Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Wed 17.10.12, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
First of all, we are grateful to the Association for Civil Rights, which last year responded to our appeals and our reports with respect to restrictions on movement through the Jordan Valley checkpoints, and has worked tirelessly on the issues (including the threat, four months ago, to go to the Supreme Court), and helped bring about the cancellation of the regulation prohibiting vehicles not registered in the name of a Jordan Valley resident from entering the Jordan Valley through the Hamra checkpoint. The prohibition has seriously affected residents of the northern JordanValleyfor years, interfered with commerce, prevented marketing produce, disrupted normal connections with the urban centers and hindered access to educational, health and other basic services. But, despite the announcement, this inhumane prohibition is still in effect at some JordanValleycheckpoints. The Tayasir checkpoint still prohibits entry to drivers who aren’t the vehicle's owner or registered as a resident of the JordanValley.
A new JordanValleysettlement – Between Al Ajaj and Jiftlik (next to the Masu’a settlement), at the Gadi army base that’s been abandoned for many years, a new settlement is being built. One-story buildings, painted pastel blue hand white , a synagogue faced with reddish stone, rooms with adjoining showers and toilets. As usual, the construction workers are the Palestinians whose lands have been stolen. They told us it’s a boarding school for youths from the Golan Heights, due to open in 20 days.
The idea to build here comes from the “leftist” Yoel Marshak, who last year tried to establish a new settlement at this location by appealing to members of kibbutzim, particularly those who’d been members of the “urban kibbutz", but didn’t get a response. It seems that you don’t need the right wing when the left supplies its own ideologues.
11:15 Za’tara – Not manned.
11:35 Ma’aleh Efrayim – Not manned.
15:15 Tayasir checkpoint
Two soldiers come down from the checkpoint to find out who we are. We use the opportunity and ask who’s allowed to cross here. We’re very surprised to discover that despite the orders of the Minister of Defense regarding the cancellation of all the limitations, as in all of the JordanValleycheckpoints, this checkpoint prohibits entry to Palestinian vehicles whose driver is not a resident of the JordanValleyor the owner of the vehicle. So what are two brothers supposed to do, or a father and son, who share a vehicle or a water wagon?
We called the soldiers’ attention to the letter we had from the office of the Minister of Defense. They firmly refused to read it, so I read it to them. It’s clear that the letter won’t change their behavior. After all, they have orders from their commander, but maybe it would raise some questions?
Light traffic at the checkpoint, superficial inspections, people cross fairly quickly. But those travelling east must, as usual, get out of the cars and go through on foot.
A short distance before the checkpoint we see a military unit training – about six soldiers running up the hill with a stretcher, some soldiers running – falling –running. Many more soldiers in blackface with camouflage netting on their helmets.
A civilian with a full beard and yarmulke stands next to a blue car in the midst of this operation, talking with some officers. We wondered what was going on, so we also went over. We immediately saw a Palestinian flag flying proudly over one of the tents. The commander of the soldiers approached us, affably inviting us to have something to drink, explaining that they’re the “Netzach Yehuda” unit, from the ultra-Orthodox Nahal brigade. The bearded civilian is their rabbi; he came to drum Torah into them, since “we’re not just carrying out operations, we’re also educating,” the commander explained. He also explained that the purpose of the flag is to represent the enemy, although he says the Palestinians aren’t the enemy, since we’ve all been created in God’s image, and everything happens according to His will (pointing upward). The soldiers around him nodded in agreement…and we stood there open-mouthed…When we told him who we are, and what our view was about the situation, he complained that he didn’t see enough people like us, that we fulfilled an important role, etc. etc.
Meanwhile another vehicle filled with yeshiva students arrived. He explained they’re members of an organization supporting the ultra-Orthodox Nahalsoldiers. Before our hosts could invite us to join a class that was about to begin, and perhaps also to a glatt kosher meal, we continued on our way.
I have to admit I don’t remember when I’d encountered such a degree of attention, such openness on the part of “our excellent boys” who were secular. Life is full of surprises!!!
16:45 Hamra checkpoint
We went up to visit our acquaintances, who live above the checkpoint, and observed it from there. More than half an hour passed with no car going through. Long lines stretched in both directions – 16 cars from the direction of the JordanValleyand 22 from the direction of Nablus. The soldiers were apparently taking a siesta. I phoned the DCO to complain; the response: “What do you expect me to do?” The Minister of Defense can “ease restrictions” from now until forever, but as long as armed soldiers keep Palestinians from reachingtheir destination, interfering with their daily lives, there’s no easing here, but only a terrible crime. Particularly since this is an area without a shred of opposition or violence.