Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Sun 16.1.11, Afternoon
· Numerous recent complaints about tighter control and delays at checkpoints, as we have witnessed at Tayasir.
· Continued policy of isolating the Valley from the rest of the West Bank.
· Rolling checkpoint on the way to Tayasir because of a fire drill.
· The terror directed by settlers from Maskiot against the beduins in the area is successful and the authorities do not intervene.
Before Za'tara (Tapuah) junction, on the right, a new area is being developed on the hillside, possibly for construction or it may be part of what is marked on the map "Tapuah West", that is to say, (another) illegal settlement.
Maale Ephraimsettlement – didika noted that it is expanding continuosly.
The land cultivated by Eli Levi from Naama, between Gitit and Mechra (a large area, mostly vegetables, owned by a single settler) – are expanding weekly.
Hamra checkpoint – 12.45
There is hardly any traffic at this hour. An officer confirms that routines at the checkpoint haven't changed; it is meant to prevent the entry of vehicles from the west bank whose owners and/or the drivers are not living in the valley, and prevent movement of Israelis and tourists in the direction of the West Bank.
Interestingly, it is permitted to enter the Jordan valley on foot, apparently in order to enable the entry of cheap laborers to the settlements there.
In effect all this is part of a system designed to isolate the Jordan Valley from the rest of the occupied territories, (in military language "separation") with the political long term goal of keeping the Valley in the future in Israel’s possession, separated from the rest of the West Bank. People say that recently passing the checkpoint has become more difficult.
We visited acquaintances from previoustours. At Hammam el Maliah we met a family who had moved to the Tubas area in the summer because of the scarcity of water for their herds, and have now returned. They complained about being held up for long hours at the Tayasir checkpoint.
14.00 Arolling checkpoint was positioned on the road from Hammam el Maliah to Tayasir. Cars, among them an ambulance taking a medical team to Tubas, have been waiting for half an hour, the reason being a military exercise which would endanger the people.
This reminds us that along roads in the northern valley notices on concrete pillars declare the whole area as a fire practice area, and entry is forbidden, meaning that all the Beduins living or grazing herds in that area are there illegally, and they can theoretically be removed from it any time.
The checkpoint was taken down 15 minutes later.
14.20 Tayasir checkpoint
Before our arrival we heard from different people that since the military unit was replaced, delay at the checkpoint has become much longer. This markedly interferes with daily activity such as going to work, bringing children to school, receiving medical treatment etc.
Tubas is is the county seat providing all services.
The commander told us the previous unit was completely useless, permitting passage without any checking. He then ordered us to move away and stopped all checking, which had been slow in any case, until we reached a spot distant enough to satisfy him.
12 vehicles were waiting on the east side. We couldn't see the end of the queue. We had never before seen more than 3 cars at this checkpoint, at which traffic is usually minimal. It took the cars 25 minutes to pass, including some passengers who were in a hurry.
The problem was that two soldiers directed the traffic in 2 directions, and checked vehicles in each direction while the other side was waiting.
We feel that if checking is upgraded there should be more soldiers at the checkpoint – there is no reason that passing civilians should suffer.
15.15 the well below Masqiot settlement
Here the shepherds used to water their flocks when they returned from grazing in the evening. We see a herd of cattle returning, but not going to the well. We are told that armed settlers descend from Maquiot and threaten the shepherds not to approach the well. The terror is effective now; while no settler is in sight, the shepherds avoid the well.
We also see the tent placed to serve as kindergarden/school for the small children from surrounding tent lodgings.
16/00 Gochya Gate
A military jeep is parked near the gate although it is not the official opening time. Dafna explains that this is an ambush to intercept Palestinian vehicles which will try to cross the dyke which the army has raised to the west of road 578. This dyke, which extends from Bekaot to Roi, Is part of the physical obstacles intended to separate the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank. And woe to the Palestinian who violates this plan.
It should be emphasized that this is about laborers returning from work in the settlements, trying to save themselves the 30 kilometers it takes to go around the dyke. Is that a crime?
Gochya gate, which blocks the road leading to Tamun town, is open only 3 days a week, half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon.
16.30 Maale Ephraim checkpoint
The checkpoint is manned. All Palestinian vehicles entering the valley are checked. Didika saw the checkpoint at 1800, where checks continued.
A Palestinian car coming from the west is delayed. The I.D. card is examined. An argument follows. The driver provides more documents, and eventually he is turned back. The soldiers don't answer our questions, but we understand that this again demonstrates the sepapration of the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank, and whoever is not listed in the ID card as an inhabitant of the Valley cannot enter with his vehicle.