Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah)
10:30 Za’tara checkpoint/Tapuach junction
No soldiers at the checkpoint (only in the observation post), but a police car creates a roadblock and the policemen stopped a Palestinian jeep. It’s clear they don’t check the lords of the land (the settlers); the thorough inspection is another form of mistreatment of the Palestinians.
10:45 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
Not manned. We hear soldiers in the observation tower. On our way back at 16:45 eight soldiers and officers were at the checkpoint as well as a police car. We stopped but since traffic flowed freely with no delays or inspections, we drove on.
11:15 Beqa’ot checkpoint (Hamra)
Light traffic. Random inspections of drivers’ IDs in both directions. M., who lives beyond the checkpoint, reports that on Friday night a particularly strong wind blew away the roof of his home and of the adjoining sheepfold. On Saturday it began pouring and M., his wife and their two children (aged 2 and 1) crowded into the father’s tent. But it has also been damaged and water flooded in. Ten sheep died in the disaster, and if that wasn’t enough – the Civil Administration came yesterday and photographed the rubble, to document that there has been no housen or sheepfold before when they come to demolish the rebuilt structures. “Everyone is against us,” says M., “Allah in heaven and the occupation on earth.”
The landscape this extremely rainy winter is amazingly beautiful. The earth berm, erected by the army to block the movement of Palestinians to the central West Ban, have been partly washed away and aren’t as high. The abundance of white flowers that cover them conceals their evil purpose.
We met M.B. Two weeks ago our colleagues reported he’d been detained at Tayasir checkpoint for a long time (4 hours, he says) because he approached the Beqa’ot settlement. M. is an older man, he looks elderly. He showed us exactly where he’d been grazing the flock, about 400 meters from the settlement, when he was detained. The real reason for his lengthy detention was because he grazed his flock on the other side of the road, and as part of the effort to divide the Palestinians that’s forbidden, and can lead to an arrest!!! A completely arbitrary decision. All this is done with no authority, with no written order, with no police. Every soldier can decide completely arbitrarily to appropriate the time and freedom of any Palestinian without even having to explain why…
We went up to the Um Zuqa nature preserve. The IDF has installed two huge firing ranges there. The army is allowed to damage the preserve’s landscape but Palestinians are forbidden entry and their animals are not allowed to graze on the wild vegetation. If they’re caught the flock or herd are confiscated and it will cost them a lot of money to recover them. Who is the nature preserve for? Besides the army, no Jew ever comes there, there are no facilities, only ATV’s can travel there, and if there are any natural assets they’re well-hidden and completely inaccessible. When we came to the nature preserve we found an ultra-orthodox man setting tables and a few exhausted soldiers from the Kfir brigade arriving from the preserve, barely able to stand, on their final training exercise involving a long, exhausting march in full gear. Most of them are religious. A secular guy (from an ultra-orthodox family who’d left the community) approaches us and begins talking, very interested - he truly wanted to hear about our activities and reconsider the “truths” that had been crammed into him. We had a wonderful discussion.
We heard an amazing lecture from the father of the Qadari family about ISIS, all of whose actions violate Islamic beliefs and injure Moslems. They’re very angry about what ISIS is doing, in particular to their Moslem brothers.
13:30 Tayasir checkpoint
“New” soldiers at the checkpoint. Inspections are rigorous, so there are many delays. A car with Israeli plates, carrying Palestinian passengers, came from Area A (belonging to the Palestinian Authority) and the soldiers ordered it back to Area A. The soldier who ordered the Palestinians to return said they’re Israeli-Arabs and must go to a different checkpoint. “Israelis aren’t allowed to cross here.” “Why?” “I don’t know.”
The ID of a passenger in one of the cars was taken for a check that lasted 15 minutes. Residents of the Jordan Valley cross here daily, but they can never be certain they won’t be stopped or delayed. Initially the car was detained in the middle of the checkpoint along with the vehicles behind it. A line of about ten cars formed. Only after I went over to the soldier, and when that didn’t help, to his commander, and noted the lengthening line, did they tell the detained driver to park off to the side. And if we hadn’t been there?
Five minutes later the ID was returned and the car continued on its way to the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The soldiers continued to stop every car and check where it was going and the line is long and it took half an hour before it got shorter.
A minivan with laborers who’d been working in Beit Ha’arava since 4 AM waited a long time on that line. The laborers told us that in the morning the army uprooted 250 olive trees which had been planted in Tayasir a few years ago, on Palestinian land. And they also said that a week ago a shepherd grazing his flock in a wadi north of the checkpoint had been arrested and detained four hours at the checkpoint. Again, an arbitrary, completely unauthorized action. Who decided? Who determined?
While we spoke, an old laborer got out of the minivan carrying a plastic bag. He moved to a car driving in the direction from which he’d come, in order to work a few more hours to support his family. Palestinians at Hamam el Malih pick peas, and the man lengthened his work day to bring home a few more shekels. That’s the life of a Palestinian laborer.
We tried to visit Makhoul but there was too much mud to reach Yusuf’s house. Five youths from Tamun, aged 14-15, are employed in the sheepfold. They’re in school in the morning and are happy to work in the afternoon to help support their families. They’re all barefoot because of the mud, their trousers rolled above their knees.
16:00 Hamra checkpoint
Five cars wait from the west. We didn’t stop.