Beit Furik, Sun 30.12.07, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
16:00 - 17:45 Beit Furik
We rushed to Beit Furik after receiving repeated phone calls of drivers waiting to exit Nablus for over three hours. They tell us about 40 vehicles are waiting in line, and the line does not move. They just stand there and wait.
We reached the Checkpoint at 16:00. About five cars coming from Beit Furik Nablus-bound. The end of the waiting line of cars exiting Nablus is far out of our eyes' reach.
Pedestrians tell us there are about 45-50 cars waiting.
A male and a female soldier check vehicles on the one lane, two male soldiers check the pedestrians on the other vehicle lane. We also saw some other soldiers around, but were told that their job is to "secure" their mates.
Pedestrian passage is rather swift - trivial questions in halting Arabic, random rummaging in personal bags and belongings, and indifferent to belittling-gestured return of ID and a waving off.
On the second lane - vehicles coming into Nablus from Beit Furik are being checked, at about 5 minutes per car. At this rate, 25 minutes are needed just for the cars already waiting. After 10 minutes, the soldiers turn to check cars exiting Nablus. Checking time per car is 4-7 minutes.
Simple optimistic arithmetic - hoping the soldiers will not pause and work swiftly - 4 minutes times 50 cars = 200, in other words, 3 hours and twenty minutes for the cars already waiting at the checkpoint. And this is the best-case scenario.
People report waiting over two hours this morning to exit Beit Furik (from 5 to 7 a.m.!). some preferred to leave their car behind and proceed by taxi.
We kept calling the DCO people. They said they'd try to help but...
16:25 - two army vehicles arrive. We thought this would be "reinforcement"...
Door thrown open and three young Palestinians from Beit Furik are taken out (we are told they are 18-19 years old). Their hands are plastic-cuffed behind their backs, and they are blindfolded.
Action! All checks cease until all soldiers have stared at them from up close. The three, "documented as stone-throwers" are seated aggressively inside the detainee pen, one in every corner, on the floor. There is a bench there that would seat three such slim boys, but they are on the floor. A soldier collects their IDs and pushes down any head that dares level blindfolded eyes at him.
After 5 minutes another army vehicle arrives. Perhaps someone has heard the Palestinians' cries or our complaints? Two senior officers - a lieutenant colonel and a major pass by the pen, look around the checkpoint and ask "why isn't another checking lane opened?"
16:40 - cuffs and blindfolds removed, the ex-cuffed rub their wrists to relieve the pain and cold and get a last glance at the fading light of day.
16:45 - finally vehicles are being checked in both lanes. The two officers join the checking forces and the pace is doubled and even tripled. Nearly a car a minute. Another 50 minutes and the line from this direction is done, but in the other direction there are already over 10 cars waiting with their drivers.
17:15 - it gets dark and very cold! The car from Beit Furik waiting to go into Nablus has already been waiting for an hour as first in line. Behind him wait drivers who need to get into town, unload their goods and hurry back home.
17:20 - the officers leave. Soldiers check cars from Beit Furik. The time has doubled again, the checking is thorough and exasperating. More foolishness to the march!
17:30 - the detainees wait for the police. The freezing concrete chases them off to seek seating on the bench but when the soldier nearby notices that, he sends them back to sit on the concrete floor. And again and again. "They'll stay here for six hours and if the police doesn't come to pick them up we'll take them with us to the Brigade HQ" says the major. Why not take them now, then? Everyone's cold, both uniform wearers and the three boys, coatless.
On our way home, later, a mother of one the boys will phone us and tell us she brought them coats and blankets but the checkpoint commander would not let her pass them to the boys. Is this too a part of the brutal, strangulation policy?
Pedestrians report about 20 vehicles still waiting to exit Nablus, we count another 7 waiting to enter from Beit Furik. The policy has blurred us too and we run out of the presence of mind required to calculate how much longer people in both directions will have to wait until they may get home.
17:45 We left.