Different from what we might have expected these days, and despite our apprehensions, we found our Palestinian interlocutors calm and welcoming. Apparently the general atmosphere in the villages along Highway 55 is completely different from the tensions and incitement common throughout Israel today. With respect to the knife attacks by Palestinian youths, the people we spoke to pointed out that dozens of Palestinian children and youths had been shot to death by the army, even though the orders were to shoot “only” at the legs had they represented a clear danger.
Farmers in Habla who, until two years ago, could reach their lands near the village relatively easily, through a number of agricultural gates, are today permitted to access them only through the Habla checkpoint. The soldiers’ behavior at the checkpoint is arbitrary and often offensive. Habla residents hope for significant changes in the operation of the checkpoint and for it to remain open throughout the day.
As in the past, hoodlums from Havvat Gil’ad have been terrorizing the residents of Far’ata and the army hasn’t managed (and perhaps hasn’t tried) to help, even during the olive harvest. The connection between the women from MachsomWatch and the village women, which is particularly important these days, is stronger and warmer than ever.
10:00 Habla municipality
We’d made an appointment to meet R., the head of the municipality.
As on our last visit, August 23, we were warmly welcomed today. R. and two other council members came especially to meet and speak with us. The three of them speak Hebrew. R. mentioned our previous visit, and the discussion again focused on the problems at Habla checkpoint.
The checkpoint doesn’t open at the appointed hours and often closes early. R. explained that he and others are working hard to ensure that village youths, who are very frustrated, don’t throw stones at the checkpoint.
M. complained about incidents in which the soldiers don’t allow people to leave the village through the checkpoint in the afternoon, claiming they won’t have time to return before it closes. As a result they’re unable even to turn off a faucet or pick fruit. Only some of the villagers are permitted to cross through the Eliyahu gate.
Until two years ago, when construction of the fence was completed, there were a number of agricultural gates in addition to the Habla checkpoint, through which landowners could reach their fields. About 50% of Habla’s lands are beyond the separation fence and now the owners, even those whose fields are next to Alfey Menasheh, are restricted to using this checkpoint, which forces them to travel many kilometers, or, if they don’t own a vehicle, to pay for transportation to reach their land.
Our hosts encouraged us to write about and publicize the problems at the Habla checkpoint. They want the crossing to be open all day, because the current arrangements make life very difficult for the villagers. They themselves approach the Palestinian authorities from time to time in an attempt to have changes made.
They said in reply to our question that at least the army almost never enters the village, nor do neighboring settlers harass them. But they emphasized nevertheless that all the problems and violence are the result of the theft of their lands and the construction of the settlements.
We spoke about the situation in general these days. They said they’re praying for peace and hoping things will calm down, but noted the young people’s frustrations and condemned the fact that the army and settlers shoot and kill children even when it’s clear they’re not actually able to harm Israelis.
We came to hear what’s happening today and to meet with our old friends, who invited us to help them market their handicrafts. We came to H.’s home. Because of mourning of her husband’s death she wasn’t able to go to the Women’s Club. The director and a group of women awaited us and welcomed us excitedly and warmly.
Update: on September 29th settlers from Havvat Gil’ad stole olives, at the end of the harvest day. Trees on one of the plots, which had in years past yielded forty sacks of olives, remained almost bare this year after settlers had invaded and robbed them. Arik Asherman [Rabbis for Human Rights] came and photographed the bare trees. Recently residents of Far’ata filed a complaint against settlers from Havvat Gil’ad because of the theft. They also complain that on the dates they’re able to coordinate harvesting with the army, there are no longer any olives left to pick.
The Palestinian women also told us about raids by the army, especially on ‘Imatin, their sister village. Only two weeks ago soldiers entered one of the homes through the windows in the middle of the night while the family was asleep. They fell upon them and arrested a 19-year-old youth.
Our special task this time was to photograph the embroidery made by the women in order to publicize it on the internet and thereby help sell it. We also talked about ways to ease the work of the embroiderers and make the products better match the taste of the Israelis to whom they hope to sell, in addition to their sales to the Palestinian market.
14:15 Back to Rosh Ha’ayin.