'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Azzun, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 18.11.07, Afternoon
“I believe that life is fine” states the t-shirt on 14 month old Jamen, Haneen’s baby son. But behind this bold declaration, etched on to the shirt is what looks like an iron gate, across which is written, “DESTINATION OUT.” And yet, as we travel, week in, week out, to this poverty stricken home, on the edge of the checkpoint, in a seam line village with no means to eke out a living -- with its closed gate at one end and its soldiers sitting across the separation barrier on the other -- it’s hard to believe that life is or, in the foreseeable future, ever will be fine, or that there is any “out” to this Occupation.
“Who are you?” asks the soldier as we open the gate up to the village.... “Do you have permission to go up there? And you’re opening the gate crossing at my checkpoint?” Not surprisingly this group of soldiers has been at the checkpoint only since last Thursday (today is Sunday). There’s a line of eight to ten vehicles waiting to get out from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and on the way in, a blue police car and two women soldiers.
Two soldiers at the central check post, one standing, gun pointing, at the west side of the roadway, one up in the crow’s next. But here, a different story from Jubara: these are reservists who ask if they can be “of help?” They mention that they’ve seen a group of us in the morning and go off, back to their check post with, “Welcome.” A quiet, warm winter afternoon, little passing traffic in either direction, but each vehicle is peered into, although IDs are not looked at.
Gate 753 14:00
On our return, two men now squat, waiting on the side of the road. The usual story. They’ve been over the Green Line, to Taibeh, and are now being “punished” by the soldiers at the separation barrier.
Once again reservists, very relaxed. But after one of the four soldiers comes up to talk to us of his own accord, E., the commander, walks over to request that we do not talk to his soldiers: “they have work to do,” and that we stand nearer the checkpoint itself (yes, true!), by the concrete wall, “for your own safety, in case something should happen.” We are happy to oblige.
There have been no lines in either direction on our arrival, vehicles just waved through, but we get the feeling that the soldiers become less relaxed when observed, so that the lines grow as the soldiers check more thoroughly and look inside cars – sometimes and at random, there being no pattern to what’s going on!
14:30 -- a Hummer arrives: lunch. “About time too,” say the soldiers as two of them go to get it behind the concrete wall, and the lines of vehicles waiting to be checked grows and grows.
On the way to Qalqiliya
16:30 -- near Kedumim: the “hilltop settlement” house has been painted a most un-Palestinian color: a bright, pale pink. A tent, its blue awning clearly visible from the road, seems to stand in the yard. Near the well kept steep dirt road leading up to the lone house, two young settler women, becomingly attired in typical hippie settler style, sit seemingly relaxed and comfortable.
The concrete blocks have been moved to the side yet once again (until the next time’s closure), and traffic flows freely in and out of the town.
The line of vehicles, cars, trucks and buses, going back to the city seems long, but the well spoken, polite and cheerful Border Police commander who introduces himself to us, and offers us a drink, maintains that “it’s a regular day.” He has a group of three other men, including one volunteer (possibly from the seam line volunteer group). Palestinian vehicles are waved on, Israeli vehicles stopped to see if they have permits. Some are sent back. As darkness descends, the soldiers’ flashlights come out to check vehicles, and the lines get longer, at least 15-20 in both directions. The soldiers smoke, a truck with sheep and lambs goes by, and the passing Palestinians don’t complain about the wait, “it’s short, just a few minutes… anyway, what can we do… but when peace comes!” Inshallah!