As part of the pilot program for the agricultural checkpoints, following Sla’it’s detailed report, we made an appointment with the head of Kafriyat, the council representing seven villages (Kafr Jamal, Kafr Sur, Jabara, Kafr Zibad, Kafr Aboush, Kafr Kur) to hear a review of the situation.
The farmers' main demand since the old Falamiya checkpoint was closed (it had been open continuously 12 hours a day), which they raise in every meeting they have (with us and with Palestinian and Israeli DCL representatives) is to open both checkpoints, Falamiya north (914) and Falamiya south (935) in such a way that crossing will be possible continuously all day long. Their lands beyond the separation fence are very fertile and that’s the only way for them to take full advantage of them and reestablish the diversified agriculture they previously had.
11:15: A military vehicle stands at the gate at the entrance to ‘Azzun, soldiers with drawn weapons. The yellow metal bar is half closed so that only one vehicle at a time can go through. The soldiers signaled us to enter. We knew the situation in town was tense. Two days ago soldiers detained a 14 year old girl returning home from school and people were very upset. We were told at the municipality that Monday there were incidents between residents and soldiers, a few were injured and some were detained. Disorders usually occur toward evening, in the darkness. We also saw a few tires on the road.
11:45 The head of the Kafriyat welcomed us happily.
Lands, the fence and agricultural checkpoints: The villages belonging to the association have 15,000 dunums in the seam zone. Jabara gate (which opened in the new fence after it was rerouted following the Supreme Court decision) is closed (it may now be seasonal; we should check).
Sla’it checkpoint (Kafr Sur) is open only in the morning and evening.
Falamiya north checkpoint (914) is essentially the only one serving all farmers in the area. About 300 farmers would use this gate; it’s open only for half an hour, which is insufficient. There are also serious complaints that if someone is only one minute late the soldiers don’t allow them through. The land is very fertile and is suitable for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as olives, citrus groves and fields of za’atar. The problem is that the farmers have to bring their produce to market in the morning, and they need the gate to be open continuously. They’re willing for this gate and Falamiya south (935), which serves primarily residents of Jayyus, each to open for six hours.
There’s also a serious problem of people who’ve been blacklisted, and of farmers who haven’t received permits to access their lands. He knows of some 30-40 cases. Some of the Kafriyat villages are in the Qalqilya sub-district, in which villagers themselves apply to the Palestinian DCL for permits. Other villages are in the Tulkarm sub-district; each must submit a list of applicants to the Palestinian DCL. He has a permit to reach his land, but there are older farmers who don’t receive permits for “security reasons,” though since they’re over 60 they can enter Israel freely (through the Eyal or Irtah checkpoints).
The soldiers also impose collective punishments; don’t open the checkpoint because little children threw some rocks.
Municipal matters: Some of the villages to the east (like Aboush) have severe water shortages. They don’t receive water from Mekorot and must purchase it from a privately owned Palestinian water company in the area, primarily for irrigation.
Nor is the electricity Israel supplies adequate today for the entire area. There are plans to expand the Kafr Sur industrial zone but that’s not possible without increasing the electrical supply.
We thanked our hosts and continued to our meeting in Jayyus.
13:25: A., our host, met us at the entrance to the village and accompanied us to his home and from there we continued in his car to the Jayyus south checkpoint (1012), which they call the “High Court gate” because when the fence in the area was rerouted six years earlier the army promised to open it three times a day even though few people used it (at least in the afternoon). On the way to the checkpoint we see the former route of the fence and the new crops, primarily olive trees, covering the scars, in places where the ground hadn’t been excavated too deeply.
On the way he says that even after the fence north of Jayyus had been rerouted and more than 4,000 dunums to the east had been returned, over 5,000 dunums remained to the west to which farmers’ access is very difficult. The checkpoint they use, Falamiya south (935) is very far from their homes, while their land is near their homes.
The area of the checkpoint appears completely deserted. A military vehicle arrived on the security road at 14:03 and stopped. The soldiers seem also to be waiting before getting out to open both large gates. A few minutes later we return to A. in the car, and when he starts the engine and begins to turn around, two soldiers emerge from the vehicle, approach the fence and energetically photograph us.
After visiting his home we leave, pass ‘Azzun again at 15:30: A police car has joined the military vehicle and the opening between the soldiers and the yellow bar was even narrower. After we went through another car followed us and then cars began crossing slowly (apparently after inspection), those which had come from west of Highway 55 and entered the town, one with Israeli license plates, the others Palestinian.
At Eliyahu checkpoint (I’d forgotten to remove the flag in time) we were stopped and interrogated at length, where had we come from, what had we done; our IDs were taken. Since our guest had a foreign passport we were asked to enter the inspection building where she was asked to be inspected “within.” Tova accompanied her, photographed her passport. She compared how she felt – this was the first time it happened to her – to those selected to be checked in the U.S. (but also in Israel, of course) because of their appearance.