'Awarta, 'Azzun, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 20.4.11, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Habla agricultural gate 1393
13:00 The gate is still locked. People on foot, carters and drivers wait. They don’t know, of course, the reason for the delay. No one came out to them to say, for example: Sorry, gentlemen – we apologize. The computer is down. We’re doing all we can to fix it. Thank you for your patience. No, nothing like that was said. The gate opened ten minutes late. Opened, and immediately closed. And opened again, and again closed (each time a few people enter). This ritual seems very peculiar. Moreover, we never witnessed this in the past. A soldier told us the reason for it – they want to prevent a possible rush to Habla. Which of these unfortunate people, whose lives depend on permits, would risk his neck? The inspection is lengthy and slow. One man signs: tough, it’s tough. A long time. Allah akbar. It occurs to me – perhaps the reason is what happened in Awarta?
The children returning from school wave to us.
When we left, at 13:45, people are still waiting at the gate. Some have waited 45 minutes and there wait isn’t over yet.
Eliyahu gate – 13:55 Traffic flows.
Azzun 14:00 – Amazing! No sign of the army!
A man taps politely on our car window, whom some of us know. He invites us for coffee at his office in another village. “Where did you learn Hebrew?” “I was with you 25 years. I built your country for you. I almost was Jewish.” He longingly recalls his last trip to Tel Aviv. “I wept at the Wishing Bridge. I never imagined then that life would change so greatly. I remembered how I’d been with the Jews.”
Other men join the conversation. We wonder why there are no soldiers at the entrance to Azzun. One man says: “Just chance. Up to half an hour ago, everyone was inspected. Since Awarta there are flying checkpoints all the time. They don’t let us rest at all. “The soldiers come to the center of the village. Provoke children, who throw stones at them, and the soldiers take revenge on the residents.” The cycle of violence is carefully planned by them. The question arises: “Can something be done to stop children from throwing stones at the soldiers?” The first man replies immediately: “They shouldn’t be here! If you ask a child why he’s throwing stones? He doesn’t know. It’s the normal thing to do. I can’t hate Jews, because I lived with them. But my children hate. My children don’t think the soldiers are human beings. They’ve only seen them with guns. They’ve only seen their savagery. The army brainwashes your soldiers. Even those from good families. Israeli parents don’t believe their children are capable of such terrible behavior. I know that IDF soldiers are also afraid. We’re afraid and you’re afraid. Fear leads to hatred. It makes sense for a soldier to be afraid. After all, things happen. We [men of peace] chose the most difficult way of life. The way of peace is the hardest way of life here. Maybe a thousand people want peace, and millions don’t. They have to be convinced. I know we all live on the same land, breathe the same air, we all live and we all die. Everyone wants the same thing – to live.” We ask: “And if there’s an agreement of two states for two peoples?” The second replies: “That won’t solve the problem. All the Arab countries are filled with refugees from ’48. Their lands were taken, like ours were. Yesterday a soldier – a settler – stopped me. He yelled at me: “Turn off the engine!” I explained that you’re not supposed to turn off a diesel engine all at once. He stuck his gun in my neck. I removed my money from the glove compartment. “Why are you taking out money?” “No reason.” There have been cases in which soldiers saw money and took it. Five months ago settlers attacked me and destroyed my car. Soldiers who were there didn’t intervene. They came over to me only after the settlers were finished with me and with the car and had left. When I complained to an Israeli policeman, he beat me. At the entrance to the DCO, soldiers said to me: “Go, before they finish you off.” He went on to tell about the double standard in soldiers’ behavior toward Palestinians and settlers. They ignore serious traffic offenses committed by settlers, but strictly enforce even the pettiest offense by Palestinians and fine them right and left. “These leave marks in the heart that aren’t easily erased. How can I convince my friends that the soldiers can change? The problem is that both we and you are moving more and more to the right. Soon there won’t be any more people who want peace. Half of the Palestinians want peace, and half don’t I worked for Jews eighteen years. Palestinians won’t get anything from peace.” Suddenly he shifts: “The Palestinian people want peace in the 67 borders. They’re tired of the situation. So many prisoners. Every prisoner needs NIS 800 for the prison canteen. If Israel agrees to a state in the 67 borders, we also agree.” We ask: “Would you agree that the settlers remain?” A jumble of answers: No way. They took our land. Our water. They attack us. “If I build a house, the army demolishes it. If I deviate even one centimeter, they demolish it. There’s no more room in the village. Three weeks ago they destroyed a road that had been paved for us. They waited until the road was finished and then they destroyed it.”
We asked: “What if 100,000 unarmed people marched non-violently to the separation fence?” They’ll mow us down. The army’s not afraid of TV and newspapers. It’s not afraid of anything. 30,000 people will die. You bring people too – 30,000 Israelis.” The first man: “My dream – not to fear. Even when we sleep we’re afraid. But we all breathe the same air.” As we leave, a bearded man says to us: “I’m a member of Hamas, and I want peace.” Our host tries to keep us from leaving: “Come to my house to eat. You don’t know what you’re missing.” We do know. Our hearts go out to these people who, despite the hardships they’re undergoing, have told us they’ve chosen the most difficult path.
During this conversation, someone mentioned that the Jayyous agricultural gate opened this morning for only half an hour “in the middle of the night” – from 04:45 to 05:15. They asked why it couldn’t open at 06:00. On the day of our visit there weren’t any problems at Falamya gate, but a day earlier (19.4, during Passover), a flying checkpoint was set up on the way to the gate. Today, because of roadwork, all the traffic to Tulkarm comes this way. Every vehicle is carefully inspected, and there were many long delays.
Za’tara/Tapuach junction – 15:40, Huwwara checkpoint – 15:50.
Traffic flows; we drove on to Beit Furik.
At the turn to Awarta – many cars with Israeli license plates parked by the side of the road. An army jeep blocks the road to Awarta. “You can’t go in. There’s a march today of settlers.” “A demonstration?” “Not a demonstration. The Shomron March.” The soldiers say that local residents have another road.
A large gathering at the Itamar junction, army vehicles and soldiers. Nearby – a large concentration of settlers in vehicles. Posters, “Let us arise,” “Bibi – don’t be weak.” What the soldiers call a march, turns out in fact to be a demonstration in capital letters. A woman crying ecstatically: “Arise, walk through the land, for I have given it to you.” All Netanyahu speecheswon’t avail. It will forever be remembered that the patriarchs pitched tents here. An with increasing enthusiasm: “You must love the land as you love a baby. A settlement named Regev has been established today, another clod of those which make up the land of Israel. If they try to remove us, we will arise again. I know they’re trying to enclose you in a locked ghetto. In a bunker. It will not happen. Join Caleb ben Yefuneh. Come, let us arise.”
“Establish new settlements. 95% of the territory still awaits us. Come en masse. Without selection committees. Four new groups are organizing. A city will be built next to Jericho. Nablus will be built, the city of the covenant. We came here in the wake of Alon Moreh. Thirty years ago it was evacuated by court order. We were uprooted. Are we the conquerors???!!! We don’t care what this court or that decides. The Jewish plan is different.” The fervid speaker was Daniela Weiss – she, and no other.
Rabbi Dov Li’or, may he live long and happily, amen (that’s how he was called up to speak): “Don’t fall into despair. Settling the land will bring peace and security. There’s no Jew who doesn’t desire peace. But there will be no peace for these murderers.”
We drove on to Beit Furik. We didn’t see any soldiers around. We explained the Madison route to our new member whose was on her first trip deep into the West Bank.
When we returned it was hard not to compare what we heard in Azzun, and their tone, with the words and tone of what we heard amidst the hills.