'Azzun 'Atma, Habla
‘Azzun 'Atma, Habla.
During and after our shift we couldn’t stop thinking and wondering about the reasons and the logic that underlies the army’s decisions – they make the lives of so many people who in any case have to live under occupation so much harder, with all that entails . These decisions are incomprehensible. Here are examples from today’s shift:
Today the shepherd wasn’t allowed to bring his flock through to graze; they claimed he was smuggling them into Israel. The shepherd objects: Why don’t they count them when I leave and when I return instead of preventing me from crossing? Now the shepherd must bring food (spoiled carrots) to the village for the flock.
Ten days ago a new pump was confiscated. It had been donated by the government of Sweden to provide water for the plant nurseries at the junction at the entrance to Habla. The nurseries provide a living for many Palestinian families.
Such actions lead to resentment, which verges on hatred, among the local population, not to mention the violation of human rights by the occupying power which is obligated to protect the civilian population.
06:05 On the way to the ‘Azzun 'Atma checkpoint we saw construction of the new wall proceeding rapidly.
06:10 ‘Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
Two handcuffed detainees sit by the checkpoint (usually people caught going through holes in the fence aren’t handcuffed). One of the soldiers says they had forged documents; they’re waiting for the police to arrive. About 80 people wait in line, a large number. People go through quickly, three booths are open. Two soldiers return from the houses opposite the checkpoint holding a large, bulging plastic bag. They pour the clothes it contains on the ground next to the two detainees and go through them. When they’ve finished they don’t put the clothes back in the bag, but leave them all on the ground. One of the soldiers tells us that there’s now a new method to handcuff people: a plastic strip is placed around each wrist and a third links them together. Seemingly a more humane method! The instructions to handcuff detainees was introduced recently after people who’d been caught going through the fence last week fled, leaving their documents with the soldiers. The soldiers leave again to hunt people on the other side of the road, across from the gate.
A man we timed crossed in 17 minutes, which is fast here. The line shortens quickly.
06:45 Only about 20 people remain in line. That’s strange; we’ve always thought more people cross on Sunday, since some going through will stay the entire week. But since this gate is only for people working in the seam zone, no one remains overnight.
Five boys are selling coffee, the youngest aged 10, the oldest 15. The oldest says he doesn’t attend school and doesn’t know how to read.
07:05 Habla checkpoint
Few people are at the checkpoint. The crossing operates quickly and efficiently and the line remains orderly.
07:20 The bus from ‘Arab Ramadin to the school in Habla arrives. A soldier stops people after their documents have been checked before they go through the Shomron crossing, and again inspects them and their belongings.
Hanina Jamal, the shepherd, arrives and crosses, this time without sheep: today they didn’t allow him to bring them through to pasture, claiming he’s smuggling them into Israel, selling them to Bedouin. The shepherd complains: why don’t they count the sheep when I leave and return instead of preventing them from going through? And we wonder why the Bedouin aren’t allowed to buy sheep? And we have additional solutions: Place the fence on the Green Line so sheep won’t have to go through, nor will agricultural produce, the sale of which in Israel is extremely forbidden.
07:55 Three people return to Habla from the vicinity of the plant nurseries. After arguing with the soldiers (who didn’t want to admit them because they were getting ready to close the gates) they crossed.
08:00 (The gate now closes at 08:00 rather than at 07:45) The female soldier closes the vehicle gate. Now it’s 07:59; a car arrives with two guards from the plant nurseries. They’re late; they’re not allowed through. They return to the car and drive off very angrily. All the gates are shut.
The pump’s tribulations
The pump donated by the government of Sweden for the well that provides water to the plant nurseries, which was confiscated ten days ago along with its pipes (replacing those which were sixty years old) and the truck transporting all the equipment, has not yet been returned. According to A., who works at one of the nurseries, the matter is being dealt with, the Swedish embassy, which paid for the equipment, is pressuring; they hope it will soon be resolved. Meanwhile the nurseries have been connected to a water pipe from a pump in Habla, but the supply is insufficient, and will be even less sufficient during the coming days which are expected to be very hot.