'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), Wed 20.8.08, Afternoon
16:50 – As we arrive at Ar-Ras checkpoint, we see a pickup truck after which there is a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with sand. Five Palestinians are standing waiting in the sun.
We approach the soldier in the inspection post and ask for explanation. The checkpoint commander tells us that the Palestinians have no permit to pass with the vehicle to Jubara because the tires on the wheels are marked as IDF property. They have turned to the company commander and now they are waiting for him to come and decide what to do.
We approach the Palestinians. The pick-up owner (a devout Muslim, wearing a long dress) tells us that he has hired the tractor in order to transfer sand needed for the completion of the building of the mosque. He claims that they have been waiting here since 14:00, nearly 3 hours, but now he "must" actually be in the mosque to pray.
The people that are with him are the tractor driver, his assistant and two of the village residents who help to load and unload the sand. Altogether, five frustrated Palestinians getting dry in the heat of the sun.
17:10 – Although the soldier says that the company commander is on his way here, we and the Palestinians lose our patience. Tami calls the DCO [District Coordination Office] to ask them to make sure that the company commander really comes. A few minutes later we get an answer from the DCO saying that they have tracked him down and that he really is on his way here…We just have to keep on waiting.
In the meantime, the Palestinians show us the worn out tires that the army probably threw dumped long time ago. The tractor owner says that an Israeli from the settlement of Sal'it sold him the tires for IS 50.00 each. A new tire, such as this one may cost, according to him, at least IS 500.00, which he doesn't have. We take a look at the tires. Not only are they junk that saw better day long time ago, but in order to see the IDF marking on them, one has to rub them really hard. However, a law is a law!
Taking advantage of the fact that there is someone listening to him, the pick-up truck owner complains that they actually live in a prison. He passes here every day and each time problems come up. All he wants now is to bring the sand to the mosque and then go to pray. What do they want him to do? He has no connections to the tractor and its tires. He has hired it to transfer the sand and now he is stuck here, unable to go back to the village and pray.
While Tami is on the phone trying to find help, a military jeep is finally seen from afar.
17:30 – The company commander arrives. The soldiers tell him that they have found IDF stolen property and he immediately starts checking. He rubs the tires and takes a picture of each of them. Then he congratulates the soldiers for being alert and discovering the traces of the stolen property that are so hard to see. "However", he says, "it's the police business, not mine…"
Surprisingly, a police car suddenly arrives. It's not quite clear who sent for it. A policeman who seems to be nice gets out of the car and listens to both sides. The soldiers tell him about the tires marked IDF property and the owner of the tractor tells him his story claiming he is innocent because he bought the allegedly stolen merchandise from an Israeli, a resident of Sal'it. The policeman wishes to talk to the Israeli from Sal'it and the Palestinian calls him and hands the phone over to the policeman. We have no idea what is agreed between them. In the meantime, I talk to the company commander and suggest that he let the devout pick-up truck owner pass with the tractor and transfer the sand to the mosque (so that he can also pray), and when the tractor comes back empty, the police will deal with it. He agrees and the matter is almost settled, but then the policeman (who checks everything) finds out that the tractor driver has no driving licence …/ A law is a law and there is no way he can be allowed to continue driving the tractor. The policeman asks if any of them has a driving licence for tractor. One of the Palestinians says he has one. But then it turns out that he has no entry permit to Jubara since he is not a resident of the village … (The village of Jubara is located on the seam-line – between the Green Line and the fence separating between the West Bank and Israel. Palestinians who are not Jubara residents are barred from entering the village, unless they have special permit. Only Jubara residents can enter and leave as they wish when they show a residence card.)
At the moment the situation is: There is a tractor with an entry permit to the village (because of the Muslim who is the village resident) whose tires are marked IDF property and are, therefore, considered stolen property, which is why it cannot be allowed to go on. There is also a driver with a driving licence for a tractor who has no entry permit to the village. The whole problem is a matter of a half a kilometer drive, barely, and on foot it takes 5 minutes. This is the distance that the tractor and its driver are not allowed to pass, as it is unthinkable to make light of the IDF and the traffic laws.
The company commander demonstrates resourcefulness. He asks the Palestinians if any of them can drive and also has an entry permit to Jubara. There is one! The volunteer comes gladly forward, but then it turns out that though he has an entry permit to Jubara and also knows how to drive a tractor, he has no licence for driving a tractor … so it's back to square one: There is a driver with a driving licence for a tractor but has no entry permit to Jubara, and there is a tractor driver who has an entry permit to Jubara but has no driving licence for a tractor. And let us not forget (even if others later will): There is a tractor with IDF tires, loaded with sand that should be transferred to the village but it is not allowed to move anywhere.
What can be done? The policeman finds a solution. He asks the Palestinian to call someone who is the village resident and has a driving licence for a tractor and ask him to come here.
While the issue is discussed and checked, Tami talks with the company commander and, while talking, finds out something interesting: It turns out that he wrote a thesis for the university, the subject of which was MachsomWatch Organization, under the guidance of Hanna Berg, a dear friend of ours. As a result of this revelation, we are really his friends now. He seems to be very impressed when Tami tells him that she served in the "Palmah" [the striking force of the Haganah which was a voluntary, Jewish, self-defense organization during the British Mandate] and took part in the War of Independence. When Tami doesn't stop here and tells him also that my name is Dalia Golomb, he even knows – hard to believe – that Eliyahu Golomb was somebody from the Haganah … He appreciates our work very much and thinks that it is necessary to explain to the soldiers who we really are …
We return to the problem of the sand transfer to the mosque and the release of all the people involved. Eventually, a person who meets all the demands has been found over the phone: a resident of the village (has the right to enter the village), licensed to drive a tractor. Great! He promises to get here right away. Is the problem really going to be solved?
18:00 – The licensed tractor driver, a Jubara resident, arrives. What remains is the problem of the tractor itself, which is not allowed to move because of the IDF tires …
Our friend, the company commander decides that he himself will go with the tractor and its owner to the mosque in Jubara and after the sand is unloaded, will come back with the empty tractor to Ar-Ras checkpoint. After that, it's the problem of the police.
We all set out: the tractor and the pick-up truck to Jubara, the police car – on its way and we to our car. On our way to the car, we say good-bye to the tractor owner who is waiting for them at the checkpoint to come back. He asks us what he is supposed to do when they come back. Tami asks him in return if he has been told what to do, and his answer is he hasn't.
Tami tells him to go home and gives him her phone number in case there are problems. He doesn't call.