'Azzun, Beit Amin, Habla
Two agricultural checkpoints
6.25 Habla-1393. Cold and dark. We hear from the Palestinians that the gate that was supposed to open at 6.00 opened at 6.15. Groups of five pass one after the other. A soldier claims that the gate was supposed to open only at 6.15.
(I spoke this morning with V. of the DCO who promised, for the thousandth time, to fax me the updated hours.) A woman from Ras Atiya who had crossed and was waiting for transport tells us that she works in farming, her teacher husband earns only 2,000 shekels, they have three children and she has to help increase the family earnings. For years she worked in Kfar Saba and speaks Hebrew. The important thing for her is her children’s education and so three children are her limit. Her brother has cancer and is being treated in Israel.
A truck comes out, as well as two wagons hitched to donkeys, three private motorcars, two tenders with saplings, and scores of pedestrians. Entering are three Palestinians on a cart pulled by a donkey. From the direction of Hable one can still see a long queue.
7.05 We leave so as to reach Bet Amin-1447 in time, as it is supposed to open at 7.45.
8.00 Both vehicles and pedestrians are already waiting on the opposite side of the gate.
7.45 No sign of the army. I phone the DCO. They are checking.
8.00 Another phone-call to the DCO. Why don’t they open the gate? After all, it takes only five minutes to get here from Habla.
8.05 An army vehicle arrives with four soldiers whose job it is to make a tour of the area, and check the route before opening the checkpoints. They immediately turn to us. We are not permitted to be here. We tell them about MachsomWatch (which they have never heard of), they worry about our safety and we tell them about our visits to villages and the warm reception we get there and that there is no need to worry about us. Phone calls to headquarters and then they again turn to us: You don’t have permission to be here and we are ordered to move you away from here, this is a military area, near to the road where there could be an explosion, etc. Meanwhile a military police car arrives.
8.07 The gate is opened. First to exit is a woman whose story we have heard on previous visits. We drive her to her plot, some six km away. She has today hired a tractor to spray her 40 dunams.
About 16 people came through. Three vehicles take the Palestinians to their lands in the Oranit area. Today is an easy one for the farmers – they are lucky in having vehicles.
And once again the request – if they could only open gate no.1473 opposite the square at the entrance to Oranit, the farmers could reach their fields easily, without the long trudge on foot.
Some happy ones got lifts. Behind them was gate 1473, unopened. If it were opened it would make things easier for people from Azzun Atma and Siniriya.
8.30 We leave and drive to Azzun to meet Palestinians whom Liora is supposed to meet and have them sign documents – on behalf of Sylvia’s team.
8.50 Sha’ar Shomron checkpoint. The traffic flows in both directions. In the carpark are four cars to be checked. At the entrance to Azzun the army jeep is in a new place – looking out across the road.
10.30 Habla. In A’s nursery. Purchases, tea, and lots of stories. Yesterday at the checkpoint they arrested his worker, who was loading food for his sheep and chickens. They turned him back because they claimed that this was a commercial quantity. “I was in Nablus when I got this irritating phone call. I think these things damage me both physically and in spirit.” He claims that the soldiers and military police open the gates late and close them early. The pressure to get there on time raises his blood pressure, he says.
On a day of closure (Purim) 4,200 chickens died in a friend’s coops. They were in a sort of warm chamber that was supposed to protect them from cold and wind, but were without water because of the closure.
The damage caused by closure is enormous. A. and his worker crossed only at 18.00 and were forced to remain in the nursery overnight to look after and feed the animals.
“They talk to us as if we’re dirt, without pity, just humiliation, but I believe that the occupation won’t last forever. One day they’ll be judged, Insh’Allah.”
מול הכיכר בכניסה לאורנית