Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Wed 22.8.12, Afternoon
Hamra (Beqaot) in the JordanValleyis one of the checkpoints which bar Palestinians from moving freely between the JordanValleyand the rest of the West Bank. It is located at the junction of roads 57 and 578, south-west of the Jewish settlement of Beqaot. Only special permit holders are allowed through.
Another saga of withholding water supply from Palestinians;
“Lighter conditions at the checkpoints”
12:45 Maale Efrayim checkpoint
2 soldiers at the post. We waited about 10 minutes but at this time of day no Palestinian cars arrived.
Between the settlements of Gitit and Mechora, near the water pumps of Mekorot (Israeli national water company), is a small pool. For many years shepherds used to come here with their flocks. As far as I have seen, this was the only place in the northern PalestinianJordanValleywhere the sheep and goats could be watered. The water originated from the same source that Mekorot steals from the Palestinians, from the pumps near the pool, a very limited amount, but crucial.
A month ago, Mekorot closed the tap. The shepherds of this area can no longer water their flocks here. At the heat of mid-day we saw large herds resting in the shade with their shepherds. As we approached we saw a little water in the pool and were glad to think that Mekorot did relent and decide that closing the tap was too cruel a measure… But soon enough we found out we were totally mistaken: the Palestinians buy water and bring it in tankers from the hills of the West Bank, and pour it into this small concrete reservoir so the animals would have easier access to drink… I was stunned – is there no limit to the occupier’s cruelty towards both man and beast? (Tal on the other hand is no longer surprised by anything the occupier does…)
13.20 Hamra Checkpoint
Dozens of Palestinians crowded into the scorching “waiting shed”. Others, women children among them, who had no more room there, were seen kneeling in the small square of shade cast by a military signpost. They were waiting for an hour-and-a-half for the cars from which they had to disembark to cross the pedestrian checkpoint. I called Majd – the DCO official in charge of the checkpoints. No answer. Then someone told us he was duty. This we heard 3 days after he told Rina he was giving his telephone number to Palestinians so they could turn to him for help. We called the DCO and 5 minutes later the cars began to cross. A new jeep was made to pull over and before we had a chance to ask the driver what the problem was, he was refused passage and ordered to turn back towards the West Bank hills.
10 people remained, waiting for a taxi whose driver is from Furush Beit Dajan and crosses this checkpoint regularly, at least 10 times a day, on his work route. Now the soldiers decided that his ID is not his own. Others at the checkpoint are surprised to see this driver delayed, for everyone knows him as a regular taxi driver of the area. Everyone except the soldiers, apparently. Again we called the DCO and after another half an hour, two whole hours after being delayed, the taxi and its passengers were finally allowed to proceed. About 10 minutes before this happened two of the women passengers of this taxi had had enough and went back to the checkpoint with their children to pressure the soldiers to let them and the other passengers get on their way. They walked over to the soldiers and simply stood next to them bravely, right there in the middle of the checkpoint, refusing to budge.
Someone named Ron arrived, of the Economic Cooperation Foundation, and asked us if it was true that all restrictions had been lifted and Palestinians were free to cross into the JordanValley. We told him that 10 minutes earlier a car was refused and turned back, we know not why. The Palestinians also said that indeed during the three-day holiday restrictions were lifted but the soldiers checked lines very slowly, intentionally, and there were long hours of waiting involved, throughout the holiday. We heard this time and again from Palestinians throughout our shift. But Ron was only interested in the lifted restrictions, not in delays, so he walked over to the soldiers in the checkpoint and stood with them for a while. Had we walked over there, we assume the checkpoint would have been shut down and the Palestinians delayed even longer. When he came back he announced that the restrictions were indeed lifted, allowing West Bank vehicles to enter the JordanValleyfreely. But the soldiers prefer the Palestinians not to know about it.
14:30 Tyassir Checkpoint
We witness no delays, swift passage. Palestinians with whom we talked said that the Palestinian press notified the public that Hamra Checkpoint was lifted. On the other hand they did not know about lifting the restrictions. They did tell us that the soldiers did not check vehicle papers to verify whether cars were registered in the Valley. They also spoke of extensive delays during the holiday and frequent detentions of workers, shackling them and releasing them after a few hours but not letting them through the checkpoint.
Visiting the Bisharat family of the Al Hadidiya tribe, we heard that on the 15thnight of the Ramadan month, between August 4thand 5th, 8-9 soldiers arrived in a jeep and searched their encampment. The premise was a search for arms. Everything was scattered and rummaged through, even the most intimate articles. Valuable documents which the family keeps in a special crate were scattered all around. When nothing was found – obviously, none of the members of this family has ever been involved in any kind of violence – the soldiers cleared out, leaving behind anger and offense as a special holiday gift.
The family was openly glad to greet us, and we were thrilled as well – we hadn’t met for some months now. But it hurt to hear that their son, who had managed all the livestock, left with his young wife and moved out to settle in the West Bankhills. The State of Israel has been harassing this family for years now – the army has demolished their tents countless times, their well has been destroyed and they have to bring water from En Al Beda, at great expense. They used to tend fields near their encampment. Now, at best, they can try to grow some alfalfa and wheat, in the winter, depending on rainfall. Their children leave home at age 5 and go to live with relatives in the West Bank hills because Israel denies them schooling by prohibiting the construction of a local schoolhouse and closing off all access paths to existing schools with barriers, ditches and soil dykes.
The head of the family, leader of the Al Hadidiya, a strong man determined to fight for his land, once said, “A man might die but never leave his land!” The army has been hard on him and his son gets arrested time and again – at times he has been shackled and left at the checkpoint for hours, sometimes taken to the nearby army camp, beaten to a pulp and released at midnight kilometers away. I have seen his bruises, half a year ago after one of these arrests. The young man seemed traumatized, did not speak or look at us. Totally withdrawn. A few months ago he was ill and was not allowed to cross the checkpoint to reach a doctor. Thus I saw him more and more depressed, detached. His elder brothers have long left and moved to the West Bankhills. Now he too has given up and left. And so, as son after son leaves him, Abu Saker remains alone and struggles, but he is no youngster, already in his 60s. And who will continue his work?
What we see here, then, is outright ethnic cleansing – not with trucks or buses but through the sophisticated means of constant harassment, day in day out, in all vital areas of life.