'Awarta, 'Azzun 'Atma, Habla, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 4.6.12, Afternoon
Although the occupation’s injustices are less visible to travelers on the roads in this area of the West Bank, there’s still value to our presence here. We discovered that there are still soldiers who look at the web site and read the reports, and it’s important to them to behave humanely.
The gate is open. A soldier, two male and one female MPs at the gate. Light traffic – tractors, a truck and donkeys in both directions. Umar, from the plant nursery, waits at the gate for his children, joking with Hajaj, the MP at the gate. Hajaj has been serving here two years; he and Umar have become friends. Hajaj is acquainted by now with most of the people going through; he treats them politely, which helps ease the fact that a fence separates them from their lands.
Huwwara and Awarta
An armored military vehicle in the parking lot, but we don’t see soldiers at the checkpoint itself. If someone’s in the tower, he sees without being seen. Vehicles go through freely.
The signs posted on the fence are interesting:
“A conference of women fashion designers from the Shomron”
“Uri Ariel, don’t split the National Union party”
And the high point:
“The Cave of the Patriarchs – we bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours.”
We returned via Awarta. People we met told us that the settlers from Itamar haven’t been harassing them recently, except when they come down to the holy tomb in the center of the village. Lots of construction in Huwwara, shops are being renovated and it’s becoming a town.
The Za’tara checkpoint is open; no inspections.
Marda – the gate is open. Above, on the ridge, Ariel is expanding to the east.
When we reached the checkpoint there was a short line waiting to enter the village. Vehicles slowly arrive, the laborers returning from their jobs in the settlements pour out into the lengthening line. Some hold ID’s in their hands; others get them from someone they selected to handle them for the whole group. We stand on the side, ask where they work, about their difficulties entering and leaving the village. One of the soldiers approaches immediately, asks us to move away because it’s a military area. We insist that if civilians are going through here, it’s not a military area. We have a right to stand here and observe the checkpoint’s operation. He takes out a phone, threatens to call the police, but settles for calling the checkpoint commander. The checkpoint commander, a corporal, approaches us. He doesn’t threaten to call the police, but backs up his request with a story. Last week, he was told, two women gave a hundred shekel bill to the Palestinians to create a riot that they could photograph (the defamers’ imagination is boundless). So he asks us to move back, to the concrete barriers. The argument over where we’ll stand turns into a dialogue. In brief:
We tell him that people returning home from work aren’t supposed to wait at the checkpoint.
He: But they can reach Tel Aviv from here, so he has to insure that each person who exited here also returns.
We: If the fence were on the Green Line, there’d be no problem. But the settlements have made the village into a prison.
He: But we also give them jobs.
We: Instead of the land expropriated from them to build the settlements. Moreover, how can the village expand if it’s blocked on all sides?
The discussion concluded by us agreeing that he’s only doing his job, which he should do humanely, and with him agreeing that our presence isn’t bothering anyone.
It seems that, for the first time, he recognized the connection between the settlements and the role he’s playing. The result: he opens another lane, moves the people through quickly, politely and efficiently, and the line rapidly disappears. Riba went over to express her appreciation for his behavior.