Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Tue 16.8.11, Afternoon

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Yifat D., Tal H., Daphne B. (reporting) and Alon Idan – guest journalist

14:20 – Ma’ale Efrayim Checkpoint

No soldiers in sight. Two girls and two boys wait for a ride, about 100 meters further down the road.

14:40 Hamra Checkpoint

Only one car waiting at the checkpoint and after it crosses, we leave.

15:00 Gochia ‘Gate’Checkpoint

No Palestinians are  in sight, nor does the army appear. Since we know that the army jeep – due for opening the locked gate for Palestinians at a designated time – should be arriving from Tyassir Checkpoint (about 20 minutes’ drive away), we call the DCO to ask why it is not yet there. The jeep arrives at 15:10 and the soldiers unlock the gate.

15:40 Tyassir Checkpoint

Sparse traffic. The cars are thoroughly checked, whether traveling westwards to the hills of the West Bank or east into the Jordan Valley. I asked whether for Ramadan, a vehicle not registered under the name of a Jordan Valley resident may cross over into the Jordan Valley. The answer is negative.

16:00 Changing of the guard, and the commander of the fresh shift tries to chase us off. He finally relents and offers us to cross over to the Tyassir side of the checkpoint, higher up the hill, and observe the post from there, just so we wouldn’t stand in ‘his’ checkpoint. Since we meant to leave anyway, we passed up his interesting offer and drove off.

Maskiyot Colony

At the new extension of this settlement, a row of mustard-colored uniform houses is undergoing its final phases of construction. The northern-most house has two stories and is differently designed. We met the owner – Rami, the security official who occasionally shows the local Palestinians who’s in charge. We introduce ourselves as wishing to relocate to the Jordan Valley and interested in the conditions. At first he seems suspicious but later more open, and explains to us that there are still housing units for sale, he is not familiar with the prices, and at any rate – he makes a grand sweeping gesture all around – the entire area in sight is open for further construction.  The Arabs around there are not a problem, he says, and tells us that he, unlike others, does not employ Arabs.

We proceeded to visit Abu Saker and his family. He tells us that on Friday night the army has entered his son Saker’s home, but Saker was not there at the time. On Saturday his second son was picked up and the army ordered him to tell Saker to call a certain number. When he did, he was told to report to the Ma’ale Efrayim police station and meet with a Shabak officer.  Abu Saker called us on Saturday and asked us to accompany him to the police but we refused, saying we do not think our presence would be a good idea, and might even damage him (we do not consider it proper to accompany someone to this kind of meeting).

Saker did not go and was arrested on a street in Jiftlik village by two civilian-clothed persons who got off a civilian vehicle. After several days’ detention at the Jerusalem Police Russian Compound, he was released late at night. Such harassment arrests are quite common in the Jordan Valley. People are taken into custody for days, no charge are pressed against them because they are not guilty of anything, and then they are released. And we’re speaking here about the Jordan Valley area, where absolutely no hostilities (against Jews) are taking place.

18:00 Gochia ‘Gate’ Checkpoint

An army vehicle stands by the gate and three soldiers stand with their rifles pointed towards the hill on the western side. When we disembarked, they lowered their guns and looked as though they didn’t know how to proceed. The commander answered our inquiry, that they were chasing someone who had crossed the gate without permission. “Bypassing the gate”. About 10 minutes later they opened the gate and drove in the direction of the West Bank hills. From a distance we saw them stopping by the encampment closest to the gate on its western side, about 200 meters away. We hoped they were not harassing the tent dwellers there, but decided not to approach.

18:30 Hamra Checkpoint

Yifat and I approach the spot where we always stand. Soldiers come along to speak to us. Suddenly their commander (apparently) arrives and begins the usual mantra: “Move on to the junction, for your own safety, otherwise I’ll close the checkpoint, it’s a closed military area…” Since there was no traffic at the time and clearly it would not pick up since it was almost time for breaking the Ramadan fast, we left.

20:20 Ma’ale Efrayim Checkpoint

No soldier in sight but the yard around the pillbox post is illuminated and we detect movement inside. So even an unmanned checkpoint is manned.