Falamia, Sal'it, Jayus
Watch at the gates in the early morning hours; delay by soldiers at exit from Azzun.
We arrived at 05:15 and stopped to talk with workers before it opened. After the olive harvest about 80-100 farmers pass here. They said that permits given for harvesting were cancelled two weeks before the date stipulated on the permits. This is a gate for tractors and farmers, mainly to fields of za’atar, but also vegetables. The workers organize among themselves and sign in in order of arrival so as to keep order. We spoke to a man, who seemed to be their natural leader, who said that the gate opened on time and ‘everything’s okay.’ What worries them is that it opens again only at 13:00, and some people work only an hour or two, or if someone feels unwell, or is ill, they can’t go back until the gate opens again. They also complain that the army has not bothered to supply a cover against the rain. The farmers themselves collected money and put up a cover at their own expense. One man was turned back and had disappeared before we managed to speak to him. The repeated shouts of ‘back, back’ from the soldiers every time the workers came too close, in the soldiers’ opinion, left a bad taste. The gate opened at 05:30 and closed at 06:20. We left at 06:05.
The gate opened at 06:30. We arrived at 06:20 and stopped to speak with women who were sheltering from the cold in a van. They asked us how we felt about the situation, and said that they had left children at home, and that they get up early in order to reach the gate on time. The crossing operated in an orderly fashion. One person asked that they open the gate also at 12 for the farmers. When we left at 07:20 everyone had crossed. Someone came running a bit late, and was allowed through. The soldiers asked us again and again to move away from the gate and not to disturb them in their work, although we were simply standing and talking with people. They didn’t like our presence there.
We returned to Falamia North to continue from there to find the southern gate, where people from Jayus cross now that their village’s gate has been closed shut. The gate was shut; we passed it and reached the old gate opposite Jayus. We found burnt gates and fences and the traces of burnt tires all over. Afterwards A. explained to us that this was the regular spot for demonstrations by young folk.
We met A. in the village center and he led us to another gate in Jayus that works every day. We arrived after opening hours. The gate is for pedestrians only, going to their fields. Meanwhile A. told us about recent events in Azzun, which he called “real war.” He told about a 15-year-old girl who has left the school intending to join her parents in the field. On the way a soldier knocked her down, handcuffed her, and claimed that she tried to stab him with a knife. When some youths passing by saw this attack on the girl, they began to go wild, throwing stones. The soldiers began shooting live fire and gas grenades. Two were wounded by live fire and 20 more wounded. When we reached Azzun, Z. showed us a video of the bound girl lying on the ground and soldiers questioning the settler who had bound her, with a knife suspiciously close to her, as if for purposes of photography. In general the rumor in the villages is that soldiers plant knives and then claim that someone stabbed or intended to stab them. For example, A. told us about a friend who had passed therough a checkpoint; they took him from the vehicle for checking. When he was released he continued driving a bit and then got out of his car and started checking it. He found under the driver’s seat 2 knives that the soldiers have planted. He threw them away and when he reached the next checkpoint on his way, soldiers came out as if they had chosen him, took him out of his car and searched for the knives. In the end they laughed and said they have been tricked.
We went to see where the incident had happened and found it on the edge of the village, not far from the fields, littered with stones.
On the way out of Azzun and to road 55 we were stopped by an officer and three soldiers in a car (apparently they were lying in ambush and waiting for us). They belong to the Panterim unit, Nahshon battalion of Kfir. They ordered us to identify ourselves, and told us to get out of the car so that they could check it. At first we refused, but then agreed to open the trunk after the Yesh Din lawyer told us on the phone that the army are entitled to do so. Meanwhile the officer, “Lieutenant Eyal,” spoke to his commander who told him to detain us till the police arrived. They photographed the Machsomwatch flag that was on the car. Then a conversation developed about our organization. The soldiers explained that it was the security officer of Karnei Shomron who had (allegedly seen the girl throw a knife ) the previous day. He arrived on the scene, bound her, and at the same time called the soldiers, and this is how the turmoil started in the village. It turned out that the same security officer saw our car wandering around ‘in a suspicious manner’ in the area, and phoned the army, and that is how they happened to arrest us. They held us for 45 minutes. When they heard us talking to a lawyer and asking him how to lay a complaint against this false arrest, they had second thoughts and allowed us to travel home.
Once again, regretfully, we got a clear answer as to who runs the territory and determines the mood and events, and perhaps also as to the background to the conspiracy theories prevailing among the Palestinians.