Ar-Ras, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Jubara (Kafriat), Te'enim Crossing, Wed 15.9.10, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: We drove along Road 574 and went in to the villages. The main complaint: owners of land on the other side of the separation fence can't work their fields because of the agricultural permits regime. For the villages whose main livelihood is from agriculture, this is a death blow.
The commander at Gate 753 in Jebara sent us by the road into Tulkarm.
A soldier, a native of Karnei Shomron, thinks that we are plunging a knife into the nation's back.
The school bus crosses the gate; we are told that it has been held up for a long time. Palestinians exiting sound embittered. One of them says in Hebrew: "It's better to die than to live like this". Others say that they have waited hours for the gate to open. A shepherd and his herd cross. From a distance it appears to us that there is crowding at the gate because the Palestinians cannot maintain order.
We approach the soldier at the checkpoint and he immediately attacks: "Is there nowhere for you to volunteer rather than sticking a knife in our backs?" He is from Karnei Shomron. A useless conversation ensues. He sees us as worse enemies than the Palestinians and wants to know if we are in the pay of Hamas.
The crossings continue slowly.
We go towards the Bedouin village of Araba-Ramadin to give out the parcels that Rina has brought. A woman asks if we have school satchels.
It is open and the traffic flows. Some of the labourers who work in Karnei Shomron are still waiting by the gate for inspection.
We went into Sir and stop by a family sitting on the pavement by their house. A conversation develops: they have a problem with agricultural permits to work their land on the other side of the fence. They have a relative in Jius village who owns a grove on the other side of the fence. He is old and it is hard for him to work his land so he is forced to lease it to someone from Kalkilya, but is concerned that they are not working it efficiently. He is under pressure to sell to the person from Kalkilya but he is sure that in this way the land will pass into Jewish hands. His sons have not received permits to cross the gate. Another difficulty is that wild boars are destroying the irrigation pipes.
In the main the village is profitable. The Authority has built a new road and a secondary school. Half of the village residents work abroad and send money home. A housewife comes out with a tray of coffee. Her husband tells us that in 2005 his nephew, a student in Nejach, was arrested at Beit Iba roadblock, handcuffed and put in a cell in the sun: he got heat stroke and died.
We stop by the grocery shop whose owner spent years in Saudi Arabia and he speaks English. From him we hear that two young men were arrested in the village last night, aged 22 and 25. He doesn't know the reason. He is 54 years old, he worked for years in Israel and would like to visit the places he knew but he cannot get a permit.
He tries to contact someone who speaks biblical Hebrew, reads and translates poetry and literature, by telephone. His name is M. S., a name we must know. Unfortunately there is no reply.
Gate no. 927 is open. We are told that it opened late this morning, at 5:25 instead of 5:15 a.m. Two soldiers are in the peripheral checkpoint, eating their breakfast and they happily talk to us. The gate is supposed to be open continuously for 12 hours from 5:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. In the past reservists were stationed here and they did not open the gate on time so the residents turned to the High Court. After the High Court verdict regular soldiers were stationed here and the gate opened on time.
We drive up to Palmia village by a narrow, winding dirt road. We stop for a chat with the owner of the grocery shop. He complains that business is bad. The residents' lands are on the other side of the fence and they can't get permits. He works the well and is responsible for sharing the water out. Mekorot allocates 175,000 cubes of water for the whole village. Many of them are forced to rent out their lands because they are getting old and can't get permits for labourers to work the land.
Education: children go to school until they are 15 years old. Further education takes place elsewhere. University graduates and professionals usually go to work in the Emirates.
We drove via Jemal and Sur villages.
We arrived at the school just as it was break time. The pupils are in the playground in their uniforms, eating pita.
We met the head teacher and the mayor and his deputy who had come to visit. They claim that Jebara gate causes a lot of problems because quite often it doesn't open on time and the children are forced to wait over an hour in the school bus. Each pupil has a crossing permit plus a photocopy of their father's ID card.
Meanwhile we are served with sweetened tea. There are 250 pupils in the village and for the first time 16 pupils are taking matriculation exams; 5 girls and 11 boys.
Pressing problems: there are not enough permits to work the village lands on the other side of the separation fence and there are many people refused entry by the Shabak who cannot get permits. An elderly man enters the room and tells us that no one from his family can get a permit (even his 80 year old father is refused by the Shabak). I give him a MachsomWatch card.
Gate 753 (the northern gate) is open.
The soldiers refuse to let us through. Rina gets out the permit from the General in Command. The commander goes to telephone his superiors.
Meanwhile a number of vehicles behind us are held up. A pick up truck loaded up with grocery produce crosses. We are refused. The roadblock commander sends us to the road leading to Tulkarm (the one which goes under Road 557). In effect he sends us into Area A. He says we will be allowed to cross via Te'enim Crossing. Nadim confirms that during Ramadan the crossing to Tulkarm was open to Israelis.
The gate in the direction of Tulkarm is closed. From afar a soldier motions to us that there is no entry. We contact Tami Cohen who says that she will check with the brigade commander. Meanwhile the roadblock commander, a second lieutenant, realises that we are from MachsomWatch and he goes to bring the key, he also says that we can enter Jebara via the gate opposite.
We do a short tour of the village and shop at the local grocer's.
Back to the locked gate, waiting for the soldier to come with the key.
Together with Abu Roatem, the owner of the solitary house and 2 women who are with him, we cross the gate and drive on to Road 444 back to Kfar Sava.