Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 31.5.12, Afternoon
.Translator: Charles K.
Za’tara checkpoint/Tapuach junction – A young Palestinian detainee stands behind the concrete pillars. We weren’t able to stop to find out why.
09:50 Ma’aleh Efrayim – No soldiers.
11:50 Hamra checkpoint – Sparse traffic. Cars driving west into the West Bank cross freely, without stopping, without being waved through, without inspections. Cars coming from the West Bank, on the other hand, are inspected carefully.
Gochia checkpoint – The gate is broken, the concrete block to which it was attached is upended and lies on the ground, allowing people to go through freely. For years Palestinians could only cross here twice a week, if at all. Parents sent their children to live elsewhere so they could attend school; people had no access in case of medical emergencies – and now the miserable gate lies on the ground and no one cares.
13:30 Tayasir checkpoint – Few cars arrive. Rigorous inspection in both directions (unlike at Hamra; another absurdity).
A local acquaintance telephoned me at 7:30 in the morning and reported that one of the laborers who goes through every day has been detained at the checkpoint. Why wasn’t he allowed through, since no special crossing permit is required? And if he’s suspected of something – why didn’t they arrest him? I was told this wasn’t the first time; the same thing happened a few days ago. The detainee was handcuffed, and eventually wasn’t allowed to cross. Is the Shabak trying to enlist collaborators here?
We saw at the Mehola junction hundreds of dunums of greenhouses where the settlement of Mehola grows spices on the land belonging to Ein El Bida. We met workers from Ein El Bida at the greenhouses, who have no choice other than to work for a pittance for the people who dispossessed them from their land.
Bezeq checkpoint – A checkpoint to enter Israel, for Israelis only. Palestinians can’t cross here, even if they have entry permits. Israelis quickly go through into occupied territory, without inspection.
Huge trucks are parked to the right of the checkpoint, six Palestinians sitting next to them under a canopy and eating. They’re bringing hay from Israel to various locations on the West Bank and in the Jordan Valley. We ask why Palestinians don’t grow their own hay on the West Bank – there’s no water! It takes four hours to transfer the hay back-to-back. An Israeli truck unloads the hay on the sidewalk on the Israeli side; then it’s loaded onto a Palestinian truck, which will be inspected again at the Tayasir checkpoint!!!
A JVS activist told us that along the Jordanian border, in the demilitarized area (the buffer zone), mines are being exploded and the land prepared so settlements can grow crops there. We should note that much of the land in the buffer zone is privately owned by Palestinians; it was expropriated and mined “for security reasons,” to create a separation zone between Israel and the “enemy” – Jordan. Today, when there’s an agreement and the border is quiet, wouldn’t it be appropriate to return the land to its owners?
We drove along Highway 90, to see what’s happening. The border allegedly touches Highway 90 all through the northern Jordan Valley, and the fence has been erected right on the road. But it turns out (we learn from talking to one of the farmers in the Adam Bridge area) that beyond the fence that looks like a border are agricultural lands. There are gates in the fence; every morning farmers from the settlements go through and work those expropriated lands and grow rich from land that isn’t theirs. The legal owners of the land, the Palestinians, are forbidden of course to work their lands.
Our tour brought us to Tirza Basin which we erroneously thought was a water reservoir, but it isn’t. It’s a huge garbage site where compost is made. The area is full of filthy storks that abandoned their flocks and remained to live off the garbage. We asked one of the workers, a guy from Gan Ner in the Jezre’el Valley, whether he makes the trip from Israel every day, and he responds with surprise – “This is Israel!” he says.
Residents of Auja told us they’ve been hearing explosions for a while but we weren’t able to investigate them. We didn’t see any sign that the land was being prepared for cultivation, but the gate in the western fence of the buffer zone was locked and we weren’t able to go in.
A resident of Auja told us about a solitary farm whose owner, Omer Yedidya, attacks Palestinians every so often in the middle of the night, backed by IDF soldiers. We drove to the Eynot Kedem farm, on the northern edge of the city of Jericho, opposite the Yitav settlement. Na’ama, a young (28) newly religious Jew with four children, welcomed us happily. A number of youths who dropped out of various schools also live here, working and being rehabilitated by the Yedidya family. Omer, the husband, also newly religious, is doing reserve duty. Armed youths came in and out as we talked. There are two swimming pools here – one for infants and the other for adults, while their Bedouin neighbors don’t even have drinking water!! They grow organic olive trees, organic dates and non-organic sheep. The farm has a calm feeling. Na’ama had baked challahs for Shabbat and welcomed the company (she urged us to stay: “Finally, someone to talk to…”). She says that these are state lands given to Yitav (a settlement inhabited by Russian immigrants), who abandoned them because of harassment by their Arab neighbors. The Bedouin took over the abandoned area, stole and looted everything they could and painted swastikas on the monument to the 54 casualties of the helicopter accident near the farm. In 2005, the Jewish Agency proposed that the Yedidyas re-Judaize the area and they agreed gladly. “So the Arabs don’t take over the land.” Na’ama likes her solitary, but abundant life – a lovely, spacious house, a huge farm, lawns in front of the house, and a girl who takes care of the children once a week when she spends the day in Jerusalem, studying “the theory of the soul according to Chabad,” and visiting with her girlfriends.
The El Auja spring, the canals and the “slide,” which is really a canal descending steeply from the hills bringing water to the village – flows bountifully. Palestinian families and individuals come from all over the Jordan Valley to enjoy the water. They say that since Mekorot erected four huge pumping stations, there’s no longer water in the summer. After the heavy, welcome rains this past winter there’s still water here now. Everyone lounges around, enjoying the unusual sight. We’ll come back in a few weeks to see how much water there is. I was here in August, 2011, and it was completely dry.