Azzun, Beit Iba, Wed 5.3.08, Afternoon
We were accompanied by a German television crew making a film about Tami: “From Palmach to MachsomWatch.”
On the way to Beit Iba we passed Azzun to see whether there were still blocks, or whether they had been removed.
Along all the borderline of the village, parallel with the road, including of course the main entrance to the village, a gigantic block – a high earthern hill. There is no possibility whatsoever for any vehicle to enter or leave. Pedestrians too, unless they are capable of climbing the high hill, off course when there are no soldiers present...
We met passers by – a youngster and an older man – and chatted with them. During the conversation a military vehicle arrived. They looked at us but did not intervene. Only after they left, and before their relief arrived, the two climbed the hill and entered the village.
The youngster had told us: he is a medical orderly in Qalqiliya Hospital and lives in Azzun. He travelled in an ambulance to visit a patient near Nablus, and now the ambulance had returned to Qalqiliya, but since his workday had finished, he asked them to drop him off here. After getting out he realised that his ID card remained in the hospital. If the soldiers stop him for a check, he will have a problem. To the joy of all of us, the soldiers did not approach, and he got home safely.
He invited us to his home, suggested that we drive with him around the whole village to the one place where there is a passage through, and then come home with him for a coffee. He took the opportunity to show us the long route they have to follow instead of going straight onto the road. We thanked him for the invitation, but had to continue to Beit Iba.
The film crew filmed the entire event: the conversation and the climb over the hill to reach home unseen by the soldiers. They “profited” from an interesting and photogenic event...
14:25 – we left Azzun to our destination – Beit Iba.
14:55 Beit Iba
Before the checkpoint, on the red sign, we saw that they had again deleted the letter “A”... Pity we didn’t have a camera (last time when I photographed – the A had been inserted, and now it was deleted).
We parked the car in the lot and walked to the checkpoint, accompanied by the tv crew who were causing considerable interest. When we said that it is German TV, we could see that this was well accepted.
The taxi area was full. Conversely the pedestrian traffic was thin.
15:00 – there is no electricity at the checkpoint, and so all the check is manual. There are no detainees, and the number of people under the roof is small. It is flowing. The humanitarian line enters as each group joins it.
Checkpoint commander A. comes over and says politely that we should only talk to him or the DCO representative. He seems older than his comrades, and behaves that way. In answer to my question, he said that the battalion is “Haruv” and it will be staying two weeks until replaced by reservists.
To our wonderment, the commander let the TV crew enter the checkpoint and film from the other (Nablus) side. Again a case of it all being dependent on the decision of the man on the spot.
Tami went with the crew and reported that there are three lanes and three signs in three languages. The signs direct people, some to humanitarian for women and the aged, and others to the two lanes for regular people.
Three people talked with us:
– a detainee, only just put in the pen. No soldier stopped me on my way over to talk to him. They stop him every day to check his ID, then release him immediately. Routine repeated every day. Apparently his ID number is close to somebody who is “wanted.”
– a woman with a five month old baby in arms waiting for her husband who is lingering in the hut. Tami tries to help move him forward in the line. Finally he arrives and it becomes clear that neither of them have IDs. They let her pass without a check, but that was not possible for him. They were sent back to Nablus.
– on the way to the car we were delayed by a man who asked my help: six years ago he had a magnetic card, which was not renewed. He has no idea why not. He never had any connection to any event that would make him suspect. At the DCO they said that he was blacklisted, but wouldn’t say why. He has two sisters in Israel, one in Beersheba and the other in Jaffa. He hasn’t seen them for six years, and apparently they have no hope of meeting. I took his details, promised nothing but said I would try.
16:10 – we left Beit Iba on the way to Anabta and Jubara...
Short line of pedestrians, the length varying from time to time, but fast passage and no exceptional activities apart from complaints about removing shoes, which sometimes beep in the magnometer, and the actual existence of the checkpoint.
We chatted with the checkpoint cleaner who raised the problem of his wages. Up to December he earned for six hours work, six days a week, 1800 shekels. That is less than 12 shekels an hour, and far below the minimum legal wage. On top of that, he has to pay for travel to Beit Iba – he lives in Huwarra.
He is employed by the army, Beit El Command, through a contractor who is apparently Israeli who employs an Arab contractor, and they all most probably earn well before he receives his wage. In December there was a change, and he received 900 shekels for his month’s work. This is worse than disgusting...