Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Wed 19.12.12, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
11:45 Za’tara/Tapuach junction.
Not manned, but there’s a soldier in the observation post.
12:10 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. Not manned.
Palestinians tell us: There’s another extensive military maneuver in the JordanValley, from the Jiftlik to Homsa (about 20 km. further north). Residents of al Ajaj and Homsa received written orders to vacate the area from 4 am to 4 pm. For their own good, so they won’t be injured. The settlement of Beqa’ot is also located in the heart of that area, but the military exercise bypassed it, of course, and Israeli bullets are intelligent enough to distinguish during exercises between Israelis and Palestinians, which is why only Palestinians are in danger… Residents of the Jiftlik report that the firing was so close to their homes that they felt as if they and their families were under attack.
We also saw a large group of soldiers on the road between the Tayasir checkpoint and Hamam el Malih, and another unit north of Ro’i (right across from a Bedouin encampment). Both units appeared to have just arrived and were getting settled – part of the same exercise? Or is another maneuver getting underway there as well, to the north of the first one?
After the checkpoint gate was shattered during the previous maneuvers at the beginning of November so that tanks could go through freely (and also during July’s summer maneuvers), and dumped into the ditch cutting through the Jordan Valley and dividing it from the central West Bank, as if there was no longer any use for it, the checkpoint stayed open and Palestinians were able to go through for a month and a half. Yesterday a new gate was erected; it’s still open, but we can assume that it will soon be closed to Palestinians and children will once again be unable to get to school or the sick to reach a doctor. And the question arises, whose security is being increased by erecting a gate between the farmers of Hadidiya and Homsa and their livelihood, when for a month or two it was wide open and nothing happened?
13:20 Tayasir checkpoint.
For the past week Palestinians have been allowed to go through the checkpoint without leaving their cars. They no longer have to wait 30 meters from the checkpoint for the soldier to beckon them forward, no longer must children cross on foot and face the threatening guns while their father drives the car through, but still each person and car is inspected, and the occupier controls all movement. If he chooses, he’ll allow someone to cross; if not, he will delay or refuse permission.
We don’t approach but two soldiers come to us. They have no idea who we are and ask whether we’re allowed to park here. After we explain they leave us alone and return to the checkpoint.
Traffic is light; inspections aren’t consistent. Sometimes the crossing is quick and sometimes the driver is made to get out of the car and open the trunk. Palestinians stop their cars at the line on the road and wait for the soldier to wave them forward. The soldiers delay for a minute or two, sit conversing at the entrance to the booth. This slight delay makes clear to all – to the soldiers, the Palestinians, and at this moment to us as well – who’s in charge here and who must do what they’re told.
A bus with a sign “Birthright” arrives at the checkpoint. We didn’t see the passengers. It’s delayed a few minutes at the checkpoint so the soldier can telephone and check, and then it crosses toward Area A on the West Bankwhere three large signs prohibit entry to Israelis.
16:30 Hamra checkpoint.
We saw passengers getting out of the vehicles and going through the checkpoint on foot, saw them exiting the checkpoint holding their belts in their hands after being required to remove them in front of the soldier, and we were told that here, unlike the Tayasir checkpoint, Palestinian passengers are not permitted to remain in their cars when crossing to the Jordan Valley.
16:50 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint.