Sunday AM, 23.12.07
Bethlehem CP: Nothing special to report from either side.
Ezyon DCL: Quite empty. A disabled man needed help going through the turnstile, but the soldier inside had left his post and it took a while before anyone came to assist him.
Monday PM, 24.12.07, 14:00-17:00
At Mar Elias we boarded a shuttle bus to Bethlehem, courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism. A dozen American tourists were with us. At the CP a female soldier handed out a bag of goodies to every passenger and a letter from the Ministry:
"Dear Pilgrim, The State of Israel is glad that you have decided to celebrate the Christmas Season in the Holy Land. Christian religious leaders in Jerusalem have announced the promotion of pilgrimages to the Holy Land and have signed an appeal to the pilgrims visiting the Holy Land to pray for peace between all nations, thus creating a bridge for peace. Please accept our token of sweets for the Holiday Season. MERRY CHRISTMAS!"
We passed the various well-known graffiti drawings on the wall and Palestinian policemen who waved at our bus. At a square halfway into the city traffic policemen were trying to create some order while a convoy with dignitaries came from the other side. We climbed up the street towards Manger Square. The streets were almost closed to traffic and full of people, many children in Santa Claus outfits. Some youngsters on horses were supposedly crusaders. Occasionally a motorcade with loud noise chased everyone to the sidewalk when yet another dignitary was leaving. On Manger Square people crowded along the fences where the parades took place. Some brass bands, some singing groups of choirboys in white smocks and very elaborately dressed fez-capped young men. Then came one large empty car with the Vatican flag apparently waiting for someone to exit the church. A long line of scouts in their neat outfits were marching and playing their instruments. People clapped. Large helium balloons with Xmas figures everywhere.
Tuesday, 25.12.07, AM
06:30. Bethlehem CP: 6 posts open. Because of Christmas and the many Christian tourists, crossing this morning was quite efficient and smooth.
08:00. Ezyon DCL: Only five people, all waiting for magnetic cards.
Wednesday PM, 26.12.07
The day after Christmas. Little traffic at Bethlehem CP. Nonetheless, 3 booths are open.
On route 60, between Gush Ezyon and Nebi Yunis, there are many military vehicles, some standing, some cruising, and quite a presence of soldiers.
Ezyon DCL: The place has been hung with many signs, mostly in Arabic, posting hours, phone numbers, and other announcements we could not decipher. It is cold, clean, and largely empty. A 77 year old lady from Beit Sahur is there, distraught. She is Greek Orthodox, and wants to pray in Jerusalem on their holiday, Jan. 6. She also simply wants to visit Jerusalem, and can't for the life of her understand why anyone would want to prevent her from doing so, but prevent her they do. All but one of the immediate family have been given permits, and in the past, so has she, and now for reasons mysterious to her she is GSS denied. Her naive perplexing at the situation reminded us how unnatural it is, even for those living amidst it
Thursday AM, 27.12.07, 05:30-07:00
Bethlehem CP. 5 windows open. No pressure on the Israeli side. We are told that the CP opened at 05:00 on the Palestinian side, but still the queues are long. The Ecumenic Watcher says that at 06:00, it took him 30 minutes to pass. People arrive in waves. One man's permit was confiscated because he is a GSS suspect. Towards 07:00 there was little movement at the CP.
Abu Dis Area
Monday AM, 24.12.07
06:30, Sheikh Saed At this barrier, no one can get pass unless the one BP and 2 civilian guards allow it. Most passing people are small children going to school on either side of the barrier. Some are so small they can not even move the turnstile. A few green IDs are let in with permits. In general traffic is very thin. The dairy man is allowed into the neighborhood, "as a special courtesy". Normally, he would have to go through the Olives terminal.
East Jerusalem, 07:30. The city is still sleeping. Very few people on the street, shops and schools closed for Christmas.
Nablus Gate. Two BPs stop passers by ever so often, checking their IDs and making note of their names down. A regular weekday in East Jerusalem, everything as usual -- including the fact that any police or BP can stop you at any moment to ask for your ID, permit, etc.
Monday PM, 24.12.07
Sheikh Saed, 05:00-06:00, Turnstiles were installed about a month ago, both on the bottom and the top of the climb into the village. In between, a civilian guard questioned whether we were allowed to continue. The CO said that we could enter, but not exit. Only inhabitants of Jebel Mukaber and residents of Sheikh Saed in possession of a permit could exit here. We gave up.
Tuesday PM, 25.12.07
Sheikh Saed. More guards than passersby... 2 young men were kept waiting for a few minutes while the BPs took turns tormenting a kitten. Then they were rejected.
Abu Dis. Deserted.
Tuesday PM, 25.12.07
14:30 Hebron - Recall that the so-called "Disputed House" was taken over by settlers in March 2007 and has not been evacuated since. Although a court order prohibits renovations, intensive building activity was underway. 10 meters away a CP has been established, so that Palestinian cars cannot pass there, but pedestrians were crossing unchecked . At the entrance to the house 10-12 children were gathered, chatting with 4 BP guards. When they saw us they began to curse at us. We told the children to shut up. Immediately some adults approached us angrily, demanding that we leave "their" premises. The soldiers did not intervene, even when eggs were thrown on our car, breaking the window shield. The atmosphere heated up, and the children played ball around us, hitting us with it.
Abraham's Tomb CP (called Abed CP by the Palestinians). We were stopped by 2 BPs and had to leave the car. They checked our ID cards and decreed that our driver, a Palestinian with Jerusalem residency was not allowed to be at this place.
