A jeep wails at us as we get to the formerly busy checkpoint. It's
closed, we're told by the captain, and it'll remain closed forever, he
adds categorically. And what about the people who live just beyond the
checkpoint? "They," he responds casually, "have to go around, go via
Asira," an area to which Machsomwatch is not "invited."
Today, it's a hot summer day, in 2008, and as we've been told, in a
phone conversation at the end of last week from our friend in Deir
Sharaf, the checkpoint at Shavei Shomron was opened on Saturday. A day
later, we're there, as are a steady stream of Palestinian vehicles,
taxis, private cars, small trucks – non stop, nobody being checked,
just free flowing traffic. Journeys that in the past two years have
taken hours now take fifteen minutes.
Such are the ways of Occupation: Open Sesame! And it's done, gates
opened or closed at the whim of the Occupier.
There's a lone soldier beneath the camouflage netting at the entrance
of the settlement. He has no idea if Israelis are allowed to go beyond
the open gate. As we wonder whether to venture, an older man, looking
like a private security guard, only partially dressed in army
fatigues, but wielding his weapon aggressively, tells us that no
Israelis can cross here, and that, of course, he was here when the
gate was open in the past (making us suspect that he's a member of the
settlement movement perched contentedly at the entry way to the
disengaged communities north of here).
16:00 Beit Iba
Perhaps there's traffic heading directly to Shavei Shomron, making the
flow of people and vehicular traffic much less than usual. The
soldiers are lethargic in the extreme. Yet the lights are on, the
generator humming. What's new here is shouting from the lookout tower
above. One can't see the shouter, presumably on the megaphone that was
recently used by women soldiers at the vehicle checking area, but some
soldier seems to have his eyes trained on those entering the
checkpoint, or those trying to go around it. What is said is far from
clear. But orders are clearly being given, and the noise pierces the
still, hot summer air.
Also new, or possibly we've never observed before: two young men, both
wearing glasses, find that they set off a loud buzz as they pass the
checking portal. Both remove their glasses and place them on the
shelf, with their other possessions. No, that didn't work. The loud,
piercing buzz goes off again. The culprit: a belt which is hidden from
view, but not from the all seeing electronic eye!
Most of the time, there are seven to eight vehicles, all shapes and
sizes, but as we leave, after an hour or so, the stream of container
and construction trucks, trying to head into Nablus, grows.
The fast lane is usually almost empty, as are the turnstiles with
never more than ten people.
There are some detainees, about whom the commander is reluctant to
talk, and one young man is blindfolded. But as we try to observe more
closely, a soldier unties the blindfold, hands him his ID and before
we can talk further with the young man, he's headed on his way, in the
direction he wanted to go in originally.
Note: Nighttime in Nablus.
The Huwwash brothers tell of a horrifying, but sadly typical, tale.
Last Monday, at 02:00, in other words, in the middle of
the night, a group of about ten soldiers, all wearing facemasks,
burst into their home. Open Sesame! They enter, shoot all over the
place, turn it upside down, frightening children, and take the four
brothers, together with a number of young men picked up on the street,
blindfolded and handcuffed them (the wrists are still visibly cut
into). Many hours after, having been dragged from one DCO office to
another, having checked into everything, they are released and an
apology given! Hard to believe, but true. The boys, two of them, are
back at work, one of them is, as he says, as usual, stopped and
checked as he goes through Beit Iba on his way home, (something we
witness), and this, he tells us, happens twice a day, on the way to
work and the way home.
This is no fantasy, no modern Arabian Nights. This is the reality of