Thursday, 24.5.07, AM
A hellish morning.
06:50, Bethlehem CP. The CP opened late. 05:10, says the CO, between 05:40 and 06:00, say the Palestinians. 4 checking posts, queues long and crowded. Crowding on the Palestinian side, people reported, was horrible. Tensions were high; anger erupted as people quarreled over
their place in line. The soldier walking the upper gallery started to scream hysterically -- the lines were not orderly enough to his taste. Outside a man told us that he lost yet another working day - he missed his transportation. He pointed to about 8 men returning to Bethlehem for the same reason.
The palm-print reader is not functioning properly; the problem is well known to all concerned - but who cares? About 12 men had to go to the DCL to renew their prints, and still the
were refused passage. Their number grew during our shift. At the DCL we were told that they knew of the problem, and were pondering what to do about it. At the CP soldiers were ordered, meantime, not to talk to us; they were too busy. At one of the checking posts a female soldier was talking on the phone incessantly while checking the permits. Another stopped checking time and again, jumping out of her chair to chase rudely any Palestinian who did not leave the CP area quickly: "Out! Yalla, out! I said OUT!". At 08:00 sharp, this young woman rose and started to collect her belongings slowly and methodically, than left her cubicle - her shift was ended. The people queuing in front of the now closed post stood in perfect order, humiliated and frightened, not daring to move. We asked: "Are you leaving?. "Yes." "So why not tell the people to move to another line?" She didn't even bother to answer.
08:15, Ezyon DCL. About 60 persons waiting, about 40 for magnetic cards. But the computers are not functioning -- magnetic cards will be issued only in 2 weeks time. People told us that they had come on Sunday, the day of the "official" opening of the refurbished DCL, but were
told to come back on Thursday. So here they were. A note written in Arabic was stuck to the wall at the entrance to the waiting hall. It said, apparently, that on Pentecost eve (last Tuesday) the DCL would be open until 10:30. No note about magnetic cards not being distributed for the time being. This news was reserved for 08:00, when numbers were not given out; and people
had come as early as 02:00 that morning to be on the head of the line. As usual, they stayed on, once again hoping against hope for some magnetic miracle.
Bethlehem CP: 2 lanes open, about 40 people are passing quickly. One young BP stands next to the queue with an M-16.
DCL Ezyon: Closed on Fridays, but a couple with a child is waiting outside. The husband, a physician, owns a clinic in Jerusalem. He is working with "The Perez Center for Peace" and invited to a meeting on Sunday morning. He was told to come here for the permit, but nobody even looks at him. After dozens of our phone calls, he got the permission after four hours waiting! Meantime another couple arrived for permits. It took them just two hours.
Monday PM, 21.5.07
14:45-18:30. We drove all the way to Qalandiya along a fairly good road. The wait to cross with the car was 20 minutes, although there was hardly a line. A lone soldier enclosed by concrete was watching the fenced off entrance to Qalandiya. He claimed to be looking for people who might sneak through some of the openings in the fence. 2 women with blue Ids were not allowed to cross the fence into Ar-Ram, but redirected to the long detour. At the Bitunia Passage two trucks were waiting to pass, at the Military Court sessions were almost finished. Via the Ramot Road we drove into the potholed path towards the New Beit Hanina and then to Bir
Nabala, both ghost towns. No CP at the roundabout. On the road towards Ramallah, after a few hundred yards we came to the CP, which had been moved. 54 waiting cars in the queue. One of the drivers said it might take two hours to pass. A soldier was scolding a driver who had bypassed the line. He yelled at him to return all the way to the end, but when spotting us, left him alone. As we watched, the line started moving. One of the drivers talked to us and was promptly punished - his vehicle stopped, his papers and the car scrupulously checked. We queried a soldier about a handcuffed detainee and were told that there was "good reason" for it. Before the turn-off into the Ramot Road every car was stopped and we wait about 20 minutes on the dusty potholed path leading up to it.
Sunday, 20.5.07, PM
15:00, Beit Iba. Few vehicles, not many pedestrians. Bags are no longer checked with the "touch and feel" method, but with a hand held magnometer. One detainee, but we can't find out why he's detained, "I can't say," is what we're told. He is let go half an hour later.
15:25. A white van, with yellow Israeli license plates, bears a dog, muzzled and its keeper. The dog keeper and the soldier in charge of the vehicle checking area talk and talk, keeping the few vehicles, coming from Deir Sharaf, waiting.
15:50. The contents of one of the porter's carts are overturned. Bags of clothing and other odds and ends lie strewn on the ground, ready for the dog to sniff and slobber over. Two young men gather up their belongings from the dusty, middle of the road where this disgrace occurs, and repack their bags.
Deir Sharaf, junction of Routes 60 and 57. There are more than the usual number of trailer trucks standing. Since Awarta is closed this has become an unofficial back to back site!
16:30, Jit Junction. Very little traffic being checked by soldiers. We are
surprised to see one policeman, gun pointed in the direction of Sarra, standing behind a concrete checking booth.
Sunday, 20.5.07, PM
15:30, Zaatara (Tapuach) Junction. About 30 cars waiting. At the army hotline they promised to look into it.
Huwwara. Hardly any Palestinians at the checkpoint. The scant few pass through the turnstiles, women and the elderly through the special side line.
Tarmacs and new curbstones are permanent signs of new construction at the checkpoint. The question on everyone's mind is what is being built here, and where – if at all – will the vendors be allowed to stand once the construction is finished. We have no answers.
Despite the meager trickle of pedestrians, the soldiers still instruct them to "get back! Back! Back off!!" once in a while, so as to lineup single file behind the turnstiles.
