יום א' 23.9.07, בוקר
Translation: Suzanne O.
Background: during the whole week the IDF has been very active searching for wanted men. The activity takes place in the refugee camp ‘El Ayin - Beit Alma' located west of Nablus. According to reports in the media leaders of the Az-a-Din el Kassam battalions have been caught.
Yesterday - Saturday, tens of wanted men were arrested in Huwwara.
A jeep is parked at the side of the road and two soldiers with weapons at the ready stand near the entrance to the village.
Ariel Junction - there is an unusual number of police and army cars on both sides of the road.
Za'atra Junction (Tapuach)
There are eight cars from the west, from the direction of Huwwara the traffic flows.
There are a lot of children, of all ages, on the main road of Huwwara on their way to school on this pleasant morning.
There are only a few cars in the car park. At the roadblock there are a small number of people. According to the soldiers they have no special orders today: everyone crosses relatively easily; documents are barely inspected. Cars cross relatively quickly; from time to time the soldier looks at the list in his hand and checks a bit more.
8:30 a.m. We left the roadblock. The traffic is still light. The back to back position is open. There are quite a few lorries from the direction of Nablus.
DCO Nablus - the DCO is not open yet. There are eight people waiting. Ra'ad is back and he is the head of the DCO again.
A man from Loven, the village near Za'atra Junction, tells us that on Thursday and Saturday it was very tough. According to him huge numbers were at the roadblocks on those day, festival days.
In the cell: a man of about 40, from the Alma refugee camp, has been there since 7:30 a.m. He says he has no idea why he was arrested, told us that he has been working for 19 years in the industrial area of Barkan, that he has a permit and this is the first time he has been detained. His documents and his telephone have been taken away to be inspected. A soldier comes, instructs me to leave immediately, and says that I am not permitted under any circumstances to stand there. I asked why the man was arrested. The answer: "We need him!"
There are very few people by the turnstile and they cross relatively quickly. The usual picture: people cross the first check point, a soldier in the cubicle checks documents, then they go through the turnstile. Owners of large bags, parcels etc., go out of the roadblock position, in the direction of the x-ray machine which is parked in the open near the roadblock. They then return to the roadblock position, cross through the electronic gate, again they go through the turnstile and out to the car park to find a taxi to their destination. Here we see the familiar, and embarrassing, scene of men adjusting their clothing after the string of inspections, tucking their shirts into their trousers, doing up their belts. One after another they come out and do the same thing. A female soldier and a dog from the dog-handling unit in the area are doing various exercises. There is a fluent Arabic speaking soldier at the roadblock.
In the roadblock, at the exit position a woman stands by the cell, trying to communicate with the man inside who turns out to be her husband. Someone at the roadblock told her that her husband has been arrested. She came after she had sent all six of her children to their educational establishments. She stands stubbornly; trying to find out why and for what reason her husband has been arrested. With restrained assertiveness she wards off the attempts by the soldiers to get her to go home. She is determined to stay until her husband is released. The DCO officer arrives, talks, and asks questions. He too tries to get her to go home. After about half an hour she too goes in the cell for a physical inspection by a female soldier. Her documents and telephone are taken for inspection. For the moment she too waits and is unable to go home even if she decides to do so. We try to find out how long all this will take and are told that it could take a very long time. The reason: they live in Beit Alma, El Ayin where the army activities took place. We can only imagine what they have been through during the week. Even the DCO officer blurted out: "They have had a tough week", and in the same breath added proudly that during the operations the IDF was careful to behave exceptionally humanely, they supplied food, drink and first aid during all the days of the operation. The officer's eyes could not even see what a hallucination it was and how schizophrenic and crazy the situation is.
At the same time I perceive an argument from a raised voice: "But I haven't done anything". It is young man of about 30, tall and stocky, at the entrance to the inspection lane. Because of our enforced distance and the difficulty in seeing and hearing what is going on across the labyrinth of the turnstiles, I only heard the words said in anger and with raised voices. The young man is sent immediately to the cell and joins the man from Beit Alma.
