'Azzun 'Atma, Thu 21.8.08, Afternoon
16:10 “Taal, wahad wahad!”
We approach the checkpoint, that reeks from sewage runoff from the settlement of Shaarei Tikvah (“Gates of Hope”), that flow in open ditches beside it.
The soldiers say that it’s forbidden for Israelis to be here, and that we’re endangering them, when we want to cross over to the other side of the checkpoint, that’s in Area B. (Also according to their rules, Israelis are allowed there.) They shut down the checkpoint and instruct the car that’s being inspected to go back; they’re applying additional collective punishment because of our presence.
So we distanced ourselves. N. is standing in the queue for inspection on the Azzun Atme side, with another twenty people after a long work week. He hesitates, then opens his shirt and shows us the scar from a rubber bullet shot at him by soldiers at this checkpoint two months ago. (There is a previous report about this.) It’s lucky it didn’t exit from the other side, because then it would’ve introduced air into his heart. His brother got [a rubber bullet] in his eye. He said – we asked them whether to help them with the bus of children that was a problem for them. Only this. Half of his family can’t visit the other half. They’re from the same village, that the army built them a fence in the middle of it, and now half are in the penned area of Azzun Atme with a different registration on their ID documents and it’s forbidden to visit them. T. tells us how two weeks ago, after we departed the checkpoint and there was another detainee, the soldier then saw that we had left and told the man: now you’ll stand in the sun, and sent him there. M. was employed in Israel for 22 years, worked with many Israelis – “but these?” He points at the soldier leaning on the railing. “It’s monsters you’re raising over there!” One of the laborers returning from work in Israel without a permit, gets a lesson taught to him with an explanation from the young soldier who holds and waves the identity document in his hand.
Suddenly, after an hour and a half, the soldiers change the [operating] rules. Because before, only those people traveling by vehicle into Azzun Atme would go on foot and pass through the pedestrian inspection. (And this isn’t logical anyway, as the driver remained in the vehicle.) But now also those entering the West Bank have to get out of their cars. And people don’t know this. They arrive with their cars, and then are told to get out of the car. Instead of checking them there, [the soldiers] tell them to walk to the concrete barrier ten meters back. And only then the soldier makes a little motion with his finger and they can go back to him, “Wahad wahad” [Arabic: one by one]. And all the angry people ask us, what is this? What’s this new thing here, why? You have to see something like this and understand that when the army does something like this, it drives people crazy – changing the arrangements all the time. And chaos is Hell.For example, an elderly couple were tired, so instead of going all the way back, they went halfway and rested on the curb till they were called. But the soldier ignored them and called to people behind them in the queue (and we had asked the soldier to call them, and again we heard the same line that we’d heard all day: “only carrying out orders”). In any case, the belongings of those exiting from Azzun Atme are inspected on the ground, in the dust.
From time to time, a male or female soldier would burst out verbally at the people who, in their opinion, weren’t standing in a straight column or weren’t standing far enough back behind the concrete barrier cube. They threaten to enact sanctions.Essentially the stance dictates: there’s someone who determines [what rules are applied] and acts accordingly. Perhaps it isn’t good for that person either, but s/he is still in the superior position.S. from Azzun Atme is known to me from previous observer shifts. She and her husband have 14 children. They all live in one room, in a house on the main road. They’re originally from Gaza, but he came here originally in 1971. The Israeli authorities didn’t agree to change his registered address but he would get temporary permits… until this June. Since them they’re trapped: they’re forbidden to go to Israel, and from the other side there’s a checkpoint where they’re detained for yours because their documents state they’re from Gaza. They’ve applied to the District Coordination Office (of the Civil Administration in the Territories) many times, and they’re already known at the Ariel police station. No matter, they’re still always detained.
Today S. courageously decided to try traveling to Qalqilya to buy school supplies for the children going back to school. They allowed her to pass. At 17:30 the refused to let her return. She pleaded, stood there alone; it was very hot. She began to weep. Nothing helped. Her husband A. arrived, accompanied by two of the younger children, ages 4 and 5. He stood without getting near the soldiers; he said he could wait, that he had patience and that in they end they’d pass through. The rest of the children were waiting in the car, far from the checkpoint. For four hours, until 21:15 [they waited]. I saw how A. changed. That he stood on his feet in the heat in the ugliest place in the world, with his wife standing at a distance of 20 m. away, and he was unable to help her. He held his children’s hands firmly and didn’t lose his temper; he’s 62 years old. And at the end, something in his face really twisted. And for all this, the soldiers appeared unconcerned at the end when they finally let her go her way.