Like any other day…
Today, like any other day, any one of the endless days and hours – today too Palestinians at the checkpoints waste away their time. They stand there, suffering this loss of time and dignity. On the one hand, behind the metal turnstiles, men are crowded waiting for their turn to be humiliated with the checks, rummages, inspections and questioning. On the other side of the checkpoint, women and children who have crossed by their special – shorter – side line, wait for the men to come out and join them for their ride home. The women, their eyes seeking their loved ones far inside the waiting lines, sometimes call them on their cellular phones, inquiring "how long do you think it will take you?" Today they stood there for an hour, an hour-and-a-half: a shorter wait than on other days when they might be standing there for two and even three hours. (Huwwara, 15.12.07)
From the road we could already see a larger number of vehicles than usual (on a Friday) waiting to be checked at the exit from the village. At the checkpoint we find a large group of military personnel, many of them officers. They stand in the vehicle checking lane, listening to the checkpoint commander. Obviously the group's visit halts the vehicle checks. The honored soldiers/officers stand there, the cars are prevented from disturbing their business. Why not stand a few yards away and let the cars proceed with their checks? "What's the matter? They can wait a little, what happened?" This is the type of responses we get. True, nothing has happened. The Palestinians sit quietly in their cars, waiting, not honking, not complaining. The gods stand listening there as long as they please, and leave when they please. Everything happens in a kind of obvious calm, the natural order of things. After about a quarter of an hour (we have no idea when this official visit began) the guests walk away and car checks are resumed. Rules of another world, a world in which – in unbearable ease, without the use of force – people are only delayed. "What's wrong with that?"
(Beit Furiq, 14.12.07)
In the field next to the checkpoint, soldiers catch three boys with a donkey-cart full of iron scraps. "Leakers" (bypassing the checkpoint, the waiting lines and the inspections). The boys were not beaten, at least not while we looked on. We photographed. Later it turned out that the three had already been caught earlier bypassing the checkpoint in the same field and had been detained punitively, "by the book" for three hours. After being released, they simply repeated the deed, got caught again and punished again. Our attempts to talk the authorities into softening the "book" were in vain, including our appeals to the army humanitarian hotline. One of the cab drivers stopped us and asked, in all seriousness, "Isn't it a pity, that poor donkey hasn't had any food or water since morning? Tell the soldiers!" (Huwwara, 23.12.07)
Five minutes after we arrived, a large kitchen knife was found in the belt of a 22-year old man. The knife was decorated with a green ribbon, and a nice bow. A real gem! The checkpoint commander walks around with the knife, "trying" to stab himself in the belly, waving it in the air for all to see, getting his picture taken with it. The young man is placed inside the cubicle and the commander summons the police. The cubicle gate remains open but the young man pulls it to him (afraid, perhaps, that someone will grab him out of there.) We hard the soldiers telling that the young man said he came in order to get caught. (Huwwara, 27.12.07)
A endless waiting line stretches on the other side of the checkpoint, out of our field of vision. The soldier in the watchtower occasionally and uneasily reports to the commander the state of the line, and even offers to come down and help out with the checking. The commander refuses and insists on the most meticulous procedures. Each driver stops about ten meters from him (or else loudly ordered to retreat), comes out of the vehicle doing the usual "belly showing pirouette". Then his ID is inspected, as well as his passengers and the contents of his car. Each vehicle takes many minutes to be checked. The same soldiers do the checking in both directions (entering and exiting vehicles), so that one line is alternately halted while the other proceeds at snails pace. (Beit Furiq, 26.12.07)
Short waiting lines in both directions. Full inspection of pedestrians, both in- and outbound from Nablus. An elderly woman heavily proceeds, afraid of the Jews. Her daughter coaxes her to go on and points at our driver, Nadim. "Look what a nice Jews, if only all the Arabs were as nice as he…" A Military Policewoman instructs shopkeepers to empty their plastic bags of clothes down to the last item. Garments are thrown to the ground and into the puddle. The soldier fingers a gesture indicating they continue, on and on. The checkpoint commander keeps us from photographing her on the job, adding sensitively: "She's self-conscious".
(Beit Iba, 2.12.07)
As usual, we parked across the road from the checkpoint, got out of our car and observed the Border Patrol soldiers who – by means of a torch - were directing taxis towards the inner lane for inspections of passenger IDs. About10 minutes later, as we took leave of the soldiers, one of them asked: "That's all?" I answered: "Not enough? What more do you want?" His answer was: "Remove this checkpoint that does nothing but harass the people here." Halleluya!
(Lil checkpoint, 23.12.07)???
Three Hebron Stories
At the Pharmacy Checkpoint, a little boy – about five or six years old – stands staring, frightening, surrounded by armed soldiers. Apparently he was hit by a woman colonist speeding in her car. His father arrived in a hurry, and the police held him up to take his data, there was no one to hug the child. A Palestinian ambulance is not allowed into this area. The child is taken by an Israeli ambulance to Gross Square. Beyond this checkpoint the Palestinian ambulance may take over and deliver the child to Aalia Hospital. What would have happened had this been a colonist child and the speeding driver a Palestinian? But that could not possibly take place, for this is an Apartheid road…
Tarpat Checkpoint – downhill from Tel Romeida, a woman drags herself, severe pains in the legs. She says she is ill and asks for a taxi to take her to the hospital. But….The Apartheid roads and checkpoints make this an impossible mission. She explains she cannot cross the checkpoint because of the stair there which she cannot climb. The soldiers allow her through a side gate and accompany her past the checkpoint, from where a Palestinian aids her to reach a cab.
The Checkpoint in Tel Romeida – Three workmen stand waiting by the Aby Ayisha family workshop. They have come to fix something in the family home above the checkpoint facing the colony. Apparently they are not allowed through – although they are all Hebron residents and are there to fix something. Why? Because apart from the members of the Abu Ayisha family itself, no Hebronite is allowed there and every visit requires a special permit.