Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Shave Shomron, Sun 31.10.10, Afternoon
Each week, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territories) issues a Protection of Civilians report -- the facts, nothing but the facts -- dry yet perturbing reading. Much of it we already know from our monitoring, but the detail, the numbers are particularly ugly when they stare into your face. "Settler violence continues unabated during the olive harvest," 17 as opposed to 11 incidents the week before; search and arrest operations, 80; ten stop work orders in Area C. And so it goes. Occupation as the seasons rolls round again and again. Settlers stealing olives, attacking Palestinians but no mention of the roll of the Civil Administration that does, or does not, permit Palestinians to get to their groves or prevents a day of olive picking for no reason at all: three out of four days, indicated on issued permits for Deir Sharaf residents to pick olives below the settlement of Shavei Shomron. The humiliation and harassment of the Occupation continue, season in, season out.
13:00 ---13:40 Habla Gate 1392
The gates open on time, and today they're open wide, the usual array of donkey and horse drawn carts, big trucks, tractors, etc., waiting their turn on either side of the Separation Barrier as the soldiers – reservists --take their sweet time and often manage to find themselves in the middle of the Separation Barrier, doing nothing but talking to each other. The local greengrocer's oldest son talks to a soldier, who clearly knows him, in fluent Hebrew, but a few minutes later, the former has to ask, sheepishly, "Is it ok to enter?" There's nobody else in front of him, there's no reason for him not to go on to the Separation Barrier, but long acquaintance with the ways of Occupation have made the young Palestinian wary, even of a soldier who appears to enjoy a casual conversation with him.
A Hummer arrives, revving its way nosily from where we stand to make a fancy turn about in the middle of the Separation Barrier, and then, it appears, delivers food and drink. The soldiers now stand and check Palestinians, or wave on vehicular traffic, or direct pedestrians to the concrete hut for checking with cold drinks (and, of course, guns in hand). Meanwhile, perched atop the other military vehicle already standing at the agricultural gate, are three soldiers, prettily arrayed on the hood, eating their lunch.
13:30 -- A white pickup, with no military markings at all, arrives and from it appears a captain, who shakes hands with all the soldiers, as we hear one of them saying, "It's the Matak (officer from the Civil Administration's DCO office). Having greeted all the soldiers, K., such is his name, comes over to us and chats. He agrees that the morning pressure is terrible at Gate 1392, pointing out that it's especially bad on a Sunday morning. (Machsomwatch should be there then). Later, we hear from the nursery owner that this captain, unlike many of his peers in the DCO, spends a lot of time in the field and tries to understand what is going on, or, as K. told us, checks on the reservists who may not know what they should be doing.
As we leave, music belches out of the Hummer, where the soldiers who've finished eating seem ready to take a siesta.
14:55 Shavei Shomron
We don't succeed in getting to the checkpoint on Route 60. There is a long line of Palestinian vehicles. In other words, a checkpoint, a working checkpoint, is alive and well once again in this part of the world. But one has to ask why. A checkpoint leading northwards to Jenin, past numerous Palestinian villages and, yes, of course, the disengaged settlement of Homesh beyond. Trouble afoot there? Who knows….
15:30 ‘Anabta, not much traffic which flows freely
15:45 Jubarra. After we've been asked where we live, "Shavei Shomron"? asks a soldier, and having received a firm negative, he calls over the commander, a young woman second lieutenant. Yes, a first. Never seen a woman in such a position in the IDF in all other years of monitoring with Machsomwatch. She, too, wants to know where we live and where we've been. Then opens the gate, and on we go to…
Streams and streams of returning Palestinians cross the eternally too small turnstile, disappear into the bowels of the terminal, only to re-emerge quickly, on their way home. The cheeriness of the Palestinians, their warm greetings never cease to amaze us.
New signs, or new to us, adorn the terminal building and the fence at the Separation Barrier. Surely these signs are dedicated to Machsomwatchers: "Security facility. Photography prohibited." So, a terminal building is made to sound like a prison, which makes us wonder if the "Welcome to Israel" signs are still posted inside, as they were when the building first opened.