Sunday AM, 30.12.07
06:55 Bethlehem CP: Many people outside, even more waiting inside. 5 booths open, but one at least had computer problems, and crossing is slow. On the Palestinian side: The gate opened at 05:00, then closed at 05:30 for half an hour at least, and this continued on and off, hence the crowding. The CO said he couldn't do anything about it. So, many workers were going to be late for work, the hours subtracted from their pay. Many probably just went back home, since it doesn't pay to be late.
08:45 Ezyon DCL: Many people ask our advice, but not many petitioners. The waiting room was one-fifth full, the weather outside was beautiful and as we stood there enjoying the sun, many people came up to us as if we were an information service. We tried to do the best we could.
Tuesday PM, 1.1.08
Bethlehem CP. We boarded bus 163 to Rachel's tomb. The bus winds around the wall, which blocks all views. Rachel's is like a fortress, in view of 3 gigantic watch towers. Inside, all the windows are shaded so one cannot even look outside. One feels entrapped in a darkened corridor. There were about 50 people visiting while we were there, in addition to an army unit stationed in the area, on an educational tour. A BP would not allow us outside the Tomb area, for fear of snipers.
Wednesday PM, 2.1.08
Even though it is a few days after the murder of the 2 soldiers from Qiryat Arba, there is no military presence to speak of on route 60. Last Wednesday at the same time the road was replete with military vehicles.
Ezyon DCL, 15:30: A few people waiting for their various papers. They did not seem to need or want our help. Nobody was manning the police window. One Palestinian told us the window is only manned on Sundays, but we are not sure this is so. A sign in Hebrew and English said there would be no police services tomorrow, 3.1.08, and the window would reopen on Sunday at 11am. But at 3:30pm today there were none either. Nor magnetic card services. "Go away, come tomorrow", said the soldier at the turnstile window to a waiting Palestinian, who meekly left. "Why are you closed at 3:30?", we asked. "Because there are no soldiers around". "Why are there no soldiers around?", we asked. "I'm not allowed to talk to you", ended the conversation.
There are many signs, mostly in Arabic, all over the DCL walls. One says that the opening hours are 9:00-17:00. Another, which we couldn't read, says: 8:00-16:30, and underneath, 8:30-17:30. The telephone number prominently displayed in the large poster does not answer. Not today. Not last week. Not ever.
Bethlehem CP: 2 long and orderly lines stretch from the street and into the CP. A civilian guard, dressed just like a soldier, lets people in 5 at a time. 5 booths are open, and passage is smooth and swift. We timed passage from arrival to crossing at 10 minutes. A bus was entering Bethlehem from the vehicle CP. It had "TAGLIT" written on it. We wondered who the passengers were.
Thursday AM, 3.1.08, 05:30-07:00
Bethlehem CP, Israeli side. A woman soldier in the second window, talks all the time on her cell phone, and is rude to the Palestinians. 5 windows open, and no pressure. On the other side we rely on others' reports. The CP opened at 5:00 and at 6am an official opened an additional window.
Abu Dis Area
Monday AM, 31.12.07
06:30 There are other places besides CPs where BP and Police check Palestinians coming to work in Jerusalem. The largest group is usually at the junction of Route 1, Prophets st. and the parking lot of Nablus road. We walk around there, talking to the workers. Most seem to have permits or blue IDs.
07:30 Container CP. Some yellow mini busses are being checked. It is fast, and no one seems perturbed anymore. Most cars are not stopped. A tractor which traveled without "permission" from the soldiers, is called back, and told to wait, to teach him the rules of the game around here. Our intervention fails.
Monday PM, 31.12.07, 14:00-18:00
Sheikh Saed. We went to mean a woman with a blue ID and a man with a green ID who had been told yesterday that they would be allowed to enter the village, but not to exit. The BP in charge said he had to call for permission to let us in, which took a while. The intricacies of the problems facing those residents were explained in great detail. The woman, a teacher in Jebel Mukaber, needs 1.5 hours to get to work in the morning, because every permit is being scrupulously checked. She and the children leave their homes at 06:30 to wait in line (rain and shine) to exit and board their school bus; including children with special needs and on crutches. A white scooter bike serves as the local ambulance. It belongs to one of the blue ID inhabitants who transports those unable to walk to an ambulance, which is not allowed to enter. One man had died after a heart attack while being resuscitated at the CP.
Container CP. Checking is random, but too slow: over 20 minutes to pass by the BP, who were in helmets and flak-jackets. We were told firmly to move away and take cover. The queue of pedestrian workers returning home proceeded rather slowly too, alongside the turnstiles and the magnometers, which were probably out of order.
