Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Wed 25.5.11, Afternoon
At 12:05 We reached the Maale Ephraim checkpoint, manned by soldiers. Identity cards of drivers entering the valley were checked at gun point. Traffic is scarce at noontime. Our main watch was at the Tayasir checkpoint. In the two times we passed Hamra Checkpoint no traffic was seen, so we continued.
Tayasir checkpoint 13:07
The weather is very hot.
Topography for those unfamiliar with the checkpoint: examination sites for vehicles and pedestrians are within the limits of the checkpoint, situated on the hill, dozens of meters from the point where the Palestinian vehicles wait to be called to pass. From this eastern part of the Jordan valley they will climb the hills of the west bank.
We usually park where the Palestinians do, at the margin of the checkpoint, close to where pedestrians are examined and within sight and hearing distance of the site of examination of vehicles.
This has been our routine from the time we started visiting the place. From time to time soldiers/officers go to great lengths to prevent our parking at this site. This time they went further: the commander of the checkpoint (a sergeant) sees us going to our usual site of observation, and he bellows: "this is a closed military area, and you better go back before I shoot."
We continue walking up the hill, and ask to see a written document from the commander in chief, defining this area as a closed military area. He has no such document, and he switches to the familiar illegal practice of delaying passage while we are there. We complain to the District Coordination Office, meanwhile some vehicles pass.
13:20 We return to our position, and the commander repeats that no vehicles will get through so long as we are around.
A line of cars forms. It is hot. The soldiers change shifts. A new commander, a lieutenant, demands that we leave, this time with a new explanation: the area is not closed because of our presence, but for a maneuver. Furthermore there has been a change of the guard, and in addition we are disturbing the soldiers' work because we distract them. (Incidentally, our combined ages are 120 years!).
The passengers continue to suffer the heat in the waiting vessels. An ambulance coming from the east is permitted to pass.
13:45 Due to the new commander's request who plans a 5-10 minute exercise we come down again. Nothing happens for 10 minutes, then the soldiers point their guns In all directions for 3 minutes.
13:57 The cars are still waiting, probably as part of the "exercise", and the commander stays close to us, far from the checkpoint. We again call the central command of the unit and are told that the the checkpoint commander claimed that it is open. A female officer says that the order to close the checkpoint "came from above".
14:00 The soldiers let 3 cars through and again close the post for many minutes. The temperature is 35 degrees in the sun. A line of cars gathers at the hilltop waiting to go east.
14:15 After 1 hour examinations start uninterruptedly. We go uphill again and the commander shouts that we insist on disturbing their work. A man emerges after pedestrians' examination with two small children and waits outside of the shed in which his wife is being examined. A soldier shouts to him in Arabic "go away".
14:30 After five cars have passed, the checkpoint is closed again. Passengers leave the cars waiting below, hot and frustrated. Three soldiers plus their commander descend to the cars, and so do we. The moment we leave our observation post cars are passed again.
In conclusion – from the time of our arrival until 14:30 very few vehicles passed, and these only when we withdrew from the checkpoint.
14:35 A police car arrives – probably invited by the commander to deal with us. We were not approached, and at 14:40 we left the place. The police car followed us closely until we turned to Gochia checkpoint.
15:00 Gochia checkpoint
This consists of an "agricultural gate", a locked bar obstructing the east-west passage on the Alon road, and is part of an obstacle consisting of earth walls and trenches along the western side of the road. This prevents the passage of vehicles, herds, and people, compelling them to pass through Tayasir or Hamra checkpoints. This gate opens 3 times a week for half an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon.
When we arrive there are 2 tractors and a large combine east of the checkpoint, and on the west side a tractor loaded with sacks, and the driver's child. At 15:05 a military jeep arrives with 3 soldiers and a commander to open the gate. Meanwhile a tour of international volunteers arrives, wishing to get acquainted with the system. One of them tries to take a picture, but a soldier forbids this since they are in a military area.
The vehicles coming from the east pass. Passage of the tractor on the west side is denied – his vehicle license has expired. It seems that the soldiers serve as traffic police in addition to their other duties.
The fact that the tractor driver and his young son, if not permitted to pass, will have to drive very far to get home does not concern the soldiers. We try to appeal to the soldiers' common sense and this seems to work, but eventually the commander just says" don't listen to any word of them".
17:50 Maale Ephraim checkpoint is manned, but there are no cars.
At Tapuah junction there are attractive signs saying "I am looking for my brothers – on 31/5, the day of the liberation of Jerusalem we shall ascend to the Joseph outlook on mount Grizim" (which is close to Nablus).