Hamra (Beqaot), Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 7.8.13, Afternoon
11:35 - Zaatara (Tapuach) Junction Checkpoint - vehicles not inspected.
11:50 - Maale Efrayim Checkpoint- unmanned. On our way back we saw an army verhicle behind the watchtower, a female soldier stood at the checkpoint talking on her phone - no inspection.
12:15 - Hamra Checkpoint- two vehicles waiting for the soldier to wave them through. Few travel the checkpoint at this scathingly hot time, so no pressure is created.
12:37 - Gokhia Checkpoint - this "gate" has already remained closed for nearly half a year. Thorn bushes growing on it attest to the fact that it has not been budged for many months.
15:00 - We visit the Salamin family near the water pump south of the Jewish settlement of Ro'i. On our way to the site where they are now dwelling with their two tiny babies, lying in a tent on a wet surface, we saw their home that has been demolished twice prior to the Ramadan month. The family lives in fear of repeated demolitions after the holiday.
Fire in the Um Zuka Nature Reserve- at the reserve's western entrance, a giant bulldozer flattens the ground. A hostile engineering corps officer refuses to tell us what this work is being carried out for. He says he owes us no explanations, denies that the site is part of the reserve, but sends us off to inquire with the Nature Reserves Authority. We crossed the highly neglected reserve and discovered that its entire eastern side, all the way to Road 90, is charred along many kilometers. In May Palestinians told us that the army ignited hundreds of dunams in the reserve, anything that grows or grazes there, in order to prevent Palestinians from grazing their livestock there.
On the other side of the road, along the Jordanian border, we saw palm tree groves belonging to the Jewish settlement of Mekhora, miles away from the site. Inside the area of the Palestinian village of Jiftlik we saw a vinyard surrounded by an electrical fence - right inside the village! This is a tended farming area of nearby Jewish settlement Masuah (about 3 kilometers from the site).
Along our way many encampments are seen, and at their access points stand those concrete slabs the army has planted at every Palestinian dwelling site, inscribed with the warning "Firing Zone - No entry!"
17:30 A fire is seen on the hills south-east of the Jewish settlement Itamar.
17:50 Zaatara junction checkpoint - two soldiers inspect vehicles at the checkpoint, another two soldiers inspect vehicles headed in the direction of Ramallah as well.
In the roundabout we saw two Border Policemen conducting checks, and a police monster nearby (see photo). Everything seemed quiet, no long waiting lines, and we considered not stopping. STill we entered the parking lot and realized that here the Israeli civilian police works as an assembly line. The soldiers (who shifted while we were there) send vehicles to the policeman who delays them, carefully inspects the vehicle and the driver and generously distributes tickets (and fines).
Several examples: a new, flashy red motorcycle, a car with festively dressed family members, another private vehicle bearing three dark-skinned Palestinians made to disembark (the only ones!) by the security forces and stand in line alongside the car, and a van-cab bearing families with children .
This is the last day of the Ramadan month, eve of the Id Al Fitr festivities concluding the month of fasting. All Palestinians are busy preparing the holiday and the mood is festive accordingly. The motorcycle is inspected time and again. Its driver tries to appease the aggressive policeman with smiles and gestures, the policeman speaks no Arabic and the motorcyclist tries to ask, "English", approaching me, or if any of us speak Arabic. We said no. THen the policeman began to speak in passable Arabic, looking admiringly at the motorcycle: "Yours?" The Palestinian, H., answers "Yes". Then the policeman insults him: "Is it really yours or a stolen Israeli one?"
"H. persists in his smile, "Of course it's mine". When it turns out the motorcycle is indeed not stolen but has a legal and valid license, the appropriate violation was dredged up: a Palestinian is not allowed to ride a motorcycle over 500 cubic cm. This very red one is 600 cc. This is already a serious violation, enough for the policeman to summon another police car and with the added force they decide to detain the two motorcyclists and wait for a tow truck to remove the motorcycle. "And today, already, the cyclists will be brought to speedy trial", says the policeman.
Good mannered H. begins to lose his patience. He tries hard not to utter a harsh word that would cost him a steep price and quietly and bitterly complains to us. His gestures get nervous. In spite of the Ramadan fast he lights a cigarette, (followed by another and yet another). He is very friendly with us, telling us two of his brothers were martyred by Israeli army fire in 2001 and 2002. We exchanged phone numbers for we could not stay any longer. At 9:30 p.m. H. called and said that an hour later, after the Palesitnian police was summoned as well, it turned out there was no such violation (the cc. business) and he and his friend and the motorcycle were released and headed for home.
THe private car driver got a traffic ticket for having driven one passenger too many (two adults and four children). I tried to persuade the policeman that this was the eve of their holiday and this family had gone to buy sweets for the festivities, so what should they have done, leave one of the children at home? "Let them buy a bigger car", was the indifferent policeman's reply.
All the time we were there, various Palestinian vehicles were stopped for inspection, while at the same time Israeli vehicles sped past the policeman, in some of which obviously more passengers than allowed were seated. Who even gave them a look? Under apartheid, the occupier is allowed whaever is forbidden the occupied. Jews here have total freedom of movement, Arabs suffer heavy movement restrictions and fines.
We left at 18:40.