Tuesday PM, 1.1.08
Approaching Qalandiya from route 443, we were stuck in a long queue caused by the Atarot CP, which is located at a very sensitive spot. Laborers returning from work in Israel to Ramallah must pass here before reaching Qalandiya CP. The BP always discover "illegals" (i.e., workers who reside illegally in Israel, trying to make a day's earnings). Indeed, we saw 3 detainees: 2 young laborers and one middle aged man.The 2 young detainees were waiting for an officer to decide their fate. But we had problems understand why the middle aged man, who was the driver of a car with an Israeli license number, was detained. "Please, don't leave me!" he implored. It turns out he is a church administrator and lives in a church in Jerusalem. On the New Year a good friend visited him and asked him for a favor, to fetch his wife and daughter from Atarot. They were indeed in the car, along with the wife's mother, who lacked a permit. Therefore the man was guilty of driving an "illegal"! The soldier had already called for his officer. We were sure he would let them go. But no. The old lady, who almost could not walk and was very lightly dressed, had to leave the car, had to be led by her son-in-law to the BP Jeep and climb into it. We were aghast. The car with the rest of the family was released, but we insisted to know what will happen to the old lady. At last the soldier shouted: "She will be released! They drive her to Qalandiya where she will be released!" The 2 young laborers had to sign a form where they admit to have been illegally in Jerusalem.
Qalandiya CP, 17:10. Rush hour was over and there was a regular flow of people. At the car crossing the traffic was slow. No dogs in action. We lined up at the pedestrians' queue. Only one line was operating and we had to wait 20 minutes. While waiting we heard the instructions of the soldiers from the checking booths. "Jacket fil machina", "Wahad, wahad" "Hey, you, go back to the metal detector", "What about the belt?" Basically Hebrew with several Arabic words. It was difficult to understand.
Thursday AM, 3.1.08
06.35 Anata. Traffic flows, random checking, no children (why?). 2 detained women are thoroughly checked, including physical touching by a woman soldier. They bypassed the CP, and will be taken for interrogation.
07.20 Lille. A line of 20 cars, moving quickly. We are told that since last week, no Israeli may go through that segment of road, which is area A, because 2 weeks ago an Israeli driver was stoned there. The irony is that at the other end of that road there was no soldier to stop Israelis going in the other direction.
07.50 Qalandiya. In spite of the late hour there was a huge crowd at the external turnstiles. However, within less than 10 minutes everyone passed. Vehicles moved slowly but steadily. A civilian guard stood by with a dog.
Sunday, 30.12.07, PM
16:00–17:45, Beit Furiq. We rushed there after repeated phone calls of drivers waiting to exit Nablus for over 3 hours. They tell us about 40 vehicles are waiting in line, and the line does not move. They just stand there and wait. 5 cars coming from Beit Furiq Nablus-bound; the end of the waiting line of cars exiting Nablus is far out of our eyes' reach. Two soldiers check vehicles on the one lane, two soldiers check the pedestrians on the other vehicle lane. Pedestrian passage is rather swift.
Vehicles coming into Nablus from Beit Furiq are being checked at about 5 minutes per car. After 10 minutes, the soldiers turn to check cars exiting Nablus. Checking time per car is 4-7 minutes. Simple optimistic arithmetic – hoping the soldiers work swiftly – 4 minutes times 50 cars = 3 hours and 20 minutes for the cars already waiting. This is the best-case scenario. We kept calling the DCL, who promised to help but… 16:25. Two army vehicles arrive. Help? No.
Door thrown open and 3 young men from Beit Furiq are taken out (18-19 years old), heir hands plastic-cuffed behind their backs, and blindfolded. All checks cease until all soldiers have stared at them from up close. The three, "documented as stone-throwers" are seated aggressively inside the detainee pen, one in every corner, on the floor, though there is a bench there that could seat them all. After 5 minutes another vehicle arrives. Two senior officers look around and ask "Why isn't another lane opened?"
16:40. Cuffs and blindfolds removed.
16:45. Finally, vehicles are checked in both lanes. The two officers join the checking forces and the pace is doubled and even tripled. Another 50 minutes and the line from this direction is gone.
17:15. It gets dark and very cold. The car from Beit Furiq waiting to go into Nablus has already been waiting for an hour as first in line.
17:20. The officers leave. Soldiers check cars from Beit Furiq. The time has doubled again.
17:30. The detainees wait for the police. The freezing concrete chases them off to seek seating on the bench but when the soldier nearby notices that, he sends them back to sit on the concrete floor. And again and again. On our way home, a mother of one the boys will phone us and tell us she brought them coats and blankets but the checkpoint commander would not let her pass them to the boys.
Pedestrians report about 20 vehicles still waiting to exit Nablus. We count another 7 waiting to enter from Beit Furiq. The policy has blurred us too and we run out of the presence of mind required to calculate how much longer people in both directions will have to wait until they may get home.
