'Atara, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Tue 24.4.12, Afternoon
The heavy traffic gave no evidence to the desertion and neglect at the pedestrians' checkpoint.
One of the cab drivers standing at the entrance to the checkpoint said that it took him that morning two hours to cross Jaba checkpoint towards Azaria, and then two additional hours on his way back. The soldiers placed barbed wire on the road and each time gave permission for only five vehicles to pass.
Two soldiers stopped a vehicle heading to Ramallah. The four passengers were taken out to the car and their IDs were examined.
We didn't have the time to mount the hill on which Bir Zeit checkpoint is located, however due to their curiosity the pair of soldiers manning it troubled themselves and came down to find out what was going on.
On arriving at the road ascending towards the checkpoint we noticed a police vehicle and a military jeep. Two traffic cops were investigating a Palestinian driver that was pulled over, while three reserve soldiers were observing them. We inquired regarding to the driver's offence and learned that he had been talking on his cell phone while driving. Not long after he was permitted to drive on, another vehicle was pulled over and in it were six Palestinian women, four of them were seated in the back seat of the car. The Hebrew speaking police man of the two detected "propaganda material" (the flag of Palestine) in the car and asked one of the soldiers to inspect the vehicle, but the soldier replied that it wasn't necessary. None of the present party had a sufficient knowledge of Arabic so as to understand what the passengers were saying, but it soon became clear that the elder woman among them had needed medical treatment and that they were then already on their way back to Ramallah where they live. Things got more complicated when it turned out that the driver had forgotten her driving license at home, she was forced to stop a taxi, go to Ramallah, take her license, return and present it before the traffic cops. The rest of the drivers waited for her at the spot where they pulled over.
While we were waiting we chatted with the reserve soldiers. One of them explained that the bible does not distinguish between "the State of Israel" and "the Land of Israel", and therefore all the lands of the country are part of the state of Israel. This is also the case with Sinai and the Eastern bank of the Jordan River. After a long conversation and once the soldiers who were in the midst of their patrol decided to get back on the road, they invited us to participate in the memorial ceremony at the "town" Atara. We decided to give it a miss.
The traffic cops found time to arrest an additional vehicle. The driver was Yatma, a fifty one year old metal merchant from the village Kablan. The policeman asked on the radio for someone come and pick him up since it was suspected that there was an attachment order on his car. We stayed there for a while with the policemen, the passengers from Ramallah who were waiting for their driver to return with her license and the metal merchant. Suddenly, the two soldiers standing at the Bir Zeit checkpoint began marching in our direction, until finally joining the waiting crowd. One of them took a photo of the sun setting over the mountains of Samaria with his smart phone, and the wanted to know whether we weren't "into sirens and memorial ceremonies". The soldier was also worried that he might not be able to hear the siren, but the Hebrew speaking policeman told him that the siren that emerges from the speakers of the "town" Atara can be heard very well near Bir Zeit checkpoint.
Suddenly, the taxi with the driver from Ramallah arrived. She presented her license before the policeman who gave her a ticket specifying three offences: driving without a license, driving with six passengers in a vehicle that is intended for five and (as a result) driving while one passenger didn't have her seat belt on. The fine added up to 250 Shekels, but the specification of the offences was written only in Hebrew. Once the ticket was given to them they were permitted to head on to Ramallah. A short while afterwards, appeared two friends of the metal merchant, one of them was asked to take the detainee's vehicle and drive it home (because as it turned out, there was no attachment order on the vehicle). The friend told the policeman that he had spoken to the detainee's lawyer and that they were under the impression that the whole ordeal had ended a year ago. The policeman replayed that he didn't actually know what it was about, but that the detainee would be now taken for interrogation at the police station near the settlement Yizhar, if he wished to help his friend (who didn't speak Hebrew) he could come along.
We left the junction leading to the checkpoint an hour and a half after arriving there.