coming through from Nablus. A young woman, holding a sleeping toddler makes her way from the checkpoint to the waiting taxi beyond. We join her and the taxi driver who tells of non-stop problems at the checkpoint. He himself is from the village of Al-Jiftlik and makes his way across the checkpoint over and over throughout the day. As we talk to him, the commander comes, soldiers in tow, over to where we stand and copies the taxi's license plate, which we also copy, into his phone and also takes a photo. This is the time that the taxi and its passengers beat a hasty retreat, but they are sure to be harassed at a later time. Such is the ethos of Occupation.
Four soldiers confront a group of young men, making their way on the narrow median strip at the checkpoint, but they proceed without being checked. And now there is no checking at all, as first an armored personnel carrier arrives with what we assume to be higher ups. There is now a long line of buses, many taxis. Suddenly, as a result of the higher ups telling the solders to "move it," perhaps as they're being observed, who knows, everything gets moving, and in no time at all, the eight or nine small buses (taxis) move through the checkpoint into Nablus, followed by a group of seven young men who walk through the checkpoint, followed by many others, none of them checked.
Along Route 578 from Hamra to Mehola on Route 90
We had heard that the occupation authorities confiscated four pumps used for agricultural purposes and for drinking water in Khirbet al Farasiya in the Northern Jordan valley on 15.4.10, and decided to see for ourselves the area in which these Bedouin encampments are situated. As in other parts of the OPT, water passes Palestinian homes on its way to the Israeli settlements, but Palestinians are denied access to this water even for drinking purposes.
Beyond the turnoff for Tayasir, the road, Route 578, continues down to the Jordan Valley proper, and, on the way, are a number of failing settlements that are hardly deserving of the name, since nothing seems to go on there, other than the building of yet more new homes, some of them empty, and plastic greenhouses, empty, torn and falling to pieces standing on the barren hillsides above. The promise of agriculture, it seems clear, didn't work here, but people, Jews, can go on living on occupied land, doing probably nothing except receiving handouts from the government, as an article in one of the Israeli newspapers described only last week. Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities attack those Palestinian farmers who try to earn a subsistence living in the Jordan Valley, attempting to destroy the agriculture in their tiny hamlets. Yet none of this gets reported in Israel proper!
No doubt about it, repeated Israeli aggression against the citizens of the Jordan Valley has one goal: to evacuate them from their land.
The same mantra is read to us by the second lieutenant commander here. We can't even, according to him, use the shade of the checkpoint to shelter from the sun. We stand in place in any case, but there is no movement of either pedestrians or vehicular traffic, so we move on.
Near the junction with Route 578, a picture perfect setting in the near distance: two camels standing as if for photos, a shepherd and his sheep and/or goats, a couple of men sitting under a tree and, beyond the summertime homes of the Bedouin. From one vantage point, nothing can disturb the peacefulness of this image, but the next moment we recall the Occupation and the evil it brings to bear on ordinary, hardworking people who want nothing more than to be left alone, in peace.