Sunday, 30.12.07, PM
14:20, Beit Iba. Three detainees. The commander, Y., tells us that two of them were caught trying to go round the checkpoint; one is wanted by the GSS (General Security Service). A few minutes later, one of the men is released. A long line of young men coming from Nablus are buzzed through 1-2 at a time. They are made to put everything on a table or on a board by the newly installed magnometer. Their pockets are turned out, everything manhandled, the soldiers taking everything out of briefcases and backpacks themselves. Next, the Palestinians pass through the magnometer, but then have to return for their things.
15:00. No checking at all for pedestrians coming from Deir Sharaf. On the other hand, the humanitarian line from Nablus is long, and the soldier checks them thoroughly and in desultory fashion.
Sunday, 30.12.07, PM
15:00, Zaatara (Tapuach) Junction. Empty of vehicles.
In Huwwara market people report that recently, late on various nights, a colonist arrives in his pickup truck and throws havoc, smashing car windshields and windows of local businesses. People have appealed to the Border Patrol men that frequent the town who said they'd look into it and didn't do a thing.
Yitzhar Junction. Unmanned. On our way back it is manned, keeping nearly 30 cars waiting in line.
15:15, Huwwara. A detainee held in the concrete cell, his hands cuffed behind his back, waiting for GSS (General Security Service) interrogation. Three checking posts active. The humanitarian line proceeds rapidly. Soldiers are busy mainly fighting the bitter cold with loud, unceasing joking, playing around and merrymaking. Pedestrian traffic is slighter than usual at this time of day.
Vehicles entering Nablus accumulate and some of the time are even inspected, unlike the usual routine.
Two young men tell us they were caught working in Israel and taken for interrogation. There policemen confiscated a cellular phone of one of the two men, an act later denied. They were both handcuffed, and at their release, the policemen couldn't open the metal cuffs of one of them with the key, and had to cut the chain open. The two were then taken to the Kfar Qassem CP (Shaarei Shomron) and had to proceed on foot, without any money, and one of them with a steel cuff on each wrist… The CP emptied nearly completely by 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, 3.1.08, PM
15:00–16:40, Beit Iba. The CP is practically empty. Last night there was an Israeli military maneuver in Nablus. We are told by a friend who lives in Nablus that there is a curfew in some parts of the city.
Eleven vehicles are on line to Nablus, five from Nablus; there are very few pedestrians. The humanitarian line is open. Later on, when workers are returning home, there is a special booth opened for the incoming pedestrians to be checked.
Sunday, 30.12.07, PM
13:05, Qalqilya. All vehicles, about eight in line, Israeli as well as Palestinian, stream through speedily.
15:30, Anabta. From Tulkarm, the line of vehicles is endless; we can count no further than 25. Cars are checked sporadically. Most cars with Israeli plates speed by, and IDs are also indiscriminately checked. Minibuses or semitrailers seem to be stopped at random, both peered into. Pedestrians on their way to Tulkarm, line up, automatically, along the concrete walkways provided.
Gate 753. It’s busy here as people go in and out of the village, and each vehicle and pedestrian is checked.
Thursday, 3.1.08, PM
14:00, Jubara village. We enter by opening the gate – this is forbidden to the villagers themselves, who can only go through the Children’s Gate. Donkey driven wagons seem to be the most prevalent mode of transportation in Jubara, other then walking.
Ar-Ras. Change of guard, and the soldiers start some kind of combat exercise. While this is going on, the number of cars from Tulkarm is lining up. Vehicles coming from Qalqilya are not stopped and pass through freely.
14:22. The combat exercise is completed, the change of guard is over, and the checking of vehicles starts again. Only one vehicle is stopped to be checked thoroughly. The other vehicles are stopped just to ask where they are going and are then waved on.
Sunday AM, 30.12.07, 06:30-9:15
Sansana (Meitar) CP, 06:40 The Palestinians complained about Friday PM opening hours. The CP closes at 13:00, and afterwards they must get home via Tarqumia. Those that want to work in Israel on Saturdays cannot, because the CP is closed. About 100 workers waiting outside the turnstile, 20 more in the passage leading in. 10 minutes after we arrived the queue began to move. At 07:10 it was nearly gone, but new groups of workers were still arriving. A new whim of the checkers: No one carrying a bag is allowed through. One worker is sent back, because he is carrying an airline bag. The workers told us others had already gone home, after being denied passage. "Can't we bring work clothes with us?" It turned out that this was an unauthorized local initiative, and it was reversed.
Route 35. Is it no longer an apartheid road? We saw several private Palestinian cars on route 35 (as on route 60)
Thursday AM, 3.1.08
06:00. Tarqumiya - Many workers in line, even extending outside the covered area. No delays. The workers reported that they waited 15-30 minutes.