Beit Iba, Shave Shomron, Tue 4.11.08, Afternoon
On our way there we talked about the date, November 4.
15:30 Shavei Shomron
Vehicle traffic is one-way. When vehicles go through in one direction, those going in the other direction have to wait. The checkpoint commander tells us that hey go through without inspection, except if there is an alert.
14:10 Beit Iba
When we arrived we saw little pedestrian traffic leaving Nablus, and very few pedestrians entering. Closer to 15:00 there were more pedestrians in both directions. One lane for men, one called “humanitarian,” that is, for women and elderly men. One lane for people entering the city (where people going in both directions are checked. At the Huwwara checkpoint, that also controls entry to Nablus, only people leaving the city are checked. Men remove watches and belts before going through the metal detectors, pass their ID cards and their briefcases through a small window to soldiers sitting in a shielded booth for inspection.
Much vehicle traffic throughout our shift. Two exit lanes from Nablus, one entry lane. It takes between one and three minutes to check a car carrying up to five passengers (this estimate doesn’t include, of course, the time waiting in the traffic jam before reaching the booth).
14:20 A bus stops carrying students studying at Al Najah University in Nablus. Their ID cards, which were collected ahead of time, are passed to the soldiers in the booth. They have to get off the bus (photo attached) to be checked. I speak with two of them, one studying economics and the second education. They live in Tulkarm, which is nearby, and this morning it “only took them 50 minutes” to reach Nablus, 15 minutes away “in normal human terms,” as Ziv, our guest, expressed it. They report that today there were elections for the university’s student government. “Whom did you vote for?”, I asked. One said that it’s secret, the other said “Fatah; enough of Hamas” (our small sample at the checkpoint points to an overwhelming victory for Fatah). We then talk about the American election being held today. “Who are you for?”, they ask me. “Obama,” I say. “Why?” “Because he’s anti-Israel.” The answer pleases them. It takes ten minutes to check the bus.
14:30 A young detainee, about 20 years old. Released after about 15 minutes. Refused to speak to us.
14:35 Van carrying about 10 men is made to make a U-turn and go to the end of the line. That’s after a long discussion with the soldiers, mostly with a female MP, whom we heard shouting “Some nerve,” “Stop behaving as if you don’t understand what I’m saying,” and also noted her violent body language. He waits about ten minutes and then turns back to the checkpoint. Again shouting, until they finally go through. It turned out that an Israeli Arab was in the vehicle. “I have authorization,” he says, “the female soldier said I wasn’t polite.”
14:50 A bus carrying high school students arrives at the checkpoint. The ID cards, that were collected ahead of time, are given to the soldiers. One of the youths is asked to get off the bus, and is interrogated. Just try to imagine, a 13 year old boy trying to stand up straight in order to talk to an armed soldier. Twenty minutes pass before they’re allowed to continue.
15:10 A bus carrying college students nears the checkpoint. ID cards are handed over, the students get off the bus. They also talk about the elections for student government, and give us a scarf from Fatah with the university’s insignia on it. All the passengers on this bus voted for Fatah.