Eyal Crossing, Habla, Qalqiliya, Tue 9.11.10, Afternoon
The Seam Zone, with its villages, herding areas and plant nurseries which have become “enclaves” formed by the construction of the Separation Barrier, are declared “closed” by the Israeli military authorities. Some Palestinians have to obtain permits to continue living in their homes, while others are required to obtain “visitor” permits to access their own lands. It’s harder and harder for a shepherd, notably the “cowboy” near Habla, to find enough grazing land for his sheep and for Palestinians living near the settlements of Alfe Menashe or Zufin to find work there. Overall, life is made more arduous with the near impossibility of obtaining a permit to work in Israel. All in all, all these instances form but a part of what constitutes the massive Civil Administration bureaucracy that underlies this endless Occupation. In addition, the Qalqiliya governorate is scattered with so-called “partial checkpoints” (those that have been dismantled but that can be operated by the military at any time) and by agricultural gates at the Separation Barrier that are manned daily, or seasonally, meaning that free, open or limitless access is restricted and controlled by the army of Occupation.
13:00 Gate 1392 Habla
The gate(s) open on time. Two soldiers stand there, one with gun at the ready; but for the 15 or so people waiting, on the north side of the shelter, which faces a blazing November sun, it’s another 12-15 minutes before they can proceed onwards across the Separation Barrier. Why so much delay? Today’s military “theme” is ”Go back, go back” as one or other of the two soldiers invokes this phrase over and over, sometimes to those standing where we do, at other times to those waiting on the far side of the Separation Barrier.
There’s the usual medley of trucks, tractors, horse and donkey carts, men and youth, vegetables and tree saplings, all waiting to cross, all waiting and waiting, as the process of getting to or from work is slow, so very slow in this late summer heat and dust.
13:25 -- the bus bearing the Bedouin school boys from Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi, near Alfe Menashe, passes, but gets stuck, since there’s a cart with articles protruding from it, making passage past the ridiculous “shelter” formed out of a former Zim container more than a little difficult. The smiling, friendly bus driver has to maneuver extra carefully. One of the soldiers comes to “direct” the proceedings or, more likely, just to take a look…..
The former checkpoint is, today, unmanned, and all manner of vehicles make their way along the attractively planted road towards the city.
A few Palestinian Israeli drivers wait for a few Palestinians to cross the terminal at this mid afternoon hour, waiting to take them to “villages” we know not where, but somewhere in the distance. The drivers talk of being at the terminal at 4:00 each morning, waiting for the last Palestinians to arrive before taking them to their places of work: the women as house cleaners in Bat Yam, or flower or strawberry pickers in Ranaana, the men, more likely to work in Haifa, Acco, etc., wherever a Palestinian lucky enough to get a work permit has to go or be driven back from.
A civilian passenger car stops by us, a lieutenant colonel get out, approaches us, gives us his name, A., asks for our names and proceeds to give his phone number to us, telling us that he’s the “new head of the DCO” at both Tulkarm (Irtah) and Qalqiliya (Eyal).