Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Shave Shomron, Sun 5.6.11, Afternoon
Today is the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War. The army, we have been told, “braces itself for unrest” and “has geared up in advance of Palestinian plans to demonstrate….” The IDF Central Command was to reinforce its presence in the West Bank, but with less than the five battalions that were added to the Occupier’s forces for Nabka Day eventualities. Of course the right-wing has asked that protection of Jewish settlers be stepped up following so-called ‘intelligence information’ that the Palestinians intend to disturb the peace on a massive scale. Among their demands, MachsomWatchers note well, were that roadblocks that have been removed should be reinstated, and that settlements be provided with crowd dispersal equipment. Last, but not least, special efforts were, evidently, to be made in real time through lookout points and from the air.
And the reality is, or was: all quiet on the eastern front, many vehicles on the roads, mainly Palestinian, in marked contrast to previous Sundays, and many vehicles with Israeli or army license plates, but no more than usual. As for roadblocks, none were visibly reinstated.
The gates have just been opened, and there is one jeep, one Hummer, three soldiers -- one military policeman and two soldiers on guard. The military policeman is lecturing the soldiers -- reservists, two of whom are officers, we presume -- on what needs to be done to the very few Palestinians wishing to cross the agricultural gate on one of the first hot and steamy days of summer. Only the Bedouin school buses are missing from the scene: summer vacation has already arrived!
On our side of the gate, a lone pickup truck, no driver present (he’s gone to be checked in the concrete booth on the other side of the Separation Barrier); a small voice calls out to us, “Hello, hello” in what sounds like English. Inside the cab of the pickup truck a lovely young woman with three little toddlers. The father returns, and on being complimented on his lovely family, tells us: “They are Bedouin.”
The hilarity, if such it can be termed of the “security” provided at this agricultural gate is personified by one of the soldiers on guard in the shelter of one of the concrete positions, who goes, with a jerry can of water over to the other, calling to his superiors, “We need to do this every 15 minutes,” meaning one soldier on guard moves from his position on one side of the gate near us to the shelter of the concrete position on the other side of the gate. It goes without saying that the newly installed gate in the fence, the gate designed for pedestrian use, remains padlocked.
13:15 – the military policeman, clearly in charge, questions a tractor driver, peruses his ID and his permit, after which there is a handover of a dog which is brought from the far side of the Separation Barrier and, unwillingly, uploaded on to a tractor.
A few minutes later, only the Occupier occupies the gate: nobody else is around on either side of the Separation Barrier.
Near Azzun, the fencing has been completed, Fonduk is quiet, the usual settlers try to hitch a ride outside Qedumim.
The military position, placed on the old road leading up to the settlement, is empty. No checkpoint to report on here.
The minimarket is busy, busy, busy with people coming in for ice cream cones, cold drinks and the makings of lunch.
Behind Abu Khatem’s house, we see a digger at work in the huge white cliff above the unused parking lot. An extension of the Separation Barrier? Yet another fence? Stay tuned.
Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim)
14:40 – the trickle of returning workers becomes bigger as the afternoon wears on. A man gets off an Israeli garbage truck, carrying three huge bundles and somehow manages to transport them, by himself, to the now open metal gate leading to the turnstile outside the checking hall and manages, also, to get both himself and the unwieldy bundles through the narrow turnstile.
14:45 – men carrying huge buckets of a form of white lily are followed by some women bearing the same large sheaves of flowers. As they make their way through towards the turnstile they greet us politely and seem to be almost cheerful. A day like any other? Or, sumud - a declaration of their steadfast perseverance?