'Azzun, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Mon 3.10.11, Morning
06:30 Before reaching the Eliyahu crossing we see laborers who’ve already gone through the checkpoint waiting by the side of the road. We also see more Palestinians than usual driving carts and on donkeys.
06:32 Eliyahu crossing
We hurry to reach the Jayyus agricultural gate when it opens so we don’t spend time at the Eliyahu crossing, but slow down and see that about 20 people are waiting at the pedestrian entrance and a few cars are waiting to be inspected, including two carts loaded with hay. We didn’t wait to see whether they went through. On the road past the checkpoint we saw more carts going toward the crossing.
It looks as if a new section of the fence has been erected between Highway 55 and Izbet Tabib.
06:40 Many workers wait at the exit from 'Azzun. There’s more traffic in the village at this hour than there is later.
06:45 We arrive at the Jayyus gate and see many people and vehicles waiting. Two new ecumenical volunteers also wait. It turns out that yesterday (Sunday, 2.10) they were told that the opening hours were changed to 07:00-07:30. The people on line, all of them farmers waiting to reach their groves and fields, very much hope that these won’t be the opening hours during the olive harvest, and that the gate will then open earlier.
The gate opened at 07:02, even though the soldiers had already arrived earlier.
The MP demands that the tools and empty crates be unloaded from the tractor that crosses first, but a minute or two later signals that the driver should cross.
A few women, tractors, donkey carts and pedestrians wait to go through. Crossing is slow because the young, enthusiastic MP makes everyone move back from time to time and stops inspecting until the whole column retreats a yard or two… He also carefully inspects the contents of the sacks and the loads on the carts and the tractors.
Remember, these are people with permits to work their land and who cross every day.
Not everyone who requested permits for relatives to help with the olive harvest has received them, and some had their permits extended only for a short period.
For nine months A.N. hasn’t received a permit even though the land is registered in his name. The grove he planted has dried up; there’s no fruit on it now.
We didn’t meet any satisfied people at the Jayyus crossing, only people who were worried [I’m writing this following Yael Sadan’s encouraging report, also from 3.10].
The MP again organizes things, moving people back.
07:29 We hear a truck hurrying to the checkpoint but the MP and his soldiers begin closing the gate and don’t allow it through. The driver doesn’t say a word, turns around and drives off. I have an unpleasant interchange with the soldiers. They say they must close the checkpoint on time, otherwise people will have to wait for them at the next checkpoint which opens in 15 minutes. But they nevertheless hang around until 07:45, which is when the next checkpoint is supposed to open. (I imagine that people who have to accommodate themselves to the whims and harassment of the soldiers when they cross to their lands find it hard to be satisfied).
We returned via 'Azzun to the Eliyahu gate and then to the Habla agricultural gate because we wanted to see whether anything had changed there as a result of the changes at the Eliyahu gate.. On the lovely route among the groves we saw the harvest beginning.
08:00 Eliyahu gate – 109. About ten laborers are still waiting to enter.
We go through the settlers’ crossing with no problems but see cars belonging to Palestinians, with Israeli plates, being checked at the inspection station, all the passengers standing outside the car, all the doors open.
It turns out that since yesterday the time this crossing opens was moved up from 07:00 to 06:00! The gate will close at 08:00 instead of 09:00, but the polite, smiling soldiers say they’ll wait today until 08:15 and let everyone through, because they might not all be aware of the change… They explain that the change is because the harvest begins soon. There are almost no pedestrians, and the vehicles to and from the plant nurseries are also let through quickly, with a smile. After all, they cross a few times a day. So it’s possible!
We wait to see the soldiers close the gate when there are no longer any people crossing. They part from us, wishing us Shana Tova.
Umar, the owner of the plant nursery, invites us for coffee. He complains greatly about the delays, inspections and humiliations he must undergo daily, and sometimes even a few times a day when he goes through the “more efficient” Eliyahu crossing that was transferred to civilian control. After all, every day he travels from his home in Qalqilya to his plant nursery on the land he owned that was taken from him.
He describes the humiliating inspections that every Palestinian, including Israeli Palestinians, undergoes at this seeming “border” crossing. He describes how an Arab from Taibeh returning from Qalqilya yelled at the inspectors and Umar calmed him down. The use of dogs is of course particularly resented. The demand to remove everything from the car and pass every parcel and every item in the shopping cart through the scanner is illogical when the normal fabric of life is concerned. He must also place on special pallets all his plants and the stone furniture manufactured in Qalqilya that he sells at his plant nursery so they can be scanned.
The head of the nearby village of Nebi Elias told us over the phone that they still hadn’t received olive harvest permits, and are very worried about reaching their lands below Alfei Menashe if to get to them they must go through the Eliyahu crossing, with the waiting and inspections this involves, to their nearby lands. Even before the crossing was transferred to civilian control it was hard for them to work their lands because they weren’t allowed to bring vehicles or tractors to the area near Alfei Menashe. In the past they asked for an agricultural gate to be opened between them and their lands, but their request was denied.
We returned home feeling very despondent.