Tuesday AM, 5.2.08
06:30, Bethlehem CP. The regular hell. People reported that the previous day was as bad, also in the afternoon. The crowding at the other side was horrible. A young man, with babe in arms, was standing at the CP entrance. The guards told him to step outside, into the cold. Finally, good sense prevailed, and he was permitted to wait inside. He was not related to the baby - the mother was not able to advance to the head of the line on the Palestinian side because of the crowding, the baby was transferred from hand to hand. It took the mother 50 minutes to join her baby.
Another man holding a sick baby and accompanied by his eleven-year-old daughter asked the guards to open the revolving bar and let him through without having to stand in line. He presented the daughter's birth certificate proving her age, but no -- he could go through with the baby, not the girl. Nothing doing, she had to go back on her own.
One work permit was confiscated, no reason given, as usual. It was still valid for this day; the owner had a new one, valid for the morrow. A work day lost. Two more men were not allowed through as their palm prints were not identified by the computer.
08:00, school children began to come out - they too were going to be late to school.
08:30 there were still about one hundred people waiting on the other side in two lines.
Thursday AM, 7.2.08
Bethlehem CP, 05:30 - 08:15: The CP opened at 5:05. On the Israeli side only 4 windows open, in two of them, digital prints are checked (in one of them, only arbitrarily). The crowding was terrible. At first it took between 6 to 15 minutes to pass. As time went by, more and more people were crowded and confusion ruled. Someone whose magnetic card is valid until 2009, is told by the solider that the validity will end this week; another had entered freely until Tuesday, but from Wednesday he is denied entrance since he is a GSS suspect; someone else claims his employer has paid for his permit, but does not appear on the computer.
Towards 06:55 another window opens, manned by an official to whom we had turned and this could have been done sooner. He sat in a booth the turnstile of which was malfunctioning and then changed places causing extra confusion for the people who had been waiting behind the first window.
There is lack of control, aggression, the Palestinians push, shout, fight. The guards try shouting at them to push them back and when this does not succeed they resort to shoving. The atmosphere is very tense and the order is given to have arms ready. Some try to pass through the unmanned stations. Some succeed, others don't. (Two are caught, detained and interrogated behind the door).
At about 06:50, a man in his 40-50s collapsed. The private security guards called for an ambulance which arrived after 20-25 minutes. According to the medics, the man was not suffering from a heart attack, and a Palestinian ambulance was called. The man was taken after having been laid on the floor about an hour. It seems he collapsed as a result of a broken rib due to the pushing.
There is no humanitarian line: medical staff, women, including pregnant ones and with babies on their arms, old people, all have to wait in the same line. Sometimes, soldiers succeed making way for them first, sometimes not, since other people have been waiting for 3 hours and have to get to work on time. Teachers complain that they never manage to arrive to their first class.
The soldiers are very young, they look inexperienced. They go along according to the book - according to the computer. There are no personal considerations. When ordered to shut windows (as a collective punishment since Palestinians do not keep lines), they do so; when ordered to reopen them, they do so. The official, very uncommunicative takes a long time to meet our request to open another station ("no manpower").
The Private Guards, to our surprise, are the most human. One of them, speaks Arabic, tries to help whoever has a problem. He also does not try to "educate" the Palestinians and asks for extra soldiers to open more windows. The head of the staff himself tells us that the situation created today is dangerous.
The Blue Police and the BP appeared after the man collapsed and were helpful in this case. Regarding the whole situation at the CP, they had only one solution: shouting to stand in lines, close windows when this was not complied with, and reopen them when they saw the collective punishment was not working.
When we left there were still many people waiting to pass. People complained that this whole week had been like this
Abu Dis Area
Wednesday PM, 6.2.08
Sheikh Saed 14:00: Very few pedestrians and as the road is barricaded, there was no motor traffic. One BP and one private security guard were at the CP. A resident returning from work told us that the appeal to the High Court regarding the decision to cage in this section of Jebel Mukaber was postponed again.
Ras Al Amud: At the Moskowitz house we see toys for children in the yard and two men, one on the roof, probably the guard, and the other on a lower roof top. We pass the Cliff Hotel with its broken windows and the ruins of a 7 storey home which had been a 24 apartment building demolished on the grounds that it was built illegally on Church property.
Container, (Wadi Nar) 15:30; A private car was being thoroughly searched and the line consisted of at least twenty five vehicles. The car was pulled over to the side, the driver's ID was taken but returned after five minutes. Traffic flowed relatively quickly. One driver told us that he had waited about 15 minutes which he thought was reasonable.
