'Azzun 'Atma, Habla
The occupier and the occupied
The two checkpoints at Azzun Atma and Habla well exemplify at this early morning hour, before daybreak, the dominance of the occupier over the occupied and the mutual dependence that develops as the occupied try to survive.
06:00 Azzun Atma
Children offer coffee for sale. When do they wake up to do so? What time do they get to the checkpoint? Palestinians who’ve already gone through wait on the other side of the road around small bonfires for light and warmth. The cold wind beats against the metal sheets of the covered waiting area adjoining the checkpoint. Workers on the Hanson factory’s morning shift – the international mining company - wait there; they’re employed at the quarry in Nahal Raba. Its Palestinian workers wear standard work uniforms bearing logos that differentiate them from other Palestinian laborers who contribute to the Israeli economy in their jobs at other locations in Israel and in the settlements. Hanson’s employees have transport to and from work, and go through the checkpoint without waiting at when they return home.
Men continue to arrive at the checkpoint from the West Bank and get on line at the revolving gate. The next stop is one of the two document inspection booths. The person places his identity document on a device next to the window behind which sits a female soldier, and places his finger on a second device. There are apparently a number of companies who make a good profit from these “improvements” that have been added over the years to this checkpoint which began, like many others, as a pile of stones whose purpose was to prevent people from leaving the adjacent village. We didn’t see anyone turned back, though we saw soldiers suddenly begin running across the road. They returned empty handed. We saw an older man smile hesitantly, accompanying a young boy who wanted to leave Azzun Atma without waiting on line. After a short conversation with one of the soldiers, he was allowed to. He told us the boy wasn’t feeling very well.
We left at 06:40; 30 people were on line.
The checkpoint is already open at this hour. People continue to join the line of those leaving the enclave through the checkpoint. They know the routine – five at a time move forward to enter the inspection room. A soldier on guard and an MP stand at an observation post next to the exit gate to the plant nurseries on Highway 55. It’s clear that the soldier on guard is new and is learning the procedures. He asks the MP what to do. Then he applies what he’s learned. They stand on a platform so they’ll always be higher than the Palestinians, signal with a finger to someone in the group leaving the inspection room – but they’re referring to this person, not that, to two of them, not everyone, and those coming don’t know who they mean and everyone approaches. A kind of selection. Nora asked why people who’ve already been inspected must be checked again; the MP says the inspector might “miss” someone who’s not allowed to cross through this checkpoint. And in fact we saw, while we were there, two people turned back. When the owner of one of the plant nurseries came over to try to get his workers through faster he shook the MP’s hand like an old acquaintance and showed the soldier what should appear on the crossing permit, and the expiration date. He approached those waiting and called his workers forward.
07:18 The bus with schoolchildren arrived. The drive gets out, goes to be inspected, soldiers board; when the driver returns the bus continues to Habla.
07:45 The gate closes. At 07:50 two people remained who wanted to leave Habla, and also the two who had been turned back earlier.