Pharmacy CP. This CP consists of a caravan blocking the road, and is equipped with a metal detector. Passers must climb into the caravan and go through the detector. The houses in the immediate neighborhood look deserted. One young man was detained. He had been asked by his parents to shop at the grocery shop, and on his way back home was detained. Allegedly a routine check. 15 minutes later his ID was returned.
While we were waiting, the Be'Zelem man with us received a call. Soldiers entered a house in the Kasba, performed a search, rummaged in the wardrobe, broke furniture, and left the house in a havoc. We accompanied him there. The steep alleys of the Kasba were almost deserted and the shops were closed. The owner of the invaded house was waiting for us. The 2 rooms of the family were in complete devastation. Clothes, linens, toys, dishes, broken chinaware, photos, pictures were thrown on the floor together with the wardrobe doors. The soldiers wore Hamas paraphernalia, such as flags, flyers, propaganda -- in spite of the large portraits of Arafat on the wall. The young people of the family who were at home when the soldiers came, were surprisingly composed. This is the famous "Hebron mix" - life between fanatic, unscrupulous settlers and bored, power thirsty soldiers.
Wednesday AM, 26.12.07
0510. Tarqumiya - Workers pass quickly. 4 stations operating. 3 BP guarding.A long line of cars waiting to be checked, mainly pickups and cars carrying workers. The CP is calm; it takes 20-30 mins to pass. We are told that the CP opens at 4am and some 3000 workers pass daily. 4 workers were detained, 3 released in minutes. One was denied passage. The soldier refused to return his permit, and the man left without arguing. At 6am the queue was still long.
Thursday AM, 27.12.07
06.10. Sansana CP - Passage open. According to the CO, it opens daily at 04.30, and about 700 have already passed. The Palestinians say it only opened at 05.10. 300 were still waiting to pass. Passage is very slow because the Palestinians have to remove put coats, hats, belts and shoes, on trays, to be checked electronically, and show different documents at the windows. The Palestinians are very bitter, and, ironically enough, miss the soldiers, who did not ask them to remove their clothing, and allowed them to carry their water across. Trained dogs have been added to search for explosives, mostly in cars (so we were told).
Sunday, 23.12.07, PM
15:40, Beit Iba. A long, long line of women, small children, pushcarts for babies and elderly people going through the so-called “humanitarian” line -- after the el-Adha holiday, families return home, laden with packages, and each is thoroughly searched. There are not many young men behind the other turnstile, never more than 20 during this shift.
15:50. There are two long lines of vehicles from Nablus. The many soldiers at the vehicle checking area spend a great deal of time chatting with each other.
Sunday, 23.12.07, PM
Zaatara (Tapuach) Junction. Rather empty.
Yitzhar-Huwwara Junction. Unmanned.
15:30, Huwwara. An innovation– the Plexiglas window of the concrete cubicle through which we could note whether anyone is held inside, is now covered with a wooden plate blocking the view. We saw a young man was led into the hold. 16:00. The CO said he intended to shackle him, for the GSS is about to come questioning him. 16:15. Soldiers catch 3 boys in the field nearby with a donkey-born small cart filled with iron scraps. Later we heard that they were first caught hours earlier bypassing the CP (“leaking”), and were detained for three hours – "by the book". After their release they repeated the act, were caught again and detained for another three hours. Because the detention cubicle is so small, the shackled detainee presumably waiting for his GSS interrogators was released.
16:40, Beit Furiq. A shackled boy is being released, having been detained for "leaking". The patrol that caught him out in the field shackled him so tightly that quite a while was needed in order to cut open his plastic handcuff.
17:15, back at Huwwara. People rush to tell us that a Military Policewoman broke into a hysterical fit – screaming and laughing even more loudly than usual and was moved away, apparently to calm her down. Thereby one of the three pedestrian checking posts was closed and those still lined up for it had to go to the end of the other queues to restart their ordeal. Meanwhile the power was cut and all checks were stopped.
We left at 18:15, not before the CO promised that when he releases the boys, he will not forget to let them pick up their donkey and cart still waiting at the entrance to the CP compound.
Tuesday, 25.12.07, AM
07:15--08:30, Beit Iba. School and university holiday (X-mas day), which means very sparse traffic coming into Nablus. On the exit side pedestrian traffic is much livelier. The DCL (District Coordination Office) representative is present.
Sunday, 23.12.07, PM
13:10, Habla agricultural gate. Soldiers are just closing, not one, but several yellow metal gates, placed between nurseries and fields. There’s no sign about opening times on the gate where we’re parked, but we soon learn about those, three times a day, for an hour at a time. We hear of the horrors of the seam line zone -- Palestinians, working their own land, forbidden to build on it, even an overnight shelter, and of permits taken away by the General Security Service.
14:50, Anabta. Vehicles pass freely for a while, to and from Tulkarm. Some are checked randomly.
17:00, Qalqilya. A long line of vehicles dissipates by the time we arrive. No checking while we’re there.
Tuesday, 25.12.07, AM
06:30-06:50, Qalqilya. Sparse traffic coming out, a little livelier coming into the city. Vehicles carrying cargo are checked, passage is quick.
Azun. No soldiers. The exit to Rd 55 is blocked. Cars can exit through Izbet Tabib, so what's the point of all this besides harassment pure and simple?
Jit Junction. Unmanned.
09:00--09:30, Anabta. Lines that form on the exit side from Tulkarm are quickly dispersed, hardly any traffic coming in.
09:30--10:00, Jubara & Ar-Ras. Very few cars.