The arbitrary nature of the searches was obvious. There was one soldier checking although there were two lanes that could have been used. Sometimes he just waved through ten or twelve cars, and then he stopped a transit van for inspection. At 16:00, there was no soldier checking at all, and vehicles drove through keeping up a steady speed.
Workers returning from Maale Adumim or Mishor Adumim were driven to within 100 meters of the CP after which they walked. They were all clearly over 35. They arrived in groups of ten to twenty.
A woman aged about 40 approached us. She wore a cross, western style clothing with jeans and a jacket. She was distressed, pleading for help. She is a single mother of twins now aged 17, a girl and a boy. She is desperate for financial help for her children, and a job for herself.
Wednesday PM, 6.2.08
A-Ram CP With about 40,000 residents, Ar-Ram the largest Palestinian city in North Jerusalem and the educational center for the surrounding villages. The Wall surrounding it leaves only one opening, north to Qalandya CP. A few residents with blue IDs who live between the wall and the A-Ram CP, can cross it, but only if their name is registered at the CP. A few buildings bordering Neve Yaacov, were spared this because they are located on properties belonging to the Vatican. This also benefited the residents of the 5 buildings located in the vicinity. But on the morning of February 5th, the residents of these buildings and the Rosary nuns woke to a new reality: their homes had been cut off from the Jerusalem direct entrance by barbed wire and next morning cement blocks had been added to prevent vehicle crossing. How could they reach work, school, relatives, etc? "Go to the DCO in and get a number". In no case will there be visitors for the residents of these 5 buildings, because they are not registered there as residents.
At the parking lot, next to the barbed wire the soldiers see two suspicious men carrying a suspicious bag which, it turns out, contains tomatoes, onions and some potatoes. While the two male soldiers check the vegetables, the female soldier remains alone by the barbed wire, smiling. The residents show us mountains of garbage that the Jerusalem Municipality doesn't pick up, though they pay full taxes.
Thursday AM, 7.2.08
06.15 a.m. Anata: We had been told of shooting there the previous day and as we arrived, we met the head of the local council who asked whether we had been asked by to come earlier and seemed pleased to know that was indeed the case. He told us that the BP had shot live ammunition at children, as a response to mounting pressure at the CP. He showed us three bullet shells he had collected, and said he was to meet the commanding officer of the BP in the afternoon. When we arrived traffic was still very light but it gradually built up into long lines. There were more than usual BP soldiers and some civil security manning 4 CPs on the two lanes of traffic. Sometimes a busload would be checked in the ‘front' checkpoint and a backlog would build up behind it at the ‘inner' point, resulting in a lot of confusion and frustration. Cars were being thoroughly checked, trunks opened. But a few cars circumvented the checking due to the confusion. One driver thanked us for being there, usually it takes an hour and a half to get thorough, he said,. We did not think that our presence made any difference.
We saw one car kept at the side of the road for about an hour. Its driver approached the checking officer angrily a few times. The tension of impatient drivers and the anger of this driver were palpable. Finally the car drove off, it did not seem to us that any checking took place while the driver was made to wait.
Once past the checkpoints themselves, a terrific traffic jam builds up at the traffic lights.
The young primary schoolchildren seem to leave for school in a first wave. At about 7.30 the high school children (mostly boys) seem to gather. It turned out to be a fight among some boys themselves, one of whom got hurt on his head. The BP quickly came and calmed everyone down. We must point out that the police were particularly attentive to the wounded boy.
08.20 a.m. Qalandiya: The main morning rush was over, though passage at the 4 open gates was rather slow. An unusually small group of prisoners' families (10 people) passed through at 8.30. When the post office, which should have opened at 8.30 had not yet been opened by 8.50, we phoned and as a response the BP officer came to explain that the machine at the designed entrance was broken and the people were invited to go in through entrance no. 4., but no sign was placed to inform people about that option.
From a distance, the traffic passing through the car checkpoint seemed extremely slow.
Sunday, 3.2.08, PM
Huwwara. The day the public heard about Israeli soldiers baring their bottoms in full view of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills and army spokesperson's response was that "the deed was done contrary to the spirit of the IDF", we looked and looked and found not a trace of the "spirit of the IDF" in the closure checkpoints of Nablus. "The spirit of the IDF" certainly was not present amidst the concrete slabs and iron bars and metal fences enclosing thousands of human beings forced to wait for hours and pass through them day-in-day-out at the hands of young male and female soldiers who cannot differentiate between horsing and goofing around and having fun with the guys, and unadulterated vulgarity.
