Beit Iba, Sun 10.2.08, Afternoon

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Yifat D., Susan L


"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage" came to
mind today as we ponder the idea of being imprisoned. The
checkpoints, bars and gatesinfo-icon, separation barriers, walls and fences,
curfews and the Occupier's law may keep people physically imprisoned,
but "sumud" and the human mind are the ultimate escape, and remain
forever free.

14:00 Beit Iba

Far fewer people than usual: no wonder, there is a strict curfew for
all men between the ages of 16 and 35 years who live in the Jenin and
Tulkarm areas. The women university students carry their books as
usual, and carry on with their lives. The men behind the turnstiles
have to wait far longer than usual because the checkpoint is
overpopulated with soldiers, twelve at most times, with a second
lieutenant in command of the pedestrian area and a sergeant in
command of the vehicle checking area.

Although there are often two soldiers inside the main checking booth,
there is never more than one checking IDs, making the wait twice as
long as it needs be. Throughout our shift, two lines of men, 20-25 in
each line, wait behind the two working turnstiles. The usual rules
about taking off belts, lifting up pants' legs, burrowing into bags
and having grown men perform pirouettes are enforced. The invasion of
personal property continues unabated.

As we arrive, one of the soldiers in the humanitarian line is seen to
go through a man's mobile phone, sharing whatever he sees with
another soldier. Another time, we spot a man who has to take off his
metal framed glasses as he goes through the magnometer. Unusually,
there seem to be a number of Arabic speaking soldiers, other than the
DCO officer, now sporting an armband with DCL embroidered in Arabic,
Hebrew and English. Pedestrians are badgered with questions as to
how old they are, why they are in "this line" (the humanitarian
line). "I'm a teacher," "So, say so" is the unnecessarily rude
response of the soldier. One male student, who's obviously from one
of the areas under curfew, is sent back to Nablus. He can't return
home. There's no leniency here, and no caring about anybody else's
reason or anybody else's life.

14:15 -- change of shift of soldiers, but nothing gets any faster,
and there continue to be about 40 men at the two turnstiles
throughout the shift. It takes twenty to twenty five minutes to get

This group of soldiers excels at talking: talking to each other and
taking little notice of waiting vehicles or pedestrians. This is
particularly noticeable at the vehicle checking area which now sports
working traffic lights: red and green (but no yellow) and several
brand new automatic "arms" which can be lifted at will to let
vehicles pass, etc. The ever increasing efficiency of occupation! The
reality is that some trucks are thoroughly searched, others made to
wait up to seven minutes as soldiers banter with drivers, or fiddle
under the hood of cars as if they were the local garage mechanic. A
number of buses, filled with older men and women pass, one is
thoroughly checked, the obliging driver helping to unzip bags stored
in the hold and telling us smugly, "Security."

15:15 -- as we leave, the soldiers' meals arrive (late lunch)? More
time is taken off. And a waiting Palestinian tells us that he is
forbidden to cross into Nablus: the curfew is now said to be up to
age 45 (and he's 44 years old). We offer to check this ruling with
the commander, but the man indicates he's fed up, "We have no
country, we are all in prison all the time." We can't disagree.