'Anin, Barta'a-Reihan, Tayba-Rummana, Tura-Shaked
06:10 Barta’a/Reihan checkpoint
The checkpoint opened at 5 AM and now, an hour later, there’s still a long line of 150 Palestinians, maybe more, stretching from the parking lot to the revolving gate. Official and improvised taxis let out more and more groups of men who’ve arrived from villages on the West Bank to work in the Barta’a enclave – the seam zone – and in the eastern part of Barta’a and in the industrial zones near the Shaked settlement and in the Harish industrial zone.
The guard reclining in the booth stops the revolving gate from time to time and the line, which already moves slowly, stops again. He does so apparently to regulate the flow of people within the terminal. When a military vehicle comes to the checkpoint area the inner gate closes until it passes. We have the impression that the line is moving slowly, but it does move.
People seem to be patient and the younger ones are even in a good mood. And in fact everyone who arrives with a crossing permit and a work permit is one of the lucky ones with a good reason to get up in the morning, with a job that allows them to hold their heads up, but there’s nothing comforting about this ugly occupation scene: a line of people in a cage, inching forward along a lane bounded by wire and iron bars, ruled by and having no choice other than to obey regulations whose purpose is to tame them and make it easier to control them.
A young man, blacklisted by the police, with a three-year suspended sentence, asks us whether there’s any point trying to get it shortened, or to accept it. We gave him Chaya’s card. “How much will this lawyer cost?” he asks. Nothing, we reply, and he’s pulled along with the line. Many still don’t know who or what we are.
06:35 ‘Anin, agricultural gate No. 214
The checkpoint gates are open, the DCL vehicle and the military jeep are inside, but because of problems with the computer (which don’t surprise us) crossing begins 15 minutes late. Few have come this morning and they go through quickly.
‘Anin is a fairly large village located two kilometers southeast of Umm el-Fahm, a big Arab city in Israel. It’s listed in the Ottoman tax rolls from the end of the 16th century as a village with 35 residents. Today it has about 3500 inhabitants. According to Amira Hass, the journalist, the village used to have 28,000 dunums of land (Ha’aretz, October 2006). A few hundred were expropriated to construct the separation fence which cut off 12,000 dunums which were left beyond it out of reach of the Palestinian landowners. This includes 4,500 dunums of olive groves. Imagine how many farmers must, and wish to, work their land every day; divide by 1000 and then again by 3 and that’s how many you’ll see this morning: three tractors and about ten people on foot. Not because it’s really freezing this morning, and who feels like getting out of bed? But because most of them aren’t able to prove to the occupation authorities that they own the land, that they’re entitled to work it by virtue of traditional land tenure arrangements among the fellahin (farmers). Many, perhaps most fellahin have no official document confirming their legal ownership. During the Ottoman period, registration of land ownership was the basis for taxation and/or conscription for military service. To avoid paying taxes and conscription, the land was registered fictitiously, incompletely. Today, even if someone has a deed to the land, which is probably in the name of their father who’s too old to work it, the person must prove he’s the son and heir, which is very complicated. If you’ve been leasing the land for years, from its aged owners or from people who’ve left the village, and therefore have some rights to it, there’s no possibility of convincing the Civil Administration of your claim’s legitimacy. Many Palestinians no longer apply for crossing permits to their land; they’ve given up. What they usually receive from the Civil Administration is the form, “Denial of application for a permit to enter the seam zone.” The reason: the applicant doesn’t meet the criteria.
There’s a large, neglected olive grove next to the checkpoint that belongs to Ahmad Y., a model farmer, dedicated to his land. After he tangled this past year with the Civil Administration while repeatedly applying for a crossing permit to this checkpoint (which opens only two days a week) or to the more distant Tura checkpoint (which is open daily), he abandoned the land and now works as a taxi driver.
07:10 Tura/Shaked checkpoint
It apparently opened on time, at 7. A light flow of people crossing to the village of Tura and the West Bank – kindergarten and school pupils, who walk two kilometers each morning from their home in Dahr el Malih, teachers, and office workers. On the Tura side a group of people is waiting at the revolving gate. This ugly checkpoint, loaded with installations and devices, serves only a few people. Why? Most people who cross in the other directions, from the West Bank to the seam zone, work in the nearby industrial zones.
An elderly woman waits for a taxi to Barta’a to visit her daughter and grandchildren.
08:05 Tayibe/Rummane, agricultural gate No. 154
A Border Police jeep arrived at 8:05, the Border Police soldiers opened the gates and let the two tractors and ten people on foot go through. Two women and a young man were sent back. We weren’t able to ask the people crossing whether the opening hours were adhered to. Perhaps the complaint we sent to the Border Police commander after our previous shift had helped? The senior Border Police officer approached us to warn us not to stand in dangerous enemy territory. We stood on the Israeli side of the checkpoint. We told him we’ll accept any responsibility, thank you.