Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Thu 29.11.12, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
We see two civilian cars parked on the roadside near Ma’aleh Efrayim – one Israeli, one Palestinian – their drivers standing and talking. What drew our attention was that between them and the road a security man stood in a threatening manner with drawn weapon, facing the cars driving by. Since we noticed it too late we had to drive two more kilometers in order to turn around; by the time we returned they’d begun leaving.
11:30 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint is manned. Heavy traffic of Palestinian vehicles, inspections go very slowly, a long line of cars; we didn’t see any cars turned back to the West Bank.
We drove by the new settlement near the Jiftlik where a boarding school is planned. The place is closed and locked, nor does it look like they’ve progressed with construction since I was here more than a month ago. We saw no one there.
Tayasir checkpoint. I walked up to the checkpoint by myself to ask the soldiers about the crossing without arousing hostility. The shifts had just changed. I said hello but didn’t get a reply. I gradually realized the checkpoint was closed. I thought it was because of the shift change, but I suddenly heard the commander on the phone to the situation room: “We have visitors. Women from ‘Watch.’ I closed the checkpoint.” Thus, without a word, with unbearable ease, they deny Palestinians the right to get home… Having no alternative, I left.
The drivers waiting for their passengers, who – as usual – were required to cross on foot, told us: Only someone who lives in the Jordan Valley or has a special permit can enter the Jordan Valley in his car. Many cars were turned back during recent weeks and not allowed through. The statement by the Ministry of Defense spokesman is a lie!!! Restrictions haven’t been eased; not everyone is permitted to cross!! For more than a month, until a week ago, the unit stationed here made the lives of Palestinians hell – hours upon hours of delays and humiliations. They say it’s better now.
Gochia checkpoint – It doesn’t exist. Two concrete blocks, nothing between them. Many tank tracks next to the gate, a souvenir of the large exercise conducted here a month ago. That’s why there’s no gate – the Palestinians said the tanks broke it. Now, like last summer, the gate will remain wide open for the benefit of the Palestinians who’ll drive back and forth between the Jordan Valley and the central West Bank (during the summer the gate remained broken for two months). Lo and behold – there’s no threat to security!!! Palestinians told us that from November 6 to November 12 many residents in various parts of the northern Jordan Valley were evacuated from their homes and forced to wait all day until the army of occupation, together with the US army, completed their exercises in their areas. The inhabitants of Ras al Ahmar, El Malih, Khirbet Yirzeh, Khirbet Humseh and others watched from a distance as missiles flew, bombs exploded, planes flew low and tanks raced forward near their homes and flocks, and you can only imagine how frightened the people and animals were in the midst of that madhouse. The residents of El Malih were evacuated three times!!!
Of course, it never occurred to anyone to evacuate the nearby settlements (Beqa’ot, Ro’I, Maskiyot and Hemdat). The army even took care not to approach them too closely.
And regarding firing ranges – opposite the Ro’I settlement’s cultivated lands there were Palestinian grazing areas on which, like on many others, signs were erected three years ago reading “Firing Range!!! Entry Prohibited!” But in the meantime the settlers in Ro’I began to covet those lands, fenced them and planted a vineyard. A Jewish vineyard is there today, the only one with a sign reading “Firing Range…” next to it.
A Bedouin shepherd living near the gate told us that during the attack on Gaza five or six taxis with about 30 Palestinians arrived and tried to demonstrate opposite Beqa’ot. They’d just arrived when the army was rushed in, fired tear gas even before the demonstrators reached the Alon road and arrested three of them.
16:00 Hamra checkpoint. People cross smoothly toward Nablus (though only after the soldier permits with a wave of his hand). People crossing to the Jordan Valley aren’t delayed, but all the cars are carefully inspected. One car arrived at the checkpoint with its passengers – women and small children - and was sent back for them get out about 50 meters before the checkpoint and cross on foot.
17:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – not manned.