We wanted to learn about the problems confronting the residents of Far’oun after the Abu Salman gates were closed. We heard they have no problems with settlers. Their problem is with the Israeli army.
Important phone numbers for the Far’oun gate:
S. - 059-851-2350
M. – The Red Cross coordinator – 059-932-0200
07:00 Irtah/Efrayim Gate
The place is bustling. Hundreds are leaving, walking toward the vehicles waiting in the parking area. Dozens of cars in the lot. Many older men come to the checkpoint hoping an Israeli contractor will offer them work. Young mothers with children also cross.
We arranged to meet S., from Far’oun. Many know him and come to speak with him, tell him of their difficulties and ask for help.
- M., age 43, lives in Tul-Karm. He owns land in Qafin but can’t access it because a month after he bought it the fence had been constructed (we have the details). He’ll contact us after he obtains the necessary document from the registrar.
- A Palestinian tells us he arrived at the checkpoint this morning at 06:15 but crossed only at 07:45. His employer from Netanya had already left so he lost another day’s work. Again they ask to be allowed through at 06:00.
- Yesterday (7.12.15) a Palestinian who’s had a permit for three years was told it had been cancelled and to go to the Palestinian DCL. There he was told, “you’ve been tricked” (we have his information). To regain the permit he must pay a lot of money.
- Four permit holders weren’t allowed to cross this morning. S. doesn’t know what they were told.
- On Friday, 20.11.15, before closing the checkpoint, soldiers removed new yellow windows from a blue tractor that had gone through. They loaded the windows into their military vehicle. A few days later a soldier told residents of Far’oun that the windows are at the nearby base. We decided to see their owner, interview him and give the information to Yesh Din.
We drive through Te’enim checkpoint to the Far’oun municipality, from which we can see Irtach and Tul-Karm. We meet A., an accountant substituting for the head of the municipality; he joins S.
A summary of the problems, some noted in the review of our shift at the end of this report.
Residents of Far’oun have no problems with settlers. Their problem is the Israeli army.
The Far’oun gate had been open three times a day, three days a week. A week ago, with no official notice, the gate was closed. The farmers went on strike. They spoke to the Red Cross, who demanded that the Palestinian DCL not deal with the issue, and that it would negotiate directly with the Israelis. The Palestinian DCL agreed.
Twenty permit applications were submitted. Only two were granted. The rest are waiting impatiently for answers.
They suspect corruption is involved in granting the permits, on both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. They call it a mafia. Phony Tabu documents can be obtained for NIS 3,000.
300 residents of Far’oun have Israeli entry permits. During the olive harvest 180 crossing permits were granted.
Some landowners don’t work their property. Old farmers can’t reach their land on foot. If an old man is unable to work his land, and he adds a family member, the latter becomes the landowner after twenty years, together with the old man.
The Red Cross helped the residents of Far’oun. Construction of the fence destroyed the irrigation system. The Red Cross invested millions to install a new one. The Israeli government committed to openning the gate, which had in the past been open only during the olive harvest. Now someone must have forgotten the promise, and the gate is closed.
We leave and drive to the Abu Salman gate – 1447.
We meet L., a young man, smiling, driving a tractor to the gate. He lives in Abu Salman. A few days ago, at the Eliyahu checkpoint, they told him the Shabak wanted to question him. Meanwhile he’s neither guilty nor innocent. Do you understand? The Shabak is busy trying to enlist a new collaborator, and has frozen his permit in the interim. He says: I have everything – a wife, children, tractor, profession – metalworker. All I lack is a permit!
The gate’s opening hours:
Morning – 07:30 It is usually very late in opening
Afternoon – 12:30 It usually opens on time. From here the staff continues to Habla.
Evening – 15:30 It often opens at 16:00
We learned from L. that on the other side of the security road there are two gates in the fence that are always open, not numbered, and which enable farmers to reach their lands. But to return home they must wait for Gate 1447 to open.
The main problems we learned about on today’s shift:
1. Since the Far’oun checkpoint/agricultural gate had closed, tractors can cross through a special opening at the Irtach checkpoint (Ephraim gate). But if they have to bring a tractor through to the fields they must drive on the Israeli road near Ephraim gate, about 12 km each way, because Far’oun checkpoint, No. 708, has been closed. That trip on an Israeli road requires a special police permit; without one, if stopped by the police, they’d get a ticket.
2. Tools, wagons, donkeys, sickles and saws for the harvest can’t be brought through the Irtach checkpoint. Now it’s the season to harvest za’atar and farmers can’t bring in the crop. A., who joined us at the municipal building, asks for urgent help obtaining a permit to bring tools through the checkpoint.
3. Checkpoint 746 near Jubara hasn’t opened at all this year. Last year it opened for two months during the olive harvest.
4. Men over 55 go through the checkpoint without a permit but they’re not allowed to enter through Irtach checkpoint before 07:00. That’s too late. The Israeli contractors have already picked up their workers and left. They want to be able to go through at 06:00, like all the others, so they can make a living.
They estimate that about 400 people are in this position.