'Anin, Reihan, Shaked, Mon 25.10.10, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
The checkpoint opened at five-thirty; by now 30 people have gone through. A few dozen are still waiting. Inspection takes place in the middle of the checkpoint, making it hard to see what’s going on. Abbas, the DCO representative, is there. People say the soldiers are checking documents against computer lists. Relatively many women come out riding donkeys, old people carrying wooden poles and sacks, and tractors pulling wagons in which olive pickers are riding, going to the grove.
The Bedouin children didn’t show up for school today. A two-day holiday because of the olive picking.
Two people complain that family members weren’t allowed to cross despite the permit they’d just received. They were sent to the DCO. Abbas, the DCO representative, told us over the phone that the two of them didn’t come back to A’anin after work, so they were sent to the DCO. He promised to solve the problem. The wife of one of those refused entry said that wasn’t the case, that her husband received the permit only last night and today is the first day he’ll be picking – how could he not have returned?
Someone else: He has four children at home; not one received a crossing permit for the harvest. No, he hasn’t spoken to Abbas…Should he? Will it help? OK, tomorrow he’ll go to the DCO. We took down his information and will check to see whether the children received permits.
Another man tells us about a large olive grove he owns. Despite repeated requests, for two years he didn’t receive a permit to harvest the crop. Except once – for half a year. “Why?” He has all the ownership papers. Yesterday he received a permit valid until November 22! “What if I don’t finish by then?” He has a few hundred olive trees that have been neglected for years. His father, who owns the land, is 88 years old and hasn’t gone to the grove for years. But there’s no one to talk to. Bitterly he shouts what he has to say, gesticulating expansively. “We’re afraid to talk to them…they’re high officers, we’re simple people.”
We ask whether he spoke to Abbas, and he repeats himself over and over. “They yell at us…We’re afraid of them…I’m a (poor) clerk, he’s an Israeli army officer – do you think he’ll talk to me?” He wants to plant sesame and onions and other vegetables in the grove after the olive harvest. It’s his land, isn’t it? So what? Do you think they’ll let him? That the government will let him? Why do they open the checkpoint only twice a week? Why do they close it at 7 in the morning? They don’t have time in the morning to pray and get ready. Why do they close it at all? Why all these restrictions? It’s his land. Yes or no? So why do they prevent him?
Anyway, another person intervenes in the discussion, the whole area of the checkpoint and the security road was once a large olive grove, 100 years old. They’ve worked the land since his great-grandfather’s time, the land was his before the Zionists (came), and now they’ve not only taken the land, they’ve erected a checkpoint blocking their lives, and then do him a favor by allowing him to go through to his grove twice a week.
It’s difficult to deal with the strong feelings and frustration expressed by these people. It’s hard to follow his stream of complaints filled with outrage and helplessness at their humiliation.
At 7 the checkpoint closes. Abbas drives by, talking on the phone, not looking our way. Doesn’t see, doesn’t hear
07:10 Shaked checkpoint
The checkpoint is open; few cross. Some students (apparently) on their way to the West Bank. Cars come and go. Pupils have a two-day vacation for the olive harvest.
A man hobbles through the checkpoint. His shoes have metal in them, and was told to remove them in the inspection building. He came out before putting them back on.
Someone else, who lives in Umm Riehan, bought a vehicle five months ago. He’s trying to register it with the DCO so he won’t have problems going through the checkpoint. He went to Ramallah, where he was told that the information about the purchase had been sent to the DCO. He’s already been to the DCO four times, waited hours only to hear that not all the documents had been received. Sometimes they do him a favor and let him cross, sometimes they refuse because he’s not listed.
Mahdi suggests the man go to the DCO now and he’ll handle him personally. The man decides to drive to the DCO, he drives into the middle of the checkpoint and we wait to see whether or not he’ll get through. After a few minutes waiting and a check he calls to us that they let him through – but “this is the last time…”
08:00 Barta’a-Reihan checkpoint
The parking lot is filled with cars. Four drivers wait under the canopy, some praying. Pickup trucks and private cars from the West Bank are waiting to be inspected. Drivers sit meanwhile on the road in the shade of the cars, smoking a narghila.
A line of cars on the way to the West Bank wait to be inspected. Taxi passengers wait outside the vehicle.
Another noticeable innovation in the ornamental garden. After decorating the plaza with concrete cubes that look like backgammon dice, here’s the real thing: black and white pavement stones – backgammon! You can play at the checkpoint.
A refreshing innovation: two new bathrooms, for men and for women, fully furnished. There’s even a mirror in the women’s bathroom, that Ron promised to install (two years ago) – Ron keeps his promise!
People occasionally cross to Barta’a while we’re here.
08:20 Hermesh checkpoint
The two barriers in the middle of the road with the yellow iron bars are closed as usual. For security reasons, I assume…The Hermesh checkpoint, on the road to Tulkarm, is open. There are no soldiers there.
A soldier with an American accent, filled with good intentions, explains politely that we can’t stand here, only over there. For our own security, of course. He can’t guarantee our safety here. This is a checkpoint. We explain politely that where we’re standing is not a checkpoint, and anyway…etc. etc. He doesn’t agree. Tells us that he’ll stop letting vehicles cross as long as we stand there. We tell him that’s illegal, and wonder whether to complain, meanwhile writing down what’s happening. He volunteers to provide his details and is willing to go to court with us. We give in. We don’t need his details but insist on standing there. Meanwhile a line of 4-5 cars has formed, and the polite soldier goes from one to the other to explain to the drivers that he’s not letting them through because of us. We’re the ones causing the delay. It’s not his fault. They should know!
At this point we saw no point in being stubborn, and left.