Beit Iba, Jit, Shave Shomron, יום א' 11.5.08, אחה"צ
During our shifts in the OPT, we see a lot of humans, but there are also a surprisingly large number of animals that we encounter, making us reflect, today, on animal existence and human activity. As we observed a horse grazing gracefully in the long grass of the quarry’s “paddock”; watched four newly shorn sheep scamper gracefully across the roadway and heard a cock crowing behind the kiosk, we were struck suddenly by that other, opposite meaning of the word animal: the “animal” side of human behavior witnessed at Beit Iba, namely the boorish and brutish behavior of the soldiers.
14:10 Shavei Shomron The gate is closed, unlike last week on Independence Day and on the day following it. A soldier approaches us, telling us that “that gate has been closed for a long while.” Really? He acknowledges that it had been opened last week, “but that was different.” Of course, the soldiers and settlers together managed to get 10,000 settlers to the evacuated settlement of Homesh.
At Deir Sharaf, we learn that Jit Junction, Beit Lid and Deir Sharaf were all closed off on Thursday, from 08:00, and that life was miserable for the Palestinians, for whom, of course, it was a normal day.
15:00 Beit Iba
As soon as we arrive and stand in our normal place, the commander, M., a second lieutenant reservist, approaches and rattles off a lecture about how he’s here for a week, that during that week everybody will do what he wants, that he doesn’t want us to stand where we stand, and that he will proceed to show us where we can stand: back by the water trough at the entrance to the checkpoint where, obviously, we can see nothing. “You bother us at our work” (we have just arrived).
We note that the lines at the two turnstiles are huge, although we can’t get near enough to count. A woman and infant wait and wait at the entry to the checkpoint, as many women do during the course of this shift, waiting for men for whom passage takes from one hour to one and a half hours. The “fast” lane (formerly called “humanitarian” lane) is not fast, M. stands there, gun raised and observes the throng, the DCO representative checks all the shopping bags of the women in it, facilitating little, the two slow lanes hardly move, and the soldiers, probably ten of them, some in the vehicle checking area, hardly work, and instead let the lines grow.
In the vehicle checking area, a number of container trucks, including Zim, P.& O, the inevitable soldier with a dog, sniffing through closed bags, all of them already ripped by the soldiers, on one of the porter’s donkey carts; otherwise not much vehicular traffic. All buses have the young men taken off to join the ranks of the long lines at the turnstiles. Trunks of cars are checked, and cars sometimes turned back from the checkpoint, including a Red Crescent car, forbidding their entry into Nablus.
15:10 -- We’ve gone to the edge of the checking area, behind the area where men redo their belts. “You don’t stand there, go back.” We ask whether he has any idea as to why Machsomwatch is at checkpoints. As he berates us, two other soldiers, again not doing what they should be doing, hang around M. One soldier now whispers into M.’s ear. M. tells us he will call the police.
15:22 -- M. now tells us, interrupting a phone conversation of one of us, that if we don’t leave where we’re standing in the next five minutes, he will close the checkpoint. And with the countdown approaching, four minutes later (we realize his priorities on his watch), he tells us, gratuitously, that there’s one minute to go. “You won’t move, ok, there’s no problem.”
A wild dog runs around above the checkpoint, a beautiful horse grazes, oblivious, in the yellow grasses of the “paddock” surrounding the quarry office, and all is not well below for humans
Meanwhile, the soldier checking people coming from the Deir Sharaf direction, calls continuously, “Go back, go back,” even when only one person passes his muster. There’s a vertical red line painted on the concrete wall at the start of the passageway which is where pedestrians, we learn, are supposed to remain until beckoned. M. knows nothing of a white line (historical memory is evidently nonexistent).
The turnstile lanes are full of people, we can’t tell how many, probably 80 or more, but M. and another soldier both stand around, doing nothing to alleviate the situation. At one point, both confront one of the regular porters, crossing the checkpoint on foot, and demand to see his ID.
15:40 -- A busload of women from Nablus passes, bound for a wedding, we wonder, and they sing and clap and wave at us as they sail through the checkpoint. One of the soldiers tells a waiting man that he can’t stand and wait for somebody, calls M., who proceeds to speak a little Arabic to the man.
15:45 – A blue police jeep arrives and stops in the middle of the checkpoint. A policeman approaches M., seems to be harangued by him and his sidekick, then meanders over to us, “Come on,” he says, “let’s work together.” He asks if we’re bothering the soldiers, while smiling, and we reply it’s the other way around. H., his badge clearly visible, tells us he’s from Qedumim, next suggests we take ourselves off to another checkpoint, for instance, ‘Anabta, his tone is loose, he’s obviously indicating he can’t be bothered with the likes of M. After the police jeep drives off, M. seems to be nowhere in sight.
Only now do we learn, from a passing student, that there are two young men in the detention compound which, of course, we can’t see. We’ve no idea how long they’ve been there, we know only that they need water. The DCO representative, who has been on the phone, sitting within the central checking area for the past half hour, takes the bottle of water, while not getting off the phone. Another six soldiers stand around, drinking water.
15:55 -- A young man, limping badly, leaning on another young man, makes his way haltingly in the passageway meant for people entering Nablus. The fast lane is no fast lane. A soldier approaches them with gun pointed. M. now returns to the stage, confronts the invalid, and both make their painful way towards Deir Sharaf.
16:10 -- M. continues to do nothing to relieve pressure in the turnstile area, sends back a woman and toddler who try the same passageway as the invalid boy, shouting to the others, “Once this starts, there’s no end.”
Two young men stand above the checkpoint, one taking photos, the other bearing a gun. M. strides up the steps, “What’s going on?” he mutters over and over again. Soon, however, he is seen taking off his helmet, pointing out features of the checkpoint landscape to the two. Neither is in uniform, but they soon drive off in a military jeep.
16:20 -- The DCO representative is still seated, still on the phone. People continue to wait, the lines continue to be long as a military policewoman emerges from the central checking booth and joshes M., who joshes her back.
16:30 -- the horse continues to graze, four newly shorn sheep skip across the roadway as we make our way to the kiosk, and a cock crows. A new dawn? Not likely.