16:00. Long waiting lines. Three checking posts, where two or more soldiers scream ID numbers of everyone throughout the shift, asking and answering everything about checking, as well as personal conversation, in loud, low, racist language that is highly embarrassing (including comments about skin-color of some of the soldiers). The time robbed of Palestinians waiting in line stretches between one hour and two and a half hours.
At the waiting vehicle line, a sniffer-dog and its lady soldier operator instead of the X-ray truck that's missing today. That is why all vehicles exiting Nablus - the rare fortunate who have withstood the tough criteria of the GSS (General Security Service) and the Civil Administration and the Nablus Brigade and the DCO (District Coordination Office) and actually possess the State of Israel's permission to exit Nablus in their own car, the minority thus deemed worthy - stand still waiting for two-three hours until their moment for checking arrives. Passengers are required to disembark a few meters away, and wait. The car approaches the checking post, the driver presents his and the passengers' IDs, and is ordered to open all the doors, through which the dog will enter to find the prize which its mistress will have hidden for it. The X-ray truck being absent, a rickety table has been placed at the spot and packages are opened so that the dog can stick its snout in and sniff. Nylon wrappings of a huge package are torn open for the dog's snout.
17:00. The sniffer-dog ladies packed up and went. We wondered how come security is now suddenly abandoned? Why is the dog a security must until 5 p.m., and afterwards, we are fine without it? Crowding in the shed gets worse. The cold bites to the bone.
18:30. Lines are less crowded now.
On second thought, this was a normal shift. Everything flowed, there were no special events, no flagrantly sadistic harassment, no bottom-baring khaki flashers. Everything was done in the spirit of the IDF and its spokespersons.
17:00--18:00, Beit Furiq. Thin trickle of pedestrians, very long waiting line of vehicles exiting Nablus, but checks themselves are brief. A single checking lane for vehicles, incoming and outgoing both. An inbound truck has been waiting for over half an hour. Another truck driver complains of waiting over an hour already.
17:50. After helpful calls from a DCO officer the soldiers finally restarted the cars still waiting.
Sunday, 3.2.08, PM
13:45, Beit Iba. Not many vehicles in either direction. At the pedestrian checking area, the turnstiles are not functioning. As a result, the confusion at a crucial time when Palestinians return from university or work and the throng of people is greater than ever. It's not surprising that it takes a young man two hours to get through.
An old woman, hobbling with a stick makes her way, past the mass of people in the humanitarian line, and uses the lane that is for those coming from Deir Sharaf. The soldier sends her back to the humanitarian line which she has tried, unsuccessfully to bypass.
In the non-moving lanes behind the turnstiles waiting time is two hours probably for most. It's almost a relief when we spy a change of shift.
14:30. Second Lieutenant Y. arrives with R., the DCO (District Coordination Office) representative. There are 12 men in uniform standing around in a circle, with Y. and R., for a "briefing," given by Y., for at least ten minutes. Gradually, old people, particularly men, start going through the lane which is "open" as the other, younger men, behind the turnstiles, wait in stoic silence. It's a ghastly time, quiet, and nothing moves.
14:45. People have begun to move of their own accord, a soldier goes over from the briefing, shouts at them, is called back by Y. Eventually, both R. and Y. go to the waiting people, telling many they must go through the checkpoint, not the humanitarian line. In the ensuing mess, a number manage to sneak past and go on their non merry way.
Tuesday, 5.2.08, AM
Beit Iba. The entrance line to Nablus moves fast; no checking, it consists mostly of students. The people coming out pass through 2 checking points with turnstiles and magnometers. The "humanitarian" is open. Many soldiers and officers man the checkpoint, and it is run quietly and efficiently.
This is not to say that the magnometers don't beep shrilly, that people don't have to remove their belts and sometimes their shoes then and there, on the cold and dusty concrete. The men come out putting on their belts often wearing angry expressions. With all the improvements of this newly reconstructed checkpoint, nobody thought it necessary to improve the conditions of the Palestinians, not just the soldiers. Whoever compares this to airports doesn't know or doesn't want to know what he's talking about. There it is an inconvenience, here it is humiliation.
Sunday, 3.2.08, PM
12:45, Qalqilya. A steady stream of vehicles in both directions. Checking is random.
