Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Huwwara, Jayyus, Wed 30.1.13, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Our guest is a young theater person from the US travelling around Israel and the West Bank to record people and collect material for a play. As we cross the bridge over Highway 6 I point out the location of the Green Line, the 1967 border. A few hundred yards farther on we reach the turn to the Habla checkpoint, an agricultural gate open three times a week. What’s most annoying these days to people cultivating their land beyond the fence is that the gate opens very late in the afternoon when it’s already dark, and they’re forced to wait a long time after they’ve finished working in order to return home to Habla and Qalqilya.
12:45 Habla. While waiting for the gate to open, A. explains that all the surrounding lands belong to residents of Qalqilya and Azzun who must get special permits which are hard to obtainin order to reach their land. The separation fence has been built on part of their land, robbing them of a large area because it requires a strip 40-60 meters wide that cuts them off from their holdings. He mentions the village of A-Tira which had been in the Alfei Menashe enclave until the High Court ordered the fence route changed so it now adjoins their homes, cutting them off from some of their land. He believes both peoples have a right to their own country, but they also have the right not to be divided from one another.
13:00 Soldiers came to open the checkpoint. A woman from Habla and two young men from Qalqilya are waiting. One of the latter speaks a little Hebrew, explaining he works in the plant nurseries, arrives at 8 each morning, goes home in the afternoon. He earns NIS 70 a day, pays NIS 20 for transportation and NIS 10 for lunch, leaving him with NIS 40. He has no choice; even NIS 40 is more than he could earn in Qalqilya.
Little traffic in each direction, apparently because of the rain.
13:30 We continued toward Alfei Menashe; we showed our guest the new fence mentioned above that had been built so that Ras a-Tira would be located on the other side, and the big gates through which the villagers were supposed to cross, but they’re always shut (except, possibly, for a few days during the olive harvest season). Then, after briefly driving through Alfei Menashe, we reached Arab a-Ramadinto see whether the school is still standing. We saw the start of new construction, in addition to the three classrooms and teachers’ room. Because of the rain there was no one we could ask whether it was still in danger of being demolished.
14:00 Eliyahu checkpoint. No cars detained. They explained that the reason the checkpoint was placed here, a few kilometers from the border, was to take over Palestinian land and to make the residents of Alfei Menashe feel they’re in Israel.
Azzun: We visited Z., who was very glad for all we brought and was willing to be interviewed and tell his story. He had been strong and healthy and worked in construction until he was caught by the police without a permit to work in Israel; they beat him badly in the head and everywhere on his body even though he asked them to stop, that he’s not guilty of anything other than the need to work and support his wife and children. He was jailed for four months and despite his complaints wasn’t permitted to see a doctor. Since his released he’s been suffering from neurological problems that have prevented him from working. He’s been examined many times in Palestinian and Israeli hospitals but they haven’t yet discovered the cause of his illness. He also recounted the time that soldiers invaded his home, broke down the door to search for weapons and saw him trembling. When he explained that he wasn’t trembling out of fear, but because of illness, they told him that since he couldn’t work he was probably dealing in weapons. They came with dogs which frightened the children and defiled the refrigerator.
15:00 We drove to Jayyous to show the road passing under Highway 55, the main highway, on which Palestinians drive north to Tulkarm through all the villages.
We returned to Highway 55 heading east, then south via the settlement of Emanuel to Hars, the settlement of Ariel and the Za’tara/Tapuach junction. This time no soldiers were in position and traffic flowed freely.
16:00 Huwwara. Recently there have been reports that soldiers are stopping and inspecting cars heading toward Nablus. We saw no soldiers this time; cars went through in both directions without slowing. We explained how this large checkpoint far from the border with Israel, separating Nablus from the rest of the West Bank, once operated, forcing people to cross on foot after a long wait in congested lines, and how this “security requirement” that embittered the lives of thousands day after day for years suddenly, one day, simply vanished.