Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 31.8.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Tapuach-Zaatara Junction Checkpoint 15:00
About 15 vehicles waiting to be checked, coming from Nablus and Huwwara, southbound.
The shooting post in the middle of the junction roundabout - unmanned.
Huwwara Checkpoint 15:10
From a high post in the entry roundabout to the checkpoint area - a yellow flag flutters in the breeze, at its center a crimson royal crown and the word M E S S I A H.
Checkpoint commander - B., DCO representative - A.
3 active pedestrian checking posts, x-ray truck, sniffer dog+trainer - activated only after 5 pm, when the worse heat is over.
General: large crowd passing through all along our shift.
The special side line for women, children and the elderly is crowded all the time, occasionally large groups are let through more speedily, but the line builds up again very fast.
The young men's waiting lines are very long and crowded, and they go through all the "usual" checking procedures. Average waiting time: about an hour.
An elderly man to us - half saying, half asking: "Why do they do this to us? Tomorrow Ramadan starts, what are we going to do?"
As we arrive, a man turns to us, asking to write down his testimony: He is director of licensing at the Palestinian traffic bureau in Salfit (regional town). This morning he was standing at Za'tara Junction waiting for a taxi about 50 meters from the colonists' hitchhiking station. Three of them approached him and hit him in the abdomen and chin, in full view of the soldiers. He yelled for help and the soldiers approached, so the colonists retreated and began to throw stones at him. He does not wish to lodge an official complaint for fear of the army's reprisal.
In the concrete cubicle: 4 detainees - 3 taxi drivers and another man, who kept getting too close to the checkpoint although ordered to "split". The checkpoint commander says they were detained at 13:30 and their ID numbers reported to GSS for further checking. They will be held until "fully punished", at least three hours.
Near the "humanitarian point" - aka soldiers' latrine behind the vehicle checking area, 2 youngsters are being detained, both from around East Jerusalem. One of them the soldiers suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, finally refuted when the police arrived at 16:20 and questioned him, then let him go. The other is held until after 17:30.
A woman-soldier forbids them to sit on the boulder in the shade. After a while she returns, saying: "Now you may sit." -"So why didn't you let us sit before?"
Her reply: "For reasons I cannot tell you." Later, when one of them wants to light a cigarette, he is ordered to go smoke in the searing sun.
A bus is checked, about 15 minutes. At times two vehicles are checked at once because of the crowded waiting line.
Tomorrow is the beginning of Ramadan, month of fasting and strict religious observances among the Palestinians who are forced to go through this checkpoint. At this time, the army's use of the sniffer-dogs to inspect taxis and private vehicles and personal effects and luggage is all the more apallign. The dogs drool and lick steering wheel and dashboard, seat covers and door and window handles and all interior parts of the cabin with which people come in constant contact, people who are obliged within their cultural and religious practice to stay away from any personal contact with dogs. Drivers are obliged to purify and cleanse their cars with any means possible after every such contact which creates reactions of revulsion and disgust on the part of all passengers without exception.
Once in a while an over-eager soldier bursts out at the pedestrian waiting line, cocking his rifle over their heads, growling "quiet" and "shut up" and the checking procedures halt until he recovers (or perhaps become hoarse)...
17:05 The DCO representative leaves. In the meantime, two of the detainees were released and new ones are placed in the concrete hold. Out of boredom perhaps, one of them breaks out in song... loudly singing some popular, devout Jewish-Israeli hits!
At 17:45 the two remaining detainees are released, and a new one (from Ussrin) is sent in, his name and number coming up on the Bingo list.
A heavily limping man approaches with his escort, asking to proceed on foot in the vehicle lane as he can hardly stand in the special side line all this time. A soldier orders him back in spite of the obvious disability. The DCO representative solves the problem while the soldier continues to gesticulate his refusal. As soon as they are let through, the escort takes him "piggy back" towards the taxi park.
The vendors tell us that they have been informed that starting tomorrow they will have to locate their stalls next to the far fence of the taxi park, as far as possible from their rushing clientele.
We left at 18:10, people were still waiting to be ID checked, and have their personal effects rummaged through.
Beit Furik Checkpoint 16:40
Observers: Tal H. and guest
Swift pedestrian traffic, and still every time anew we are amazed at the long moments in which some elderly woman or mother of toddlers is caught inside the turnstile waiting to be checked entering Nablus from her village, as the woman-soldier at the counter ignores her/does not see her/is busy chatting with her mates on duty, letting the woman wait and wait inside this metal cage.
Vehicle traffic is minimal.
Except for especially loud private conversations the soldiers hold with each other while "doing their work" with their "clients", all is quiet.
We left at 17:10.