15:30, Anabta. Little traffic, no checking. Six pedestrians, making their way through the checkpoint in the direction of Tulkarm, are made to lift up their jackets, pirouette, open their little black plastic bags - and all, for what?
15:15, Gate 753. A line of vehicles. Three soldiers are working slowly.
Tuesday, 5.2.08, AM
06:30--06:45, Qalqilya. Very sparse traffic, hardly any vehicles coming out. Later on we found out that there is a closure on Tulkarm for 15-35-year-olds. Maybe it's valid here as well.
08:15--09:15, Anabta. An endless lines of vehicles on both sides. The soldiers work idly, chat between checks. Cars are checked thoroughly. 15-35-year-olds are sent back to Tulkarm. Arguments ensue, and the lines hardly move. Even when the soldiers start passing people more quickly a bottleneck further away prevents normal movement. Our impression is that we are witnessing bad management of the checkpoint and indifference to the wasted time of the Palestinians.
09:30--10:00, Jubara & Ar-Ras. Quiet. Hardly any traffic, probably due to the closure.
Sunday PM, 3.2.08
A Palestinian man approached us at the seemingly uninhabited houses around the Pharmacy CP and invited us into his house. He lives there with his wife and 4 children for the past two and a half years. On the floor above him lives his cousin with his family.
The neighborhood is almost completely deserted and only a few families still live there. It belongs to the closed area of H2. B.'s house has been occupied by the army until 2005 and the army has left only under the condition that people will move in. Because of its location it is cheaper than houses in other areas. The neighborhood is a spooky ghost town. About 10 particularly ugly concrete wall segments have been put up in order to prevent the residents of the adjacent neighborhoods to sneak in. The main road opens up to Shohada Street and that's why the area is completely blocked. The former facades of the shops are locked. Wherever there are holes to crawl through, the army has laid out barbed wire. It is scary to live in a place where you cannot rely on neighbors to help you in case of emergency. Only the soldiers turn up from time to time and "inspect" the house.
B. is school keeper in H1, Palestinian Hebron. Whenever he and his family return home, they have to pass the CP and are searched. If they need to bring home tableware, cutlery or tools for the house, they have to receive a special permit! The children's school bags are thoroughly examined and this intimidates them. Even children without school bags have to pass through the magnometer. In H2 there are only elementary schools and older children have to walk over to H1.
Guests avoid visiting the family because of the CP. The family leads the life of hermits, isolated and without social contacts. The children have no one to play with and it is too dangerous for them to play on the street. The 7 year old boy has been beaten once by a soldiers and is now frightened to be outdoors.
There are no open neighborhood shops and the vegetable market, where the family can do the shopping is 20 minutes away by foot. No Palestinian car is allowed to enter H2. The products have to be carried home in heavy shopping bags, which are then systematically searched at the CP.
When there are problems with electricity supply, the technicians of the Hebron Municipality have to coordinate their visit with the army. The last snow fall has destroyed many electric cables and it took a couple of days before the technicians could repair them. There is severe water shortage in Hebron and B's house receives water only once in 7 days. When an ambulance is needed, this can be coordinated within one hour.
Monday AM, 4.2.08
6:30 Sansana (Meitar) Crossing. No workers waiting on PA. A few on the Israeli side, waiting for rides to work. There seemed to be more taxis and cars with PA licenses than usual on route 60
7:30 Tarqumia CP. Hundreds of workers were waiting to cross into Israel and there were women waiting on the opposite side of the road to board buses to visit relatives in prison. The Palestinians reported that the previous day there had been many workers waiting to cross with much pushing and shoving. They had heard that someone died as a result of the crowding. The soldiers said no one had died but someone had been hurt and a Red Crescent ambulance had taken him to an area hospital. The Palestinian who sells coffee at the crossing told us that the Palestinian workers had caused whatever problems there were and not the soldiers. All the workers were very anxious to work after several days of not being able to get to work on account of the bad weather.
There were an unusually large number of soldiers at the crossing. Army policemen were manning it. The officer told us that there was to be an inspection later that day. By the time we left 10 minutes later, all the workers had proceeded to the security checking point. A half a dozen women then proceeded to cross it but only after all the men had gone through.
Shuyukh Junction. We talked to a group of 6 men of the Hebron side including a young man who said that the soldiers there hit him both yesterday and today because he did not respond quickly enough to their commands. The men reported that they were kept waiting between on and 3 hours to have their identity cards checked.