Hamra, Tayasir, Sun 22.8.10, Afternoon
Guests: a Swedish journalist and S., an interested young woman
“Ramadan couldn’t reach the Jordan Valley because it didn’t receive a permit and was turned back at the checkpoint” (A saying often heard in the Jordan Valley when people explain why they’re not fasting).
Abandoned checkpoints – almost no one shows up, very hot (though not like it was three days ago) and the fast is unbearable. In these conditions, having to drag oneself from the car to the checkpoint, and then back to the car, is a little too much to ask, so if it isn’t urgent people stay home.
12:30 Gitit checkpoint
Empty. No soldiers at the checkpoint and no Palestinians. Only three settlers encamped in the checkpoint, right in the midst of the concrete blocks, apparently waiting for a ride and meanwhile making themselves at home. Lords of the land, lords of the army.
We went to see the ruins of El Pharsiya. It’s a very harsh scene: piled-up remnants of people’s lives, among them sparkling white new tents donated by the Red Cross, which are now too subject to a demolition order. El Pharsiya never received the demolition order, and its residents have been living on their lands (privately owned and officially registered) for more than 50 years. So why now? P., our friend, says the goal is to create a strip “free of Palestinians” between the main settlements in the area and develop it for Israel’s benefit.
14:45 – Tayasir
Only about 20 vehicles passed in either direction during the course of an entire hour. The soldiers are bored, but their commander makes sure that inspect the waiting vehicles. From time to time the soldier who is supposed to be inspecting vehicles locks himself in the air-conditioned booth.
The Palestinians wait quietly in the 40-degree heat (104 Fahrenheit), in the sun, in cars with no air-conditioning. The commander tells the soldier to come out and inspect, so he slowly pulls himself together, puts on his ceramic protective vest and goes out into the heat. A delay of about ten minutes.
The soldiers inspecting people on foot call “wahad-wahad” (“one-by-one”) even if there are only three people, or when they’re addressing 8- or 10-year-old children and their parents. The children also must come through individually; they do so slowly, hesitantly, looking worriedly at the soldier and his gun. It’s unpleasant for an adult to go past the soldier hidden in a booth and another standing next to the revolving gate with a weapon drawn. To have to confront the occupation alone is oppressive and threatening; how much worse is it for a small child…
The soldiers insist, and don’t allow more than one person at a time to approach them. Whoever dares to step forward a meter or two is sent back immediately. This greatly delays the crossing, because the 30 meter walk toward the checkpoint starts only when the previous person has come out the other side. That’s not much, but when you’re talking about a group of 20 people it results in a completely unnecessary delay.
17:15-17:45 Hamra checkpoint
People cross quickly. No delays. Many soldiers doing compulsory service who this time don’t harass us. Few Palestinians. A friend told us that three days earlier a Palestinian boy went through the checkpoint with a bottle of cola that the soldiers coveted. The boy tried to resist but couldn’t, and they finally took it from him.