'Azzun 'Atma, Fri 14.5.10, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
8:20 Azzun Atma – 3 soldiers on site, a boy from the village collects discarded plastic bags on the other side of the road and brings them to the village. The few pedestrians pass through quickly.
We met a woman from Kafr Qassem at the gate, waiting in her car. In conversation with her, we learned about the harsh reality that has been created here. Her husband is from Azzun Atma, she was born in Kafr Qassem. They lived in Azzun Atma for about six years after they married. “Look, there’s my house,” she pointed. After her husband decided to get an Israeli ID card they had to leave Azzun Atma and move to live with her family in Kafr Qassem. Since then they haven’t been able to visit his family except across the fence. A year and a half ago was the last time they met intimately. A few months ago her husband’s father was on his deathbed – “He waited five hours here at the gate, wept and pleaded to be allowed to see his father during his final hours, but was unsuccessful.” Now that his mother has been left alone, not well enough to come to the gate, they have no way to meet her.
This time we decided to continue to Haris, but our map and the signage brought us to Elkana (settlement). We though we could get from Elkana to Route 505; we dared to ask a passerby whether it was possible to get to Haris. After warning us that a body had been found there two weeks ago, and woe to us if we went there – he came over to the car and angrily tore off our flag. We fled while we were still able, returned to Route 5 and reached Haris via the Barkan industrial zone.
9:20 Haris – A number of unemployed residents stood at the entrance to the village. They don’t have work permits, not even to work in Barkan, a few minutes’ walk from their homes. They own cars, and it turns out they created a sort of local “taxi stand,” in the hope that someone from the village will need ride and they’ll make NIS 20. Two weeks ago they were surprised to see that an entry gate to the village had been erected. So far it’s open, but they know that a gate has two possible states, and can also be closed.
This week, at around 2 AM, 11 children were arrested in the village, the oldest aged 17. People came in the middle of the night with exact addresses. Why? No one knows. Of course, no one was told the reason for the arrests. As they said: “No one threw rocks recently. Even the settlers move around the village freely.”
“It’s like being in jail,” says a young man, we’re not allowed to work, we’re not allowed to build, we’re not allowed to travel abroad.
What people anywhere else in the world is living like the Palestinians?,” he says. “Our lives are terrible.”
Their biggest problem is work or, rather, work permits. The man who spoke to us (and didn’t want to give his name) had worked for 20 years in Israel until he was prevented from doing so, and today tries to pick up odd jobs. Whoever’s lucky enough to work in the Barkan industrial zone is paid minimum wage at best, but without benefits (in businesses like “Bagel Bagel,” “Shamir Salads”), as opposed to the local carpentry shops that pay NIS 8-10 an hour.
10:00 Kifl Haris – Empty streets, a few shops open, we wave hello and keep going.
10:10 Qira – Here, too, the few streets are pretty deserted. We stopped at a shop in front of which a few men were sitting. One volunteered to show us the way, inviting us home to have coffee.
10:30 Zeita – We met ‘A., next to his house that was surrounded by olive trees, and accepted his invitation to have coffee with his family.
‘A. was born in Zeita; his wife is from Marda; they have five children. To visit his wife’s family they have to make an arrangement with a driver from Marda to pick them up at the Zeita checkpoint. Until 2005, ‘A., had a permit to go through the checkpoints. In that year he was a candidate for the Zeita local council, representing a party favoring a non-violent struggle for peace – the Palestinian People’s Party. Since then, even though he’s got a magnetic card, the Shabak (GSS) has denied him permission to cross to Israel so he doesn’t have a work permit. Having no other choice, he tries his luck as a day laborer at the Sgula interchange, knowing he could be arrested. He “lives” away from home for three weeks at a time and returns with less than NIS 1000. His land and that of the village are far away from the settlers, so from that point of view, at least, the village is lucky because its not vulnerable to their harassment. We offered to try and help, which made him uncomfortable because he feared we’d think that was the reason he invited us to his house. We parted from the family, promising to visit them again next time. 11:30 We passed the entrance to Haris again – there were no cars parked there this time – we hoped that all of them found customers who needed rides so they could bring a little money home to their families.