'Azzun, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Shave Shomron, Sun 6.2.11, Afternoon
We drive on our shift today, reaching out beyond the Green Line to the land that should be Palestine, with a feeling of release from the ghetto that Israel has created for itself. Not only are we reminded of the courtesy, generosity and kindness of the Palestinian people and of their long suffering, but we’re reminded too, of the liberation of the Egyptian people from their own despot and of the fact that, although we’re against Occupation and all that this “regime” of ours stands for, overall, we are still super-privileged compared to anybody else in the Middle East. But the world begins, slowly, to understand that governments would do well to stay close to activists and civil society in general, not just on moral grounds but on pragmatic grounds too. Without an established opposition, demanding social justice as well as liberty, there can be no progress in a democracy. And the Palestinians that we talked to, of course, had their own take on the situation.
12:30 -- at the nurseries, greengrocer and Gate 1392 on the Separation Barrier
What we heard here about Egypt was a variety of comments regarding Mubarak’s lengthy despotic rule, the lack of human rights and freedom of speech in Arab countries, including the Palestinian Authority, much about government control of events and television as well as “what’s it got to do with me?” -- the last comment from a young man waiting for Gate 1392 to open. He has two young children and so much wants to get a permit to work in Israel, instead of at the nurseries here, but to no avail.
The army arrives - two Hummers and six soldiers, who seem to be new and not accustomed to working here, at 12:55. The soldiers have to contend with opening the gates at the Separation Barrier where there are deep rain puddles, and it’s very hard to get the gates to open widely enough; there is also thick reddish mud which the Palestinians, donkey and horse carts, cars and the huge school bus, bearing the children home from school, have to cross. Only the large flock of sheep, their coats coated and tangled with mud, seem not to mind, but nor do the waving palm trees borne atop a pickup truck.
We try to talk to a variety of people there, but all we heard was about everything being fine, or even “wonderful,” and from one man, “Sure, all is well for me, I have a work permit for Israel.”
It’s a long while since we visited the Huwwash Brothers. It’s a long time since there was a checkpoint at Beit Iba! We are amazed and delighted to hear one of the brothers now talking English; “we work with China now, and they speak English…” The work is no longer just the beautiful Arabesque carpentry work of before, but a huge, literally huge, glass business, and the oversize hangar is filled with large crates of sheets of glass, which, we’re told come from Turkey as well as China. So, here is an example of a changing and successful economy, something we’ve read about but not witnessed for ourselves.
In Deir Sharaf, we learn that since all people want change, what’s happening in Egypt is not unexpected, and things are likely also to change in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc. Some say that 30 years for Mubarak is enough, others don’t believe that he will go.
We next ride up Route 60 to Shavei Shomron to view the non existent checkpoint of yore, and note the large swinging yellow gates that can still be called into action. The offending military base is now well hidden from view, the gap in the wall filled in with yet more concrete and a slim, locked metal door in its midst.
A few, but very few signs of the spring to come and just glimpses of red or pink midst the lush green undergrowth plus a checkpoint that allows for freely flowing traffic.
Nobody trying to leave the OPT, we go to one of two open checkpoint positions, and the soldier asks why we stopped there and not at the other, but the second soldier joshes him, as if telling him to shut up.
Not many Palestinians going into the terminal building, and the guard calls over to us, “Watch?” As we leave, a large busload of men and women brings them back to the terminal parking area where the driver tells us, he picks them up each day at 5: 30 to go to pick citrus fruit in orchards near Ramle.
An article in this week’s Haaretz magazine, 4.2.11, on Tzur Yitzhak, where an entire town of tall buildings is being built, alongside the Palestinian Israeli town of Taibeh, which has nowhere to expand, piqued our curiosity. We drove up a hill to view this phenomenon, built on lands that once belonged to Taibeh, confiscated from residents in the 1950s and 1960s. Not only that, it’s clear that the town has been planned along the eastern seam line in order to blur on the ground the Green Line that is largely erased from Israeli maps. It’s not difficult to discern that this town, albeit west of the Green Line, is part of Israel’s paranoia, an attempt to strangle Taibeh. “They build for the Jews and demolish for the Arabs.” Driving up beyond the massive new residential buildings, more suitable for a city than a pristine rural area, leaving the town of Tzur Yitzhak behind us, we came upon the peaceful moshav of Tzur Natan, more or less on the Green Line, from which a beautiful, well lit and paved road leads in another kilometer or two to the settlement of Salit, set atop a hill with a fantastic view east, south, north and the west from which we had come. Without missing a beat, we had left Israel and were, once again, in Palestine, in the OPT.