Hamra, Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 22.9.10, Morning
Succoth Eve in Israel
Palestine under closure, no entry for Palestinians into Israel
Shaar Shomron Checkpoint
A van is detained exiting Israel, its passengers Palestinian. The license plates are Israeli.
Zaatara Checkpoint 11:06
Sparse vehicular traffic passing unchecked by the manned checking posts. The checkpoint fence serves as usual as a display case for settlers’ various posters. Today an armed soldier is seen at the small guardpost by the roundabout.
Maale Efrayim Checkpoint 11:20
No soldiers in sight. Roads nearly empty but for few vehicles with Israeli license plates, and army and police.
Hamra Checkpoint 11:30
Vans delivering workers back from their day’s work in the settlements await the soldier’s hand gesture. When that is finally apparent, they may proceed towards Tubas. Vehicles coming from Tubas are checked. We are told that especially in the morning there is considerable pressure here of workers off to work early. No closure in these parts.
Tyassir Checkpoint 13:01
Here too the drivers bound for Tubas await the soldier’s gesture in order to proceed. Vehicles arriving from the Tubas direction are checked. Their passengers disembark and are inspected at the pedestrian checkpoint. Traffic here today is normal.
Next to the checkpoint we happened to meet a B’tselem representative and his assistants, having received a complaint about the herd of cows that is held at the army base and not returned to its owners. To be followed.
A herd of cows has vanished into the army base near Hamam al Malih:
Several days ago Daphne received a call from a shepherd in the Jordan Valley, requesting help in getting back his cows that had entered the army base area by mistake. For some days now he has been asking to have them back but the soldiers deny the presence of the cows at the site...
Daphne repeatedly talked with the Jericho DCO about the matter. In some talks, the DCO denied the presence of cows on the base, in others he admitted they were there and said the shepherd should come and the cows would be released. In fact the shepherd did come to the base again and again and the cows were not returned.
At 13:30 we drove to the army base and asked the sentry to call his commander to explain the “cow matter”. The subject must have been familiar to the sentry – he answered us politely and within minutes the commander came out to speak with us.
The commander claimed he had only arrived at the base this morning to replace the commander who’d left for holiday leave. He said that this morning, when he arrived, he himself had released the cows. To our question, how many cows did he release he answered that he didn’t know exactly. About ten. Where? Through the gap in the fence behind the base, the gap through which they have entered. Where was the shepherd while the cows were being released? Standing at the front gate of the base. Why did he not tell the shepherd he was releasing the cows at the gap, very far away from the gate, so he could catch them passing and prevent their getting lost again? The commander rolled his eyes and shrugged. Why were the cows not released earlier? He had no idea, he only got here today. What did the cows eat and drink as they hung around the base all those days? Again, he shrugged and rolled his eyes. He added that he had closed the gap in the fence. Another gap in the fence had not been closed because, he claimed, it is close to the sentry post and therefore in view and “not a problem”.
We brought to the commander’s attention the fact that since the cows just simply let go it would probably take a while until the shepherd will manage to locate all of them. We asked to make sure he would not be arrested now while roaming the area searching for his cows (the Bedouins are not allowed to cross several imaginary limit lines around the army base, and if they do, jeeps are immediately alerted and they get arrested). The commander’s answer: “It’ll be okay. We know him here...” (we didn’t bother asking why he was harassed if they know him here... We assumed that this question too would be met with a shrug and rolling eyes).
Note that this affair is more complex than we’d seen and heard today. A further detailed account will be submitted by Daphne. The fact is that 40 (!) cows had been roaming the base for a few days, their shepherd repeatedly begging for them to be released. Many lies had flown to and fro during these days, a lot of deep concern for the shepherd whose flock is the sole source of livelihood for his family. Many telephone calls and pleas and requests and hours during which the shepherd had stood in front of the gate, all for nothing. At the end of our talk we pointed out to the commander that in front of the entry gate much live ammunition lies scattered. He agreed with us that this was ‘out of line’. We must all remember times in the past when Bedouin children were caught in possession of ammunition and were accused of supposedly having stole it from the Israeli army. And here, right to our very eyes and the commander’s eyes – all this ammunition lies scattered around in front of the base.
We proceeded to return to Tel Aviv.
Shaar Shomron Checkpoitn 14:44
Again a Palestinian vehicle with an Israeli license plate is detained. As we try to photograph it, the guards are alerted and prevent us from doing so, pointing to signs that prohibit taking pictures.