Izbat Salman, Beit Amin and Azoun Atma
In the two Palestinian villages which we visited the inhabitants voiced severe complaints about the new procedures regarding the passage to their lands. The problems have increased very much following the closure of three agricultural gates and the opening of the single CP near Oranit.
We returned with the heavy feeling that there is almost no chance of turning the clock back and separating the two states.
10.45 Izbat Salman – We wished to get to know villages and checkpoints which are situated near the northern fence of Azoun Atma. We drove through Azoun (not Azoun Atma) and from there – opposite the baladiya – we turned right to Thult. From Thulth we drove eastwards to a small village, Izbat Salman, near the fence.
At the entrance, on the side of the road, to Palestinians, one young the other old, stood and talked. We stopped near them to inquire about driving directions, and after we told them who we were, their reaction was "you fell from the sky for us". It turned out that the old man just then had come to consult with the young one how he could reach his land beyond the fence. His land lies near the Jil'ud CP, not far from his village Salaman, but lately, when the new route of the fence around Azoun Atma was built – the Jil'ud CP was cancelled and in its place they opened a new checkpoint near Oranit. A distance of about 20 km! How was he supposed to get there?
We were immediately invited to enter the house of a third person – A., all members of the same family. ((N. the young man, expressed his belief that his grandfather was of Roumanian origin, and that this was the reason that many family members – such as the old man himself – have pale skin and blue eyes).
We got to know each of them:
N., the young man – After he had worked in Israel for several years, he was, since 94, prevented from entering Israel. He doesn't know why. He makes his living from an independent business which he has opened in the nearby village. In the past he also worked with a French organization that helped women in the villages of the area to open "small businesses" and to plant gardens in the yards of their houses. He was determined to help the old man whom he respects very much.
The old Man – until two months ago, like others in the village, he used to pass the Azoun Atma North CP, which was open 24 hours, in order to reach his land, or at the Jil'ud CP. Now he is obliged to pass only at the CP near Oranit (as mentioned above, at a distance of 20 km). Moreover, this CP is open only about half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon, and it is allowed to pass through it only on a tractor, not by foot and not on any other vehicle. The explanation is that when the settlers of Oranit will see that tractor they may be sure that he enters in order to perform an agricultural task.
Another problem: until not long ago children were allowed to enter the area without authorization in order to help the old man. Lately children and young boys are forbidden to enter his lands and he doesn't have anybody to help him.
A.our host, has a family. He can reach his lands only in the months of olive picking. And it is many years that he is not allowed to enter Israel and work there.
In answer to their requests:
We gave N. and A. Silvia's details, in the hope that she may help them to remove the interdiction to work in Israel.
N. asked also that we try to help them regularise the permanent (not the short term ones) agricultural entry permits , or that automatic renewals for their permit would be approved. Today when the validity of the temporary authorizations comes to its end, it takes three months until it is renewed, and in the meantime the crop perishes.
We promised to visit the village again within two weeks, and to prepare with them a document about the agricultural gates and the permits, intended for the authorities. We stressed that we do not promise to succeed, but that we would do our best.
When we asked about the village in general they explained:
The village belongs to a small regional council comprising 4 villages: Izbat Salman, Izbat Jil'ud' Al-Mudawar and Izbat Al Ashkar. The council head of all four is an appointee of the Palestinian Authority and does not belong to any of them, for the sake of "domestic peace".
The army and the settlers do not come to the village. The difficulties are the blocking of the passage to the lands by the fence and the problems at the checkpoints which increase day by day.
12.45 Beit Amin. We entered the Majelas building (the council of a small village, as opposed to the Baladiya which is a kind of municipality of a big village) and were welcomed by two men, one who holds at position at the council, and the second – M. – a worker who works at a building site, speaks perfect Hebrew and later served as our guide in a tour around the fence, in order to try and understand the entanglement of the closed checkpoints and those which are open for measured times.
To our regret the head of the village was today at Kilkilya. Within minutes they invited us to the conference room and began to recount their troubles. They complained heavy heartedly that since the fence had been completed, three agricultural gates had been closed, and all the inhabitants are forced to cross about 20 kms in order to reach the only gate, 1447 at Oranit (the story we have already heard at Izbat Salaman). The crossing hours at the Oranit CP are 8.00, 12.30, 4.00.
They told us that they were told that there was an intention to open another gate betwee Jil'ud and Beit Amin (?). In the meantime, all the holders of entry permits to their lands will have to apply for new permits (with everything this comprises) intended for the Oranit gate only. Those whose permits are for another gate, will have to wait a lont time.
Here too there were complaints that workmen and inhabitants who need to pass to Israel, are forced to make an enormous detour and to cross at the Eyal CP in the north of Qalqiliya.
1.30 A tour of the fence and the Beit Amin enclave inside Sha'arey Tiqva guided by A. from the Majelas. M. took us to a tiny enclave of olive trees, 120 meters wide, surrounded by a fence, in which there is a big gate which is opened only for a few days during the olive picking period. The owner of one of the houses bordering on this enclave joined us and told us about the complex reality which Israel has created.
He explained that they are not permitted to go up to the roofs of their houses, as those overlook the houses of the settlement…He stressed, however, that they don't have and never had any conflict with the inhabitants of Sha'arey Tiqva. On the contrary, they had good neighborly relations. They are not as religious as the nearby settlement of Elkana. In spite of this, he pointed to the synagogue and his parking lot which are built on lands belonging to the people of Beit Amin.
As opposed all that he told us that three rich Palestinians from Beit Amin live today in America, and it was they who sold lands to the settlers who established neighborhoods at Sha'arey Tiqva.