'Anabta, Beit Iba, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jit, Jubara (Kafriat), Shave Shomron, Wed 18.8.10, Afternoon
Our starting point is the Green Line, Route 6. East of it we are well aware of notions about the land being "disputed," "colonized" or "separated." What is obvious on our tour are the combination of apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a manner that must be unique in the world! The upshot of the process of land acquisition and demographic engineering is a sorry spectacle on the one hand, a human tragedy on the other.
We arrive early at Gate 1393, firmly closed in the intense heat, as a dozen or more men sit on the bench, waiting, in the boiling hot ex container (from Zim shipping line, we wonder). The army arrives after 13:45, and then only two soldiers step from the Hummer as it hurries off into the hot dust of the Separation Barrier.
13:55 -- the gates have still not opened, and the soldier, on our complaining, says he cannot "open the gate on my own," that he is awaiting another three...
When they do come, another five minutes wait, as they work in excruciating slowness, while horse, donkey cart, tractor, bicycle and about 20 male workers take their place to get through the Separation Barrier. Just one woman -- a woman we know from Ras Atiya, since, once long ago, we were able to cross the Separation Barrier checkpoint there, (now no more) and join her in her home, to eat watermelon. Today, she still has her same job in Israel, she still pays 50 NIS a month for her work permit, good until the end of this year, but now she can no longer get near her village without coming through this gate and then taking a taxi from the other side all the way to Ras Atiya. She is but one example of the continuous political and economic control over the Palestinian people by the Occupier.
On our way deeper into the Seam Zone, we take a small tour alongside Alfe Menashe, the settlement which proudly boasts advertisements for new housing on the road leading up to it, close to the sadness and poverty of the Bedouin community a few meters away. Just before the barred entryway to the settlement is a lookout which portrays only too well how the contours of the land have been gouged out to create the Separation Barrier, a roadway below and the "Wall" -- as high as the wall in Jerusalem, as a soldier once boasted to us -- above. The way the Separation Barrier curves as it does is clearly to demarcate the growing settlement and its expansionist plans to swallow up what remains of the Seam Zone.
Nothing to report, a hidden military jeep off on the side of the road at Al Funduk, and no signs of life, for now, at the outpost of Shvut Ami near Qedumim.
Jit and the road to Beit Iba and Nablus
Nothing going on at the junction itself, but a surprising scene as cars, taxis and even a Taneeb bus, are seen, coming down from the road to Sarra. We decide to "explore." The road is wide open and where, once, in the dim, distant past, four, five or more years ago, was a checkpoint and trucks delivered water to the villages beyond, today the road is wide open (and the villages, we know now have piped water, as does, and did the settlement of Qedumim). The roadway is in good shape, and, near its crest is a gorgeous view to the north and west, whereas just east of us is Nablus, close by with smart looking new residential buildings near where we turn around. At a junction, a brand new junction, well laid out and engineered is a big sign that this road is made with the help of US AID. Had we continued straight on, we would have been in the center of Nablus. Instead, we drive down the steep asphalted (still black) road, the live trees at its side made more silvery than ever with the roadwork and summer dust, straight into the middle of what was once the Beit Iba checkpoint. All is quiet, little traffic in the few hours remaining before the end of Ramadan, the old kiosks all tightly closed up: the whole setting, with the deserted quarry behind, looks like something from the back set of a Hollywood movie. The closed Huwwash Brothers' carpentry workshop sports an impressive looking new iron gate, a new shopping parade, still not open, has been created near Deir Sharaf, and there are now some places selling inticately designed clay pots alongside the road. At the mini market, we learn that the new road we have just "explored" has been open only about four days.
The newly paved Route 60 to Jenin, also courtesy of US AID, is now open to traffic, and there's a checkpoint as for many years, at the crest of the hill, outside the military base entryway to Shavei Shomron. Quite a bit of traffic here. We note a large IDF tank parked not afar away (empty), a "stretch" Hummer in front of us, barring the way up the barricaded hillside, and as we make our way to turn back down the hill, a gaggle of soldiers surrounds us. We learn from the commander that the roadway is open although "they" are still working beyond the checkpoint ("there's nothing of interest there for Israeli Jews") that permits to go to Homesh (the disengaged settlement may be reached: really?) At this point, the commander from the "stretch" Hummer tries to ask more aggressive questions and is shooed away and silenced by the commander stationed at Shavei Shomron.
Traffic slows down as it crosses the intricate access point to Tulkarm, but there's not a soldier in sight.
A polite military policewoman speeds our way on to:
Many people hurrying, good naturedly, to the terminal building where, unbelievably, all eight counters are open to service the few returning workers on this horribly hot day. A man, carrying a standing fan, struggles to get through the narrow turnstile to the hall inside, saying, good naturedly, "Well, it would be better to have air conditioning, but meanwhile..." And only a few more hours to "iftar."