'Anabta, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 16.11.08, Afternoon
It's all fun and games in the OPT today. Meaning? Light amusement, diversions and frivolous diverting activity by and for the army, displaying its culture, its way of doing business, so that Palestinians as well as MachsomWatchers could observe and feel it. Above all, fun and games for