Beit Furik, Huwwara, Jit, Thu 11.10.07, Afternoon
Journey of Checkpoints the day before Eid El Fiter.
Huwwara 15: 41 – 17:01
The the Jit checkpoint and the checkpoint at Yitzhar are not manned.
The parking lot at Huwwara is packed. Horns are beeping, people are rushing, cars, taxis and buses are blocking each other as they hurry on their way to and from the CP. There are about 10 soldiers walking away from the CP toward the army base as we enter. The CP is crowded with people and vehicles. The pedestrian shack is packed until the end. There are a lot of soldiers around including a lot of officers from the Matak. We are told that this is the first day for a Givati unit who has been previously stationed in Gaza.
Hagar is told by one of the Matak representatives , “We have to try to get the soldiers to understand that this is NOT Gaza.”
There are 8 vehicles on line to Nablus and an endless line from Nablus. The last vehicle I see coming from Nablus is a large minibus about 10th in line. It is an hour before it gets through from the time I spotted it at 15:55.
At 16:41 - this vehicle gets to the checking booth. The checking takes until 16:55.
Besides the vehicle which was thoroughly checked, all the passengers had their individual bags checked even though they had already put them through the x ray machine.
Vehicles stop some distance from the CP. Passengers step out and those with packages go over to the X ray truck to have them checked. The vehicles with just the driver inside them head to the checking booth. The vehicles are checked inside and out. This takes anywhere from one minute to 13 minutes.
The vehicles to Nablus are checked to see if the driver has a permit and an ID.
At 16:16 -a Matak representative comes to help out the soldier checking the incoming cars and to explain some of the fine points. The line moves faster. Many vehicles are turned away today because they do not have the proper permit. We spoke to some who had not been allowed in. They had had the mistaken impression that because it is a holiday, exceptions would be made.
The disappointment in the air is poignant. Vehicle after vehicle is turned back. The Matak representatives on duty at the CP do allow several people who had not been allowed in by the regular soldiers to pass through with their cars.
To add to the generous holiday spirit of the checkpoint, the police are stationed to the side. They randomly pick out a vehicle who has either just waited on line for the last hour leaving Nablus or is about to enter Nablus. The police are a presence from the time we arrive until 16:35.
At that time they drive through the CP towards Nablus telling the soldier at the booth that they are going on a patrol duty in that direction.
At the pedestrian area there were 3 checking booths that are open the whole time we are on the shift. There is also a side line for women and older men.
At 15:59 -a person waiting near the end of the side line, does not pass through until 16:25. A pedestrian who is near the end of the regular line at 15:55 doesn’t pass through until 16:55.
At the young men’s checking booth, pockets must be emptied and belts taken off.
While one man is struggling to put his belt on before leaving by way of the turnstile, a soldier shouts at him, “Get out of here. Out. Out. Out”.
The Palestinian is so absorbed in trying to get his belt on, or perhaps he doesn’t understand the word (“Ha'Chutzah”), that he keeps trying to get his belt in the pants loops and doesn’t move. The soldier eventually comes up to him and makes sure he leaves. The Palestinian continues to struggle with the belt and tuck in his shirt before descending to the parking lot. Later on in the shift the rule changes and belts are allowed to stay on but shirts must be lifted.
Smadar hears a man holding a baby in his arms say to the baby, “The most important thing is that by the time you are bigger, you will not have to stand at the checkpoints.”
There are no detainees. One man, who is always stopped and detained because his number is on the list, is let go after a few minutes. When a soldier sees him talking to Hagar after being released, he sends him back into detainment for a few more minutes.
As we leave at 17:00, there are very few pedestrians but there are 16 vehicles on line entering Nablus and a long line from Nablus . A Major with the words “Unit Headquarters in the field, Battalion Commander, Oren Iftach” written on the back of his vest is at the CP.
The village of Huwwara 17:10 – 17:20
Finally a note of joy. The village is crowded with vehicles and people rushing to the stores, bakery and felafel stands to do their last minute shopping for the holiday. There is holiday excitement everywhere.
Beit Furik 17:25 – 17:50
There are almost no pedestrians but there is a long line of vehicles leaving Nablus for Beit Furik. There are over 10 soldiers at the CP. There are 3 army jeeps present. One of them belongs to the Matak. Here too the soldiers are from the Gavati unit which has just been in Gaza. The Matak representatives are trying to explain the situation to the new soldiers. The commanding officer tells me he doesn’t yet see any difference between here and Gaza.
The 9th vehicle on line takes 15 minutes to pass through from the time I spot him.
At 17:46 -Hagar gets permission to go through to the other side to count the number of vehicles on line. When she returns and tells them there are 17 vehicles on line and everyone is hungary, they open another checking line.
Captain I. from the Matak tells us that we should ask for him when ever there is a problem. When we ask for his number, we are told that he is in Ra'ad’s office.
I. wants us to be nice to the soldiers, “They are good men,“ he says.
We are told that the checkpoint will close at 12 midnight.
When we pass by again at 18:00 after a look at Beit Furik, there are even fewer pedestrians and vehicles.