Highway of Death | Machsomwatch
אורנית, מהצד הזה של הגדר

Highway of Death

Naomi Benzur

Translation: Naomi Gal

 

A quiz: Where in the world can you find a small village crossed by a central traffic artery?  In the absence of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings hundreds of speeding drivers drive through. The result – many killed and injured among the residents.

Of course it is reasonable to assume that this village is located in one of the underdeveloped countries in the third world. But – surprise, the village by the name of El-Funduk, is just about an hour's drive from Tel Aviv.

 

As we know, Israel is a Hi-Tech state, the most developed among the most advanced Western countries. So how is it possible that such a traffic hazard takes place within its borders?

 

The misfortune of this small village is its location in the center of the West Bank, occupied during the Six Day War. Although Israel is committed to the Geneva Convention by virtue of its membership in the UN, it does not respect the article in this Convention relating to the obligation of an occupying state to the citizens of the occupied area (for the concept of Israeli rule of the West Bank is not as an occupied territory, but as “freed” territory.) So Israel allows herself to avoid handling problems in the occupied territories that are not in its interest.

 

What exactly happens in el-Funduk?

The main street in the small village, the center of its life, serves also as a shopping and businesses center to the nearby villages and the area settlers, who come here to buy goods and services cheaply. Along the narrow street passes Route 55 – a two-way and central traffic artery in the West Bank, for both Palestinians and Israelis.

In the absence of traffic signs regulating the traffic, vehicles travel through at a very high speed. Along the "Highway of Death", as the locals call it, there are no signs to limit speed, no pedestrian crossings, no bumps to slow the traffic, and no margins. Pedestrians, including kindergarten and school children, who try to cross the road, are risking their lives. The result - fatal accidents: four villagers were killed. More than 20 were injured, some of them maimed for life. Only recently an elderly man was seriously injured and later died from his injuries in the hospital. A ten years old boy is in coma, hospitalized for several months already at Beillinson Hospital.

 

So why not install traffic signs in the village, control the traffic and thus stop to the bloody cycle?

There is a problem: since the Palestinian village is located within the C area (fully controlled by the State of Israel), the Palestinian Authority is prevented from acting there. Israel has two operating authorities in the West Bank: the Traffic Police and the Civil Administration, both are supposed to handle such problems. It is logical to assume that those who are supposed to handle the safety and welfare of all residents in the West Bank would also install road signs in the Palestinian village, as they make sure to install them in the settlements. Wrong.

 

Repeated requests from the village council to these entities were rejected. MahsomWatch appealed to the Civil Administration and the response was: "Of course there were road signs, but they were uprooted by metal thieves." The village council rejects this claim vigorously. Stressed and worried, the residents of the village who can hardly make a living, decided to conduct a fundraising and fund their own installation of safeguards. But doing so will require the approval of the authorities, which is not forthcoming.

However, if one day a Jewish settler, not a Palestinian, will be hurt in a road accident, the following scenario is to be expected: armed hilltop youngsters will immediately storm the village to extract a “price tag” and there is no telling what blood-toll will be collected from the "guilty" villagers and what chain of revenge will occur there.

 

Is such a tragic event really necessary to prompt the representatives of the occupying entity to finally grant the village the longed-for-permit for installing traffic signs???