Report of a tour led by MachsomWatch Saturday 13.04.13
Translator: Charles K.
There were 42 participants and two guides (50 had registered; 8 cancelled prior to the tour).
We covered the “classic loop”: Highway 55 from Qalqilya, Highway 60 to Huwwara, Highway 5 to Elkana.
The Alfei Menashe seam zone, including the Habla gate checkpoint and the view from Alfei Menashe / Jayyus / Qadum / Huwwara checkpoint / Huwwara village / the Elkana seam zone including the Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s home.
The tour left Tel Aviv at 11.15 and ended at 18.30.
We stopped on the Green Line near Qalqiliya, on the bridge over Highway 6. From there, near Alfei Menashe, we observed the fence blocking the villages of Ras a-Tira and Wadi Rasha from accessing their lands. We then continued to the Habla checkpoint / agricultural gate.
Although we arrived at the Habla checkpoint during the hours it was to have been open, we weren’t able to see it in operation. It was locked because the army hadn’t come to open it. We telephoned the DCO, who told us they were aware of the delay. Don’t worry, the soldiers will arrive. When? Not clear. We waited 20 minutes and left. And thus we experienced what happens to Palestinians at this supposed crossing.
Meetings with Palestinians:
We weren’t able to meet with Umar at the plant nursery in the seam zone (at the Habla gate) because it was Saturday. But the meeting with Na’im in Jayyus made a very strong impression, primarily because of his personality and the way he presented the information, “spiced” with personal and family stories, and in fluent Hebrew. He accompanied us along the fence and we saw his lands on the other side. We heard about arrests of youths at night, about intimidation and fear, about those blacklisted by the Shabak and the yearning for peace.
The meeting with Sakkar at Qadum was important in order to become acquainted with the fact that although the locality has no fence, he’s prevented from reaching his lands (there’s a virtual fence: starting at a particular post…). He’s also prevented by a checkpoint from reaching Nablus via the shortest route, which he used to take long ago. Because the settlement of Quedumim doesn’t want them nearby, a checkpoint was established (security).
We walked with Sakkar along the route the inhabitants take during their demonstrations – from the village center to that same post beyond which they know they’re not allowed to proceed. The path is black from tires burned by the residents during every demonstration in order to prevent the army from entering the village.
Even though the demonstration is non-violent the army fires tear gas and sprays stinking liquid at them, and sometimes employs dogs. That’s the ritual that’s been repeated every Friday after prayers for two years. Like at Bil’in.
We saw the Palestinian villages along Highway 60 (Asira Qabaliya, Madama and Burin), above whom, on the hills on both sides of the road, are the violent settlements that harass them and their olive groves – Gil’ad Farm, Beracha and Yitzhar (some say the area lives “between a blessing [Beracha] and a curse.”)
We didn’t stay at the Huwwara checkpoint because time was short. We only observed the empty terminal from the bus. A monument to the checkpoint which pointlessly tortured people for six years. Soldiers tried to move us away but we didn’t react because we hadn’t intended to stay in any case. The view from the bus, along with the stories, was enough.
Participants in the tour were amazed by the atmosphere in the village of Huwwara – as if the “conflict” never existed. Everyone was calm. Welcoming us, as is traditional among Palestinians. Falafel, coffee, and – as noted – the overall atmosphere made their effect felt. It’s an experience not to be missed.
We crossed through the Shomron crossing checkpoint without inspection.
And ”last but not least” – the Elkana seam zone:
The Azzun Atma checkpoint and Hani’s besieged home- the entire occupation in a nutshell.
Summary of the feedback we received:
Of the 42 participants (including two friends of ours who came with their families), we received the following responses to questions:
12 were interested in obtaining material from us
15 men and women expressed interest in joining us
15 didn’t respond
How did you hear about the tour?
16 – the ad in Ha’aretz
1 – the internet
10 – from friends (some of them via Ha’aretz)
1 – Psycho Active
Only 3 (unfortunately) from Machsom Watch members
From the feedback we received via email:
Thanks to Dalya for guiding this fascinating and very important tour.
Many Israelis should take a tour like this.
As I always say – Machsom Watch women are the country’s eyes.
Thank you, and best wishes
Buma Inbar 054-767 0511
And from the previous tour on 27.3 with the “Meretz” forum against the occupation
Thank you for the tour and your patient, professional guidance. Many of the participants told me they’d learned much that was new, and some included information from the tour and their praises on Facebook.
Thank you for yesterday’s excellent tour. Even for those participants well-acquainted with the political reality of Israel that life here has inured us to, and who are seemingly very familiar with the praxis of separation and the unbearable regime under which Palestinians in the occupied territories live, the tour was a must.
The tour was excellently planned and carried out. The wonderful and accurate tour leadership allowed participants to learn about the various complex issues which the Palestinians confront. Despite the feelings of anger and frustration accompanying a tour like this, we are proud of Machsom Watch, of its worthy activities on behalf of the Palestinians,but which are also on behalf of our own society.