Two active checking posts. After the inspection, holders of luggage are required to hop over the concrete ledges and hurry off to the x-ray truck standing across the road from the checkpoint area. Their ID remains in the trouser-pocket of the securing soldier, while they wander off to the other side, un-supervised, place their bags on the moving belt, rush around to the other side to grab them before they fall to the dusty ground, and then return to the soldier through the turnstile against the pedestrian current. Then the interrogation starts: Where do you live? Where are you going? A student? Where do you work? Until finally handing back the IDs. We have monitored this walk over to the x-ray truck and back. This 'check' is really not watched over and looks like just another hassle in the endless saga of crossing the checkpoint.
16:20. Crowding increases and the commander instructs opening another line.
A driver from the Jordan Valley carrying milk to a hospital in Nablus is refused passage for his permit has expired and he has yet to receive a new one. Later he went to speak to another soldier, higher ranking, and finally convinced him that delivering milk to the hospital will not jeopardize state security.
16:55. A detainee is placed inside the concrete cell. As he walks over to get his bag, the securing soldier yells at him. He is instructed to lay out all the bag's contents on the concrete ledge: carefully folded clothes, underwear, a towel, socks and shoes. His ID number came up on the computer as 'wanted'. After inspecting the bag, the soldier pushes him into the hold and shuts the door. Later his cigarette pack is confiscated as one of the soldiers thinks the man tried to "burn what was written on it". It turns out that the writing was simply the name of the plant at which he works. Disappointment does not keep the soldier from suggesting that "the man should be shackled. He is misbehaving and saying he's Palestinian and a Fatah member." The CP commander instructs the soldiers to let the detainee alone. About an hour-and-a-half later, the man is released and tells us that his brother is held in custody in an army detention camp, not yet indicted or sentenced, but ever since his arrest, every time the man reaches the checkpoint, he is detained in this manner and then released.
Beit Furiq. There was a trickle of pedestrians swiftly exiting Nablus. From Beit Furiq into Nablus there is no more pedestrian traffic in the afternoon. The only ones passing through go in the opposite direction, home from work and errands. No guests come because they are not allowed through. The vehicle lane had about 8-10 cars waiting to come out towards Beit Furiq. They were inspected swiftly. An occasional vehicle arrived in the opposite direction, waiting to enter Nablus for a few minutes, and then let through. The soldiers did their job quietly.
Tuesday, 22.5.07, AM
06:45--07:45, Beit Iba. The vehicle line is almost empty; apparently the closure diminishes the number of trucks. The pedestrian line is sparse as well. Checks are random. Only at the exit side people must unload every bag.
Saturday, 26.5.07, AM
Beit Furiq. Soldiers were very quick and efficient, and people in quite big numbers moved swiftly in both directions. The checkpoint was clean, no piles of dirt around, as it used to be before. The movement of trucks was also excellent. Unlike many times before, a lorry full of tomatoes went to Beit Furiq, after quick inspection of drivers' documents and general (and not detailed) impression of the tomatoes. Soldiers were friendly with truck drivers and those returned careful smiles. To the pastoral atmosphere added villagers, who worked on the fields near the checkpoint. These were people from Salem and Azmut, and usually are forbidden to work on their fields on the Beit Furiq side of the road. They were not even disturbed by settlers (maybe because the settlers do not bother Palestinians on Saturdays or may be for other good reasons).
What spoils this perfect harmony? Only residents whose address is Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan are allowed to pass through the checkpoint. If your mother lives in Beit Furiq and your address is somewhere else, you will not be allowed to visit her. DCL will issue a permit only for a wedding or a funeral; visits of family and friends are not considered by the occupier as a justified concession.
The checkpoint is open between 5:30 am till 9 p.m. If your wife has to deliver a baby after these hours, this is a rather bad idea. The checkpoint is closed, but you can walk with your wife in labor and shout loudly so that soldiers, who sleep in a Peel box, will hear you and let you pass. Your wife should be well trained to walk in labor to the ambulance, which you had ordered, and which is not allowed to pass the checkpoint at this night hours. After you brought your wife to a hospital and decided to go back to sleep at home, no way, you are not an emergency, you have to wait till 5:30 in the morning.
So how do people earn money? There is no work in Beit Furiq area, except in agriculture. The work can be found in the cities. One who gets a job 3 times a week, half a day, 50 shekels per day, will have 600 shekel at the end of a month. Quite a few young boys dropped out of their schools. They will never graduate secondary school and will never go to the university. They need to help their families. Their sisters will continue studies, and brothers will take the responsibility of providers. Or maybe they will have other ideas, if they reflect on their present life and their future.
Sunday, 20.5.07, PM
13:45, Gate 753. Uneventful
13:50, Ar-Ras. Very little traffic, very little for the soldiers to do.
14:00, Anabta. The work of resurfacing the road seems to be finished. There is very little traffic in either direction.
Tuesday, 22.5.07, AM
06:15, Irtah. Closure; the facility is deserted.
08:00--09:35, Anabta. At least 50 vehicles are lined up on the entrance side to Tulkarm, the queue hardly moves. On the exit side the line is much shorter. At first our repeated calls to the Humanitarian Hotline don't seem to bear fruit. We caution, explain that tension is mounting, people wait at least an hour till they can move on. We ask that they send reinforcement or somebody in charge. Eventually it seems that our calls do help, more soldiers arrive and at nine thirty or so the thorough checks are stopped and the line virtually disappears.
09:55--10:10, Jubara & Ar-Ras. At Ar-Ras the traffic is sparse. As we exit the village on our way home we see from afar "illegals" on their way home. Apparently they were caught in Israel and brought here by a bus accompanied by police escort, same as last week.