Beit Iba, Jit, Sun 28.10.07, Afternoon
What is reality, in the practical, not the philosophical, sense? For those of us who travel, week in, week out, into the Occupied
Palestinian Territories, it's the state of things as they actually exist, where we pay attention to what is really going on. Our problem, in these days of "reality" television, itself a misnomer, is that our government and popular media are constantly reducing, restricting and contriving reality – manipulating the actual, controlling how people perceive reality, or how they will react -- which is easier than controlling reality. So our task is to enlarge everyone's reality to go and take a look around to see what is out there. Which is why it's so important to take visitors with us on our shifts!
15:30 Beit Iba
We've never seen the line of vehicles -- cars, trucks, semi trailers, large and small buses – stretch so far beyond the Hawwash Brothers
carpentry workshop. Yellow taxis weave in and out of the "balagan" (manmade mess), doing their best to ferry passengers to and from
their destinations. Not a horn is blowing. The locals tell us, "a new bunch of soldiers." "They don't know what they're doing." And the
Palestinians' patience, or is it fortitude (?), is as strong as ever.
At the checkpoint, we're immediately told that we have to stand by the white line, but there are so many people trying to go into
Nablus, so many soldiers, and the checking is so laborious that it matters little where we stand. We're just given the cold shoulder.
The about-to-be-grandiose checkpoint at Beit Iba is today decorated with some of the turnstiles from the far end of the checkpoint.
They've been removed, leaving just one set for pedestrians coming from Nablus to negotiate, and are lying on the ground, probably ready
to be positioned where the new checkpost is already in place.
Two detainees, but they are in the compound for just two minutes. There is a crush of people coming from Nablus, even with just one
turnstile! There are two soldiers at the checking table, but everything is looked at, and it's very, very slow. For the first time, we see soldiers invading women's handbags as well as the usual touch and feel of freshly baked pittot and backpacks of the dozens of students passing from the city today. As usual, the students, both women and men, are glad to practice a bit of their English, and, as usual, they show the same patient fortitude that one can admire or decry. They are pleased, no doubt, to see friendly faces!
The soldiers at the central checking area make decisions to deal with passing students any which way. One young man is made to take off his down vest, next lift up his shirt, and the soldier uses his own hands to lift up the tee shirt and demand a pirouette. He shrugs when we
comment to him about such behavior.
At the vehicle checking area, the situation is dreadful. Again, many soldiers and one military policewoman make a bad situation even
worse, since they spend much of their time chatting, laughing and disregarding the traffic trying to come into Nablus. The fact is that
the placement of the new vehicle checking post, parallel to the central checking pedestrian area, means that the soldiers are more
distant, physically, from the Deir Sharaf kiosks and taxis and, in particular, from the oncoming traffic. They neither know nor care,
it's clear, that the line stretches for quarter of a kilometer further down the road. Not only are these soldiers lax, they are less
involved and further from the horrors of everyday reality than ever.
16:10 -- the Taneeb buses that come out of Nablus are scrupulously checked, the soldiers taking their sweet time. It usually takes five
to seven minutes for a full size bus and three minutes for a mini bus to be checked by this group of soldiers.
Two stray dogs bark, and are petted, probably also fed, by these soldiers. The line of vehicles fails to decrease, and it seems that
the military policewoman is in charge and telling soldiers what they should do – when she takes time out from just chatting.
16:20 -- we see this same policewoman, standing by a small truck, surrounded by a group of soldiers, as she proceeds to prod cardboard
boxes protruding from the inside with her gun. Five minutes later, a car, bearing a Red Crescent sign, probably carrying health
professionals, is thoroughly searched before being allowed on its way.
16:45 -- as we leave the checkpoint, we ask the waiting drivers at the head of the line just how long they've been waiting. The answers,
as might be expected, are all over the map, but the general consensus seems to be about forty five minutes.
16:55 Jit Junction
31 vehicles wait in line, coming from the Beit Iba direction, as this "permanent rolling" checkpoint, one of the worst of its kind in
the Occupied Palestinian Territories, shows its stripes. Checking is laborious and slow.
Beyond the settlement of Kedumim, work goes on apace at the latest hilltop house taken over by settler youth: its name seems to be
Homesh. It's newly painted, and there are visible tarpaulins on its grounds. Stay tuned!