After about half an hour he is released and on his way out he utters a curse and a promise that he will return and kill everyone here. The DCO representative hears it, calls him and demands that he return to the cell. The young man who was in shock tried to soften the judgement. It didn't work and the officer ruled: "Not less than four hours!"
A young Palestinian girl dressed traditionally, the owner of a blue I.D. card, leaves Nablus and is interrogated at length by two soldiers, her document is checked again and again, when all her details had been taken down including telephone numbers of her relatives in Nablus and in Israel and are passed to the Shabak, she is released. As she left we asked what it was all about and she told us she is married to an Israeli Arab and lives in Haifa. Her parents live in Nablus. She misses them and tries to visit them as often as possible. At these times, during festivals, she misses them all the more.
Za'atra Junction (Tapuach)
There are no cars.
The house opposite Marda (according to the soldiers it is abandoned and now belongs to the Shimshon unit).
Four soldiers with weapons at the ready observe the village of Marda through binoculars. We stopped, asked whom the house belongs to and what they are doing there. They answered that stones are being thrown on the route. Micky F., who phoned us up, gave us to understand that there had been a ‘grass widow' operation by the IDF in the village.
On the way back, at the end of the shift, on Road 5 it was hard not to think of what we had left behind. About the twisted nature of this nightmarish situation; the settlements, the settlers who are on every hill but who are almost completely absent from any conversation, from any kind of report, written or photographed, either by others or by us. The occurrences take place far away down below: at the roadblock; between the soldiers; the Palestinians; the police, the white line and us. Far away over the secure gates of the colonies, only the signposts to the right and the left directing people to the settlements spread around high up above all the Palestinian settlements denote the twistedness. Here and there we see gestures at the roadblock, mainly before festivals, all kinds of gifts, baskets of gifts sent by the settlers. And the yellow flags that the ‘blue and white' women leave at the roadblock.
Here I want to remind us of the ‘obvious'. Road 5, a central road, crosses the country from west to east and leads us directly, without hold ups, far away from the green line. Deep into the territories. With no external hint or sign to show that we have crossed the border, that we have crossed from Israeli territory to Palestinian territory. The general feeling is ‘it all belongs to us'. There is no sign to show that we have crossed from Israeli sovereignty to army sovereignty. From a place with relatively clear laws to a place with orders and laws which are changeable, are not written and are very, very nebulous. No sign which declares: this is where the rule of the army begins.
We, of course, know. However, what does the ordinary traveller understand or know of the end of this road? What is a student of architecture at Ariel College, who wants to register, told? He is told to take Road 5 and drive straight to Ariel. He drives as he is instructed. He does not wonder: is this ours or not. He drives, arrives, a matter of 25 minutes maximum. He will hardly even notice the mosques' minarets in the villages. The scenery is familiar, red roofs, well tended gardens, flowering roundabouts surrounded by lawns, large industrial areas, lovely scenery. Everything looks good. The signposts for Ariel appear relatively early, Ramat HaSharon, Petach Tikva, Ariel, a routine journey.
I thought about it a lot when I thought of the man detained at Huwwara, who works in Barkan. About the young woman who moved her address to Haifa but misses her family in Nablus. About the woman who was trying to get her husband back home but was arrested herself. About the man who blurted out a curse and was required to retrace his steps back into the cell when he was already making his way out. About the house seized in Marda and which has now been annexed by the Shimshon Unit. About the ‘grass widow' operation. About Road 5, empty most of the days, while all the villages around are trapped under it. About the orders to ‘close or open' the territories depending on Israeli festivals. And above all about the vitality, about the bustle of life as it continues despite the difficulties. It is Ramadan, people are dressed in their best clothes, greeting each other with festival greetings. They are happy to meet acquaintances crossing the roadblocks, asking about others, ignoring the violent scenes around them. Ignoring the fences, the concrete, the soldiers and the weapons. They are simply trying to live, in spite of all the surprises and the obstacles in their way.
It is simply unbelievable.