'Atarot, Makkabim (Beit Sira), Qalandiya, Wed 7.7.10, Afternoon
Translation: Suzanne O.
Roadblocks all along Road 443.
A journey west from Atarot to Maccabim and Beit Sira roadblocks and back eastwards to Ofer roadblock.
At the entrance to Ofer roadblock, which is used as a goods crossing only, there is a sign: 'Welcome to Ofer Crossing, Opening Times: Sunday to Thursday : 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays and Festival Eves: 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.'
Beit Ur el Fuka roadblock
We pass the settlement Beit Choron from the north, and arrive at the Beit Ur el Fuka roadblock which is adjacent to Road 443 on the northern side. There is no signpost or mention of the name of the roadblock. There are 2 lanes for cars, one for Palestinian cars to get onto Road 443, and the other to exit it. The lanes are controlled by movable stainless steel posts, a few soldiers are present. From here it is possible to drive to Beit Ur el Fuka, Beit Ur a-Tachta, Bitonia and Ramallah. All of this on the 'Life Frame' roads for Palestinians only. From this point Palestinians have the right, after inspection of documents and vehicle boots, to drive onto Road 443 westwards and go to Beit Sira roadblock, close to Maccabim. During half an hour 2 Palestinian cars drove onto Road 443 and 2 labourers crossed on foot from Road 443 to the villages. All of the labourers have to cross via Qalandiya in the morning, on the way back they can cross via Beit Ur roadblock. One labourer said: "There's no point driving on the road unless you want to see what's going on..." Another one told us that he works in Atarot; it takes him 3 hours to cross via Qalandiya in the morning. On the way back, via Road 443, it takes him 15 minutes.
We continue westward to Maccabim.
From this roadblock only Israelis are permitted to drive on Road 443 west and eastwards.
"There is, however, a roadblock for labourers going to work". "It's a tough roadblock, the toughest; people get here at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning".
On the south side of Maccabim roadblock there is an additional roadblock, a roadblock at the entrance to Beit Sira.
Beit Sira roadblock
The way onto and off Road 443 and into and out of Beit Sira is blocked by movable stainless steel posts. From here Palestinians can drive, after being inspected, to the villages Beit Sira, Beit Likia, Charbata and El Musabach, but not into Ramallah or Bitonia. From here too, apparently, Palestinian vehicles can get onto Road 443 and drive eastward to Beit Choron but from here they have to go into the village and continue on internal 'Life Frame' roads to Ramallah.
As we have said, to get onto Road 443 involves a long inspection at the roadblock. The soldier there told us that about 5 cars drive onto Road 443 each day.
The labourers told us that usually, from 7:00 a.m., a civilian police car is parked on Road 443 and carries out thorough inspections of Palestinian cars which have received permits to drive on Road 443. "It is always possible to find or to say that a tire is bald or that a rubber band is missing". The certainty of a prohibitive fine puts most Palestinians off approaching Road 443.
At 5:45 p.m. a civilian police car arrived and parked for a number of minutes.
It is forbidden for Palestinian pedestrians to be found on Road 443. "They don't want Arabs on the road". The fine is NIS 180 - 300.
At Beit Sira roadblock there is a fenced crossing for pedestrians. There is no inspection. The labourers crossing to work in Israel will be checked at the Maccabim roadblock.
On Road 443, at the exit from Beit Sira, there are signs in Hebrew forbidding pedestrians to cross Road 443, except in the place reserved for crossing. Perhaps we missed something but we didn't see a marked pedestrian crossing, traffic lights or a button to press for a green light for pedestrians. Only Palestinians cross Road 443. They cross the very busy road at a run, sometimes hand in hand, between Beit Sira roadblock and Maccabim twice a day, every day. Frightening.
A labourer told us that while the Beit Sira roadblock was being built, mesh fencing was put up preventing tractors from reaching the village olive groves. It is impossible to work the land, and so the land is lost to its owners. Most of the Beit Sira land is now part of the Maccabim region.
The female soldier at the roadblock forbade us to walk around it. We showed the IDF spokesperson's permit to take photographs and that helped.
On the way back, on Road 443 eastwards, Palestinian cars are permitted to exit to El Musabach, Tira or to make a u-turn at Choron and exit at the Beit Ur roadblock. There are warning signs: for Palestinians 'Last exit before Ramallah', and for Israelis 'Do not go into the villages'.
Further along is the new Ofer roadblock. Only Israelis are permitted to continue driving from here.
As has already been published, the reality in the area has been determined by the occupation policy planners and bypasses, on the whole, the decisions of the High Court of Justice. There are no Palestinians on Road 443 and there is nothing they can do about the High Court of Justice decision. Palestinian traffic has been pushed onto the periphery, onto the Life Frame road. Maccabim and Ofer roadblocks are the only ones to be seen by Israeli traffic on the clean Road 443. The separation of the roads also impairs our ability to see and report on what goes on the other side of the apartheid roads.