Hebron, South Hebron Hills
7:15am, no one waiting to cross.
7:30 Four soldiers checking IDs of three Palestinians who then went on their way.
Military jeeps were stationed at the roads to Adba and Negohot.
7:45 We were pulled over by the army and Mohamad’s ID was checked. We were asked where we were going. The northbound road was closed to Palestinians from that point onwards.
There were soldiers on both sides of the road. Again we were pulled aside for identification.
At the junction, we began seeing signposts put up by the settlers and announcing "release terrorists=terrorist attack"
Bani Na’im: Three army jeeps and two police vans stationed on the road leading to the village. Another entry to the village was also blocked by an army jeep.
Entry gate to Kiryat Arba, 7:50: We were pulled over by a Modiin Ezrachi (civil company) security guard who looked like a typical hilltop youth, not the usual guard. When he realized that we were with MachshomWatch, he told us to pull to the side of the road. He was obviously angry (but throughout remained polite) about who we are and asked where we were headed. He also seemed to realize, after Mira spoke to him about our rights, that he couldn’t prevent us from continuing on to Hebron. After fifteen minutes, he unwillingly opened the gate for us when we started talking about contacting the army. Active building construction was taking place on the south side of the road just above the check post.
We had arranged to meet Hamed, a resident of Hebron and a member of the Village Group, on the road in front of Patriarchs' Caves Tomb but Muhamad, for good reason, suggested that we do not go into Hebron at this time in order to avoid confrontations with the settlers (such as Anat Cohen) given the recent shootings at the Bani Na’im junction and near Nablus.
We therefore called Hamed and asked to meet with him at Bassem’s store on the road into Hebron. Bassem, a shoemaker by trade, used to work at the central bus station in Tel Aviv some 15 years ago. Recently, the army confiscated his magnetic ID because he did some filming for B’Tselem (he was given a camera and filmed events at Beit Hameriva until it was evacuated). He had been making shoes in his Hebron shop and selling them to stores in Tel Aviv and Ashdod for many years, but recently has not had many orders because his Israeli clients are now getting Chinese-made goods and he has also had a problem with bad checks. He now relies on selling snack food and various small household items. Is there anything MachshomWatch can do to help Bassem get is magnetic ID back? Hamed said he would see if the Village Group could do anything.
8:40 Meeting with Hamed: the purpose of our meeting was to discuss how we can assist the preschool at Khashem-Al-Daraj and the possibilities of some form of cooperation between the southern branch of MachshomWatch and the Village Group in this matter. The Village Group, particularly Hamed, is involved in establishing a preschool at Um-Al-Hir (near Carmel) with funds from UNRWA and an Australian donor. The engineer working with them agreed to visit the Khashem-al-Daraj preschool and give us a list of the quantity of materials needed to renovate the preschool and an estimate of the cost. We discussed possible sources of funding and described our two meetings with Huda (see our MachshomWatch reports 18/8/10 and 26/8/10). Hamed described the various activities of the Village Group: a group of only 5 people! We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of small groups. He emphasized that because they are a small group they cannot assist Huda’s preschool and she is quite isolated.
At about 9:15, toward the end of our meeting, a car of Hebron settlers (we didn’t have time to identify them) stopped in front of the store and started shouting invectives at us. Bassem was clearly uncomfortable with the MachshomWatch van parked in front of his store for such a long time. He didn’t want to incur the wrath of the settlers. The meeting ended at 9:25.
As was true on the trip to Hebron, there were many military and police vehicles on the road and at the junctions. On our way back, there seemed to be an increased presence of army and police on the Hebron side of Sheep junction.