Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Tarqumiya, Tue 30.11.10, Morning
Translated by Bracha B.A.
1. Route 317 and Metzudot Yehudah
3. Shikma Prison – Why are prisoners released without certificates and essential belongings?
We began the shift relatively late at Meitar crossing and when we arrived all the workers had already gone through. There were only prisoner's families waiting.
The road was much quieter than Route 60.
The drought this year is already visible at the edge of the Judean Desert.
We approached the Metzudot Yehudah crossing. The signpost welcoming visitors to the crossing is clearly for Israelis only. And indeed, the only people crossing through are settlers or commuters from Jerusalem and back. The only others permitted to cross here are members of the Abu Kabita clan who live on either side of the separation fence and school children who walk to the school in Emanzil. The rest are commercial vehicles and trucks. The army base is now manned by the Golani brigade. We stopped to photograph the signpost and suddenly a jeep appeared and stopped. A young officer got out and asked who we were and what we were doing. "I hope you're not of the trouble-makers' lot, like Ezra Barbadi (Nawwi?)" he says. We identified ourselves. "Ah", he retors, "I've heard about you." The conversation is polite but quick and he opines that the problems are not due to the settlers. We crossed through safely.
The Chever crossing is still open. At the grocery store at the Zif junction a man asks us to help him find work. He once worked in Tel Aviv in construction and has now had no work for three years because no one wants to hire him.
We continued driving along Route 60, which had a lot of traffic and military vehicles.
At the Bani Naim junction two soldiers are checking cars while another stands on the hill observing from above.
The entrance to Hebron and the new neighborhood of Neve Mamreh are almost done. Once again the guard, a local, welcomes us warmly and invites us to visit his home. Perhaps we should consider his offer. Peace begins at home.
It is depressing to see the ghost town of Hebron in area H2. The children are already at school.
At 9am there are only a few people about and jeeps stand at every corner on the Worshippers' Path. Only at the Cave of the Patriarchs guards from the Border police detain people. Luckily, they were quick to release them. People pass through the remaining checkpoints without being checked.
The second part of the shift
We left Hebron via Route 35 towards Tarquomiya to visit the Shikma Prison near Ashkelon.
A red signpost warning Israelis not to enter Area A stands at the junction between Idna and Tarquomiya. The grocery store and olive press that we regularly visit are 50 meters behind the sign, and we feel like criminals entering, but they are a regular part of our route.
Here things are stricter. We are asked who we are and where we are going, and they also check our vehicle. But the checkpoint is now being landscaped and becoming an attractive place…
A man who called us explained that he was released from the Shikma prison without his personal belongings, which he brought with him when arrested, so we drove to the Shikma prison to retreive his stuff. On the way we called to ask about the man's belongings and the woman who spoke with us, identified as the prison's treasurer, said she never heard of our organization but promised to help. We arrived at the prison -- an ugly place with fences and barbed wire all round, located in the middle of Ashkelon. We pounded on the glass door at the visitors' entrance. Finally someone opened the door and asked if things were OK. We answered that we certainly hope so, presented the relevant papers and asked to speak to Nava. We were certainly not the kind of people he is accustomed to seeing there. He is polite and goes to call Nava but it takes a while to get everything sorted out because he mis-named me. Finally, Nava relents and brings the man's belongings, not before photocopying related documents. We ask how it is possible to release people without handing them back e.g. their wallet, personal documents, cell phone, etc. The man, who is also from the treasury department, explains that the problem is that some people are released only after being taken to court at Mahane Ofer, and when it so happens, their belongings remain back in prison. They now need an order to take their belongings and return them. Would it be so difficult to take their belongings with them to the Mahane Offer court and then give them back after they are released after the trial? This seems a long and unnecessary procedure. What sense does it make to release people and then re-arrest them because they are found with no papers through no fault of their own? Eventually, I signed the necessary papers and received the man's belongings which will be returned to him by whoever's on tomorrow's shift.