Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 12.2.08, Morning
Translation: Rachel B.
At the order of the Regional Command there is a segregation (lwdyb) today pertaining to the checkpoints at Tul Karem, Jenin, and Za'tara (Tapu'ach Junction). Men ages 16-35 are not allowed to go through at all.
The weather is very stormy with a pouring rain. Along Road #5, where Palestinians are allowed to stand, workers are waiting for cars to pick them up to go to their daily jobs heading east into the West Bank. Across from it, on the same road at the Ariel Junction, there is a long line of cars. These are residents of Ariel heading in the opposite direction: west towards the center of Israel! There is a traffic jam at the junction. It is 6:30 AM . A policeman is energetically directing the heavy traffic. We await instructions from the policeman. Later, in the direction heading towards the Junction, there is an impromptu checkpoint manned by a Jeep, a Hummer and two soldiers, which stops the traffic.
Za'tara Junction (Tapu'ach): 6:45 AM
There is a Reserve unit stationed here. The junction is crowded with many cars coming from the north. A van full of passengers is checked and one of them, a 27 year old man who works for the UN, is asked to get out of the car. He doesn't understand why . Just a couple of minutes ago he passed through the checkpoint at Huwwara and everything was fine. The checkpoint commander tries to explain to him about the segregation but is unsuccessful. He has no choice and leaves. The commander calls him back and asks him to pay the van driver his fare. Very confused but restrained, the young man tries to find another way to get to his job in Ramallah. He asks if he may switch to a UN vehicle . The commander does not allow it. segregation is segregation!
I asked the Palestinian man if he understood why he was taken off the van and he said "no." I tried to explain it to him. He asks why there is a segregation and how will he know when and where he can get through, or if he won't. Who announces this? How do you know about it?
When he went through the checkpoint at Huwwara at 6:20 AM he wasn't told anything about this special situation, not even a hint. There was no warning that there was a segregation order in effect in Za'tara and that he won't be allowed to go through. The segregation order (evidently) starts in Za'tara and is no in effect at Huwwara! We were learning the same lesson... Since we were heading to Huwwara from there, we offered him a ride back with us, since the rain was not taking the travelers into consideration.
At the same spot (there was) a bus on its way to Ramallah. A quick check revealed that there were 8 passengers on the bus in the excluded age group (16-35). All 8 of them were asked to disembark from the bus into the pouring rain. Among them was a 30 year old lawyer who told us that he has a very important hearing at the court in Ramallah and that the judge will certainly not understand that he is stuck at the checkpoint! All his phone calls to various functionaries did not help, including calls to the District Coordinating Office. This is an order of the Regional Command and there is nothing to be done. Nevertheless, given the dire situation, we asked again and again and the checkpoint commander, who investigated this along his own channels of command, finally let him go through.
So, one person got through and all the others were left behind not knowing where to take cover from the heavy rain. The soldiers stood at the checkpoint under all kinds of ponchos, jackets and in rubber boots. The line of cars kept getting longer.
Across from the checkpoint in a cement building were two female settlers, taking cover from the rain. They were waiting for a ride. The scene was interesting. I went into the building, mostly in order to protect the camera from the rain, and following me - with my encouragement - the young men (who had been taken off the bus). The women settlers were beside themselves. So much so that they preferred to stand outside, exposed to the downpour, just so as not to come too close to the unfamiliar Palestinians. If it were not for our intervention, a Palestinian would never dare come into this place - it's the settlers' place. That's where they normally stand, well protected on their way back and forth between settlements - all across the West Bank.
A vegetable peddler from Salfit, whose ID card lists Beit Dajahn as his residence, gets stuck at Za'tara. He is not permitted to go through. At the District Coordination Office they promise to send someone over quickly (to investigate the problem).
8:15 AM. On the way to Beit Furik we stop at the Nablus District Coordination Office, but it was not open yet. It only opens at 8:30 AM. There are some people waiting under the overhang. On the side of the road there is a family - a young mother carrying a 4 month old baby girl well wrapped in a warm blanket. The baby has liver function problems and they have an appointment at Hadassah Hospital (in Jerusalem). The mother is accompanied by an older child and her worried parents. The whole entourage is waiting for a permit from the District Coordination Office, a permit that was arranged by the Peres Center. A phone call to the District Coordination Office brings Captain R.out of the building. He calls the family to go inside. Later, at 10:30, we meet them at the Huwwara checkpoint, smiling and continuing on their way to the hospital.
Awarta Junction: 830 AM
A Jeep and a Hummer at an impromptu checkpoint.
There are a few people at the checkpoint. In the parking lot there is a line of 10 cars waiting with several passengers who occasionally cross the street and enter the checkpoint. They get checked and pass through (or not) to Nablus. The checkpoint commander approaches us and makes it clear that we are not to go past the white line. Again the white line. It was very important for him to demand that we not cross it.
It was not a simple matter. In response to my objection that the white line is so far from the turnstiles inside the checkpoint that you need binoculars to see what's going on, he pulled the usual trick: the threat of "collective punishment." - if we cross the white line they will completely stop checking people through. He declares the area a closed military zone and announces that he has summoned the police. The checkpoint starts to fill up with people. The soldiers gather at the corners of the checkpoint to pass the time. "You cross the line - we won't let anyone through." After a while we left the area and people started to go through.
At 9:30 AM on the way back we see a Hummer at the entrance to Itamar (a settlement).
Huwwara: 9:40 AM
The checkpoint is almost empty. The parking lot is totally full with taxis. There are many stalls with all kinds of goods - bagels, beverages, sweets, and hot food. A colorful display. Many drivers are calling out their destinations.
The detention holding pen is empty. There are very few people passing through. The X-ray machine position - the scanner - is locked up quickly on account of the rain.
There are two sanitation workers wearing yellow reflective vests marked with "Sanitation Worker." One of them, a resident of Huwwara, tells us that he is responsible for the cleanliness at the checkpoints for Huwwara and Beit Furik. Both of them (employed by???) walk around and collect trash which gathers around the paths of those walking through.
At Huwwara we reported about the segregation at Za'tara.
We left at 10:30 in a pouring rain.