In Beit Furik, we were told, the Army chases shepherds away and destroys their temporary tents.
Soldiers unhurriedly set up temporary barriers morning and evening in Beit Furik’s only entrance. Their slow checking of outgoing or incoming inhabitants, after the long queueing at Checkpoint Eyal, exhausts workers returning home from a long day’s work in Israel (50—60% of population).
A month ago, farmers were given 2 days to work the land near Itamar settlement, under Army protection. They will get 2 or 3 days to pick olives.
Itamar settlers come on Fridays to pray at the town entrance, just when the Moslem inhabitants are praying in mosques. Army closes the village till the settlers’prayer is over.
9.30 am. TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS.Though during Pesach Palestinian drivers from the West Bank are not allowed to enter Israel, there was quite a bit of inner traffic.
Near Ma’ale Shomron, the road to Beit Furik was closed till 1 pm in preparation for a march which would start later on. Though the Police didn’t say who would be marching, we assumed with Nadim, that it would probably be the settlers. We had to go back for a long drive to reach Road 505. This meant a big detour, passing Barkan Industries, Ariel, and going through the bumpy streets of Azzun, and other villages, such as Huwarra, whose main street is almost completely renewed; and Awarra.
This long detour showed us how frustrated and tired Palestinians must feel when they’ve been recently subject to similar time-consuming travel restrictions. We had to give up going to Beit Dajan, and visited only Beit Furik.
We were glad to see that the closures in Huwarra and in Awarra had been lifted.
11.00. BEIT FURIK. At the entrance to this town, three big houses stand all belonging to a prosperous developer from Ramallah, which is only 9 kms away.
The town of 14,000 is in Area B, though Israel considers it as Area A.
The head of the Baladia was absent, but instead we enjoyed a long and informative talk with the head of the Financial and Administration Department, X a pleasant and knowledgeable woman.
WORK. Farming, especially olive trees; grazing sheep; working for the Palestinian Authority. And working in Israel—50-60% of the population.
Hannah offered to give a workshop to inform local workers of the rights Israel grants those who work there; and a wife’s rights, whenever her husband the main provider, is unable to work. Our hostess wasn’t sure whether workers would come; but said she would discuss it with the head of the Baladia, since, unlike her, he has authority to decide such matters.
She told us that a Palestinian woman is entitled to 70 days paid holiday after giving birth; and a nursing mother is allowed to go home an hour earlier every day for a year. Hannah told her that in Israel a new mother is entitled to 3 1/2 months paid holiday.
Our visit took place in a room with 5 women: 3 Palestinians (X, her secretary and a nice woman who served us coffee and tea); and the two of us, Israelis (and Nadim, of course). Suddenly, a man came in, looked at us and said that he knew about our organisation Machsom Watch (MW): he remembers seeing as a child many MW members observing the running of the Checkpoint in his city.
Now in spring, shepherds take their herds out to graze in the freshly grown grass and set up tents to spend the cold nights near their animals. The Army, we were told, have been chasing the shepherds away and destroying their temporary tents.
The soldiers come often to Beit Furik, X. told us, in the morning, in the evening, and on Saturdays. They set up barriers, closing the only way in and out of the village. When we left, we saw the heavy blocks which the soldiers move to close/open the village. Whether in the morning or in the evening, X. explained, they do this slowly: when they’ve removed the barrier, they might let half an hour go by without doing anything. Then they slowly check people going out or coming in; sometimes asking a driver to wait on the side to be checked. Thus, X pointed out, workers returning from a long day’s work in Israel, and after enduring the long and taxing queues at Eyal checkpoint (near Qualqilia), have to wait again for another, unhurried checking before they are finally allowed to enter their own town. By the time they get home, it is night and they are exhausted.
ITAMAR SETTLERS’ HARASSMENT
Farmers, we were told, are afraid to farm those of their lands located on the neighbouring hill near Itamar settlement (which people from Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem founded in 1984). With good reason: the site (palsolidarity.org) of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) describes and offers fotos of several aggressive ways in which Itamar settlers—retaliating for Palestinian attacks—harassed such unfortunate farmers in 2011, 2014 and 2015. Particularly mean and cruel was the way they chased with wild hogs a Palestinian woman who was picking her olives alone with her sons, aged 14 and 15. Frightened (for herself and her sons, she said), she fell on rocks while running away and broke both legs, one of them in three places.
Now, we were told, the Israeli and Palestinian DCOs have agreed that such farmers can pick their olives in 2 or 3 days under military protection. This is clearly very insufficient. We told X. that farmers can get extra days, thanks to an Israeli organizaton which sends volunteers to help and accompany them during the autumn olive-harvest. A month ago, X. told us, farmers were “given”2 days to work their lands, under Army protection.
Settlers, we were told, don’t harass farmers if they don’t approach Itamar.
However, X told us, they do upset Palestinians in a new way. Every Friday, at the very hour when Palestinian Moslems are praying in their mosques, Jewish settlers arrive from Itamar, stand near the entrance to Beit Furik and pray. Then the Army closes the barrier and doesn’t let anyone in or out till the prayer is over. Hannah calls this a new version of a Religious War.
Or, as X says: “clearly, they want us to leave our town.”
When we are about to leave, X showed Hannah the last electricity bill the Municipality had received, which included unspecified extra expenses. Hannah offered to take a copy and contact the authorities, to find out exactly what these expenses were.
We thanked X for her hospitality and generous attention and gave her our phone numbers. She promised to call us if she had problems, so we could try to help her.
Finally, a meeting of a different kind brightened our heavy hearts. A group of excited 10-12 year-old girls returning from school greeted us smiling, using their reduced English and gestures to get to know us. When I answered that I am from Tel Aviv, some laughed and said they like Tel Aviv and had enjoyed swimming in the sea there. After so many painful experiences, a note of joy.