Azzun, Beit Iba, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Thu 24.1.08, Afternoon
14.10 On the way to Beit Iba we go through Qalqiliya where there is a long line of about 40 cars which wait for about 30 minutes. The commander explains that the soldiers are new and work according to the book. At the exit the traffic flows and we do not see a line. At 14.25 we leave.
Micky Fisher had asked us to check the road to two villages. Izbit tabib and 'Azzun which we had been told were blocked in the morning. But now they are open…maybe there had been blocked in the morning and later opened.
The crossroads of Jit were also open.
15.00 Beit Iba and there was a small line only at the exit .
The humanitarian line was crowded mainly with women. In the enclosure were 7 detainees who had tried to bypass. Their IDs had been taken from them and they were to be detained for 4 hours.
The shed was crowded with hundreds of Palestinians and there were only two turnstiles open. Everything was checked on a table and belts were taken off and pockets emptied. 2 booths for checking. And after all that an electronic gate which everyone had to pass. If it squeaked everything had to be taken off and one had to go in one's socks on the dirty cement, backwards and forwards and so the trousers were also dirtied. People came through with shoes and belts in their hands and outside next to us tried to clean themselves off. The checking was methodical and therefore slow and sometimes shouts of anger were heard.
One is taken to the isolation for a body search and then freed. One had lost his ID.
15.35 Two more people in the enclosure, shouted at and pushed by the commander Y. He has their IDs. Another few minutes and 3 more are added. The chase and the success raise their adrenalin. The commander looks satisfied. He is in control. But his facial muscles, a tick, show his tension. Tammie phones the humanitarian centre to R. and tells him what is happening and he says he will check.
A "funny" scene. Tammie and the commander. Both of them speaking with great concentration on the phone. The commander up on the slope at the enclosure, high above everyone else, legs apart showing his power and his authority. And Tammie below next to the humiliated….the representative of human rights who only has her humanity to support her.
Suddenly the checking of the humanitarian lines stops and we ask why and are told that the soldiers are concentrating on another matter and then ---
We see the commander with another soldier running towards the road to Kuchin. The soldiers checking watch them maybe to see if they are also to follow.
It appears that they were trying to catch those trying to bypass the checkpoint but this time they failed and came back disappointed and with empty hands.
The chase after those trying to bypass is more important then dealing with the hundreds waiting at the checkpoint. And what is more fun?
Tammie now phones the DCO and asks Heiman what to do about the man who lost his ID. She gives the man her phone and he speaks to Heiman giving him his details. Tammie asks why there is no DCO representative at the checkpoint and is told that he will arrive soon but this does not happen.
15.40 Five women wait now for their husbands and a man for his son. They came through the humanitarian line. Another man asks for our help. His 16 year old son left Nablus an hour and a half ago and has not arrived at his home in Deir Sharaf. He is very worried. We go to the middle of the line at the side of the road and ask if anyone has seen the boy, giving his name. No one knows and the father is even more worried. At that moment an acquaintance of his comes past saying the son is in the line and nearing the checking area. And then he arrives. It had taken two hours.
The man tells us that he was born during the occupation in 1966 and does not know any other way of life. He worked for 10 years in Netanya when this was still possible, speaks good Hebrew and is pleasant. He does not complain about anything.
The 5 women have gone. Suddenly 15 people arrive in a procession led by a lad, the commander, who pushes and shouts at them. Why?. He does not answer. But there are also other soldiers. R. proved himself to us by his actions. He checks the humanitarian line in a humane manner. His attitude to the women who are waiting for their husbands or the man for his son is different from the hostile attitude of the commander. He is worthy of commendation. He called the worried father to him, took him to point out his son and then took the boy to be checked and freed him.Also he did so with a sister waiting for her brother…and for others.
Not all soldiers are burnt out and distorted in the carrying out of their duties though we do not see this often.
Cars are checked usually fairly quickly. But on the other hand a taxi with three young men is stopped. The men have to get out and do the dance taking off their belts. This time their arms are also checked, then their IDs and they go on their way.
16.55 An old woman waits a long time evidently for her husband or son. She was nervous and moved from place to place and when I offered her my place to sit answered negatively and in anger …..also angry at me.
17.10 The cold gets worse and penetrates the bones. The shed is still full of people and there are now really 20 people detained. When I ask the commander when they will be freed he says each one in his own good time. That is each one for 4 hours. And he says that if we want to wait until they are all freed we should bring ourselves another chair. This is really touching.
17.30 R. from the DCO calling us back as he promised said that another checkpoint would be open for those over the age of 30. Some students stop next to us and we speak to one who knows Hebrew. He lives in Qalqiliya and studies in Nablus. (We make this journey in under half an hour). Each day he gets up at 05.00 and gets to this studies after going through the checkpoints at 08.00. When he finishes at 16:00 pm he spends another 2-3 hours at the checkpoints and gets home about 19:00pm . He is in bed by 20:30 . It would be better if he lived in Nablus but that is too expensive.
18.00 Next to the Fig gate at Jubara on the border of Israel there are two lines at the checkpoint: one of the settlers who pass without being checked or standing in line and the …others (we are amongst them) . Only 6 cars in front of us but the traffic is moving.
The renovations of the checkpoint which cost the state millions has improved the quality of life of the soldiers but not the service to the Palestinians…and in fact their conditions are now worse.
In all this enormous complex where thousands of people have to pass there are only two turnstiles and a miserable table on which goods are checked and two electronic gates.
The Palestinians spend wasted hours here and in these "better conditions" everything has just gone from bad to worse.