Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tue 27.5.08, Morning
At 06:40 a few workers are still arriving and they cross without delay. Two buses with relatives of prisoners are already waiting in the parking lot. Everyone has disembarked and all await inspection. A minor marketplace is evolving. On our return at 09:35 we see the five buses just leaving the checkpoint to the prisons, escorted by the military police.
The difficulties will arise on the return journey - when the workers and the visiting families will all be crossing at the same time. Palestinians have been complaining of this. When will the new inspection counters be completed at last?
All the road blocks are in place, and either yesterday of earlier today the bulldozers have been busy here - piling new dirt mounds and stones wherever an opening appeared (they're not at their usual parking position in Har Manoah).
Durah al-Fawwar - Traffic is flowing and the pillbox is manned. Since the Sheep Junction has been opened to traffic many more Palestinian vehicles, notably cabs, are seen on highway 60. There's a rolling checkpoint between Durah al-Fawwar and Beit Hagai and one car is stopped for five minutes.
The Sheep Junction - The pillbox is manned and the traffic is flowing. An army jeep is parked by the eastern entrance to Bnei Na'im. The soldiers are in the vehicle and there are no detainees.
Shuyuch-Hebron - At the Girls' School stands a border police jeep with constable A' and two friends. Four Palestinian minibuses with at least fifteen passengers each are detained. The Palestinians claim they've been waiting an hour. A', his identity tag folded hiding his full name, tries to force us away claiming that we are obstructing him in the performance of his duties.
To say it bluntly I "don't give a damn", I ignore him, and move towards the Palestinians to see and hear what is going on. At the same time I call the public complaint bureau of the border police to give them identifying details of the jeep and complain that the identity tag of the constables are indecipherable, which should not be the case if they are indeed on official duty. Meanwhile A' is talking on his wireless and is obviously being told that he cannot throw us out of there. He gets fidgety and lets one minibus load go and then a second. At this point I decide to give him a break in the hope that that would accelerate the release of the other minibuses. I cross to the other side of the road to the cab drivers who brought me some mulberries (I asked them to last week - wonderful fruit - warmly recommended). And sure enough another minibus is sent on its way.
We went back to the jeep to talk to A' - who has in the meantime removed his tag so that the name can be seen - he explains that it's all a matter of the orders he receives. We repeat the questions - why so many vehicles stopped at the same time, and why hassle people and how does that enhance security? He listens quietly and suddenly instructs the minibus passengers to shut the vehicle's back door. It's hot, at least 25 degrees, so why wait for clearance in a closed vehicle? This really annoyed us so we went to the minibus, opened the back door and sat by it. When, lo and behold - A' calls the driver, hands him all the documents and everyone is free to leave. We left too.
On the road that slopes down from the disputed house towards the Cave of the Patriarchs stands a military jeep, and soldiers in pairs are stationed along the road with guns at the ready. This is the daily intimidation the schoolchildren must bear to get to school - that's how we fight terrorism. The settlers are as placid as ever. A constant ill wind blows in H2 region of Hebron.
By the pharmacy junction I see a congregation of boys. It made us uneasy. Such an assembly so often bodes ill. But it turned out to be an innocent crowd - the janitor of the Boys School took a group of pupils to get rolls for the end of year celebration. "All is well". Each bag of rolls is inspected, the horror of occupation. Pupils' schoolbags still get sporadically inspected, even first years', but much less than formerly.
Tarpat Junction - No detainees.
Tel-Rumeida - Inspection of everyone who crosses the checkpoint.
Cave of the Patriarchs Checkpoint - One detainee is passing the time of day with the constables. They promise us that he'll be released immediately and he too gestures to us not to intervene. By the toilets we receive the regular ration of swearing - "traitor" etc.
The Disputed House - There are no detainees. Bassam's grocery is shut.
How fortunate we are to have somewhere to go back to.