Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Fri 21.3.08, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
Mother's Day in the territories - Id el Um - traffic of families is heavier than usual. Khamsin (hot wind from the desert).
Few cars, two checkpoints are open.
There are very few cars and very few people. When we arrive a sergeant approaches us and politely requests that we direct any questions to him and that we stand on the white line. Great. We have become very grateful when we are permitted to peer from the white line and are not threatened, and the roadblock is not closed...
There is one lorry. Here too the soldiers do not bother to look at us, and that is good.
There are no detainees in the cell. The work is carried out slowly but continuously. The magnometer sounds all the time and sends men back time and again to take off various garments.
Micky Fisher telephones to say that three detainees who are held at Huwwara have called her. They can see us although we cannot see them. They have been detained because they drove on the road from Awarta, which has been forbidden recently, and are being held for three hours. As Micky has been told by the DCO: "It is not a punishment, they are just being held". We find them waiting beside an empty lorry parked by the ‘humanitarian point'. They were told they would be held for three hours and that's what is happening. The phone calls we made to the DCO came up with the same result: "They were driving along a forbidden road"; "They will be held for three hours". We say: "But they didn't know it was forbidden"; "There are no signs up and they always drive along that road". And, just like salespeople who have been through a customer relations course, the DCO gives us a polite and neutralising reply: "We'll see what can be done"; "It is not punishment, they are just being held"; "Quite right, they are not a security risk (otherwise they would be arrested) but these are orders from the Brigade, and we are not allowed to disregard them"; "It's only for three hours..."; "We will look into the matter, perhaps we'll be able to help".
And meanwhile a car has been found at the edge of the car park without any registration plates. The robot sapper is brought in. The car park is closed. The robot rolls up to the car and sniffs around, smashes its windows, looks around and leaves. The drivers say: "What does the army think, that a booby trapped car would be left in a car park used only by Palestinians?" The car is left wrecked after the robot's visit.
A young family arrives at the roadblock: a mother, a few young children and the husband. He is put into the cell. This happens to him several times a week. The soldiers admit it, and indeed, after five minutes, he is released. He goes through the magnometer again, which sounds all the time, mumbling: "Is this a life?"
Into the scene of the robot, the detainees, the khamsin, the children dressed up for the festival in their woollen clothes, a car appears. A white Fiat, registration number 8373663, which parks right in the roadblock. Five Yeshiva students jump out of it, waving large yellow flags, with a tape loudly playing the song "Messiah, messiah, messiah..." They dance and skip like goats in every direction, reaching all points of the roadblock. They rejoice and sing, and give out (perhaps) gifts of sweets to the soldiers. No one stops them, no one claims that they are ‘interfering with the work of the roadblock', no one closes the roadblock down, no one sends them back behind the white line... Orit tries to take photos and one of them yells at her: "Don't photograph us, I'll smash your camera". They cry: "Happy Festival to the soldiers but not to the Arabs!!!" We stand among the Palestinians who say nothing, only gape at them amazed. Indeed, Happy Festival.
We phone the DCO again about the detainees: "They have already been held for two hours perhaps they have been taught enough of a lesson?" "We'll see what we can do", comes the polite answer which shuts us up. They get back to us ten minutes later with good news: "They will soon be released. Correct, they will be released soon.. in an hour's time. After they have waited the full three hours decreed by the Brigade." They really learned a lesson at Huwwara roadblock in the fantasizing and violent company of messianic, racist dancers, a robot which smashes up a parked car, under the boiling hot sun.