Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 3.6.12, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
There’s been a dangerous development in the steps being taken to push the Bedouin out of the northern Jordan Valley (to where????). During the past two weeks, a number of residents have been brought to trial, accused of driving into firing ranges. Their vehicles were impounded and they were fined NIS 3,000- NIS 8,000. The entire area where the Bedouin live and graze their flocks has been declared a firing range. Every time they move, in every space they occupy, they’re breaking the law. Now they have to pay for it, with money they don’t have. If this is the beginning of a new tactic, the Bedouin won’t last long.
A resident of Tayasir who works in one of the Jordan Valley settlements isn’t allowed through the checkpoint. He’s detained every morning for a few hours, and is sometimes handcuffed. Why? By whose authority? According to what regulation? Who gave the order? Until when? He doesn’t know either. Meanwhile, he loses his source of income and ability to support his family.
We’ll report on problems of water and electricity supply in the Jordan Valley (Area C), and medical services provided by the Palestinian Authority.
And finally – a tale of a cow and calf that found their way into the Kfir military base.
11:40 Za’tara-Tapuach junction
The junction is deserted. No soldiers, other than at the post east of the junction; no inspections.
Ma’aleh Efrayim – 11:50. No soldiers, nor when we returned.
12:15 - Hamra checkpoint
There were no cars during most of the time we were here. A bus and a minibus filled with passengers traveling west (Area A) weren’t stopped for inspection.
An army bulldozer parked at the checkpoint.
An encampment near Ro’i
A young woman has been ill for a few days. She told us about the medical services available to the Bedouin scattered in encampments in the area. An ambulance and physician from Tubas comes by twice a week. They call the dispatcher so the doctor knows whom to visit. The doctor writes prescriptions; they buy the medicine in a pharmacy. The medical services are provided at no charge by the Palestinian Authority which, as we know, is funded by donations.
Because the Bedouin (as well as recognized villages like Furshat Bet Dajan) don’t receive electricity from the electric company supplying the settlements, the inhabitants of the encampment spent NIS 2000 on a solar generating system. It’s enough to illuminate the tent at night and to charge their cellphones, but not for the television set which sits unused.
We should note that this is Area C, under full Israeli control, responsible for providing elementary services to residents, including medical services, water and electricity in the 21st century.
Another encampment near Ro’i
Water supply is a serious problem in the Jordan Valley when summer temperatures rise past 40 degrees centigrade and the flocks, the residents’ sole source of income, must be watered. Meqorot, which pumps the Jordan Valley’s groundwater, supplies water in profusion to the settlements, very little to the permanent Palestinian localities, and not a drop to the Bedouin. That’s the most serious aspect of the apartheid. The Bedouin transport water in tanks from the springs they’ve been using since before 1967, and therefore the state of Israel can’t steal that water as well. But that water is very expensive because of transport costs – water tanks on trucks. Some international organization subsidizes the cost of water for very poor families. They distinguish between those who have flocks of sheep and those with herds of cattle – the former are considered to be poorer. But they’re all poverty stricken. A representative of that organization was present when we visited one family; it charges NIS 100 for a tank instead of NIS 280. A tank lasts five days.
The iron bar blocking the checkpoint has been broken for a month. The checkpoint is part of a physical barrier stretching along a few kilometers from the Hamra checkpoint to the Ro’i settlement. It includes a ditch three meters deep and a berm west of the Alon Road to prevent vehicles from the Jordan Valley from crossing to the West Bank and vice versa, supposedly for security. And how much money was spent on this barrier! And how much suffering it causes to people who have to go through, and no one comes to open the crossing despite the promises! They wait hours, with small children. Another Isra-bluff – the bubble burst and nothing happened.
14:30 Taysir checkpoint
We met N., a contractor working in one of the Jordan Valley settlements. He and his workers come from Tayasir and go through the checkpoint daily. In the past few days, the soldiers haven’t allowed one of his workers to come through. They detain him for 2-3 hours in the morning, and then send him back home. They also sometimes handcuff him. It’s not clear why they’re doing so. Entry to the Jordan Valley is restricted only for vehicles, not for people on foot. No one, of course, has explained to him what’s going on, what’s the basis for the refusal. He tries his luck each day anew, because that’s how he makes a living and supports his family. Dafna promised to look into it.
An encampment opposite Maskiyot
Something new: Two weeks ago, A.’s vehicle was impounded by the army. He was summoned to trial in the Beit-El military court, accused of driving into a firing range. We should note that the entire northern Jordan Valley, except for the settlements, has been declared a firing range. Notices to that effect are posted on concrete posts at every encampment and on the grazing lands. He has to pay a NIS 8,000 fine to release the vehicle.
A few days later a tractor and three water wagons were impounded from three other residents of the area. They went through the same procedure. They were fined NIS 3,000.
These incidents, of course, frightened everyone. The army can impound property belonging to Bedouin whenever it sees fit – everyone sits, stands, sleeps in a firing range, 24 hours a day.
We met a Belgian journalist who’d come to report on projects established by the Belgian government that Israel is threatening to demolish, including a kindergarten and an electricity generating station.
We met a Bedouin whose cow and calf had wandered two days ago through a break in the fence into the Kfir military base. He’s afraid they’ll die without water. He tried to talk to the soldiers, who chased him away. The first sergeant, in charge of the soldiers at the gate, received us nicely, gave us a bottle of cold water and made sure we kept out of the burning sun (it’s already very hot at noon). Substantively: after some inquiries, he sent soldiers to search the area where, according to its owner, the cow might be found. He’ll call the owner if they find it. We should note that the base is huge, that the cow entered an area that is closely guarded, and who knows where it went during these past two days. Under the circumstances, he seems to have done the best he could. And politely. We don’t know how the matter ended.
17:35 Z’atara-Tapuach junction
For the first time in a long while nothing unusual occurred while we were present at the junction.
But, we saw a dog and two female soldiers from the Oketz unit standing and talking underneath the guard tower in the plaza. No vehicles were inspected while we were there, but their presence indicates that dogs are used during inspections. Observing the area from above, from the Jordan Valley road, we saw that the area closed off by the white fence had been expanded – the Shabak interrogators were located there on our previous visits. There are two courtyards. In one there’s a structure with two high walls visible above the fence. The second is still empty; there’s a large gate to the west, visible from the road to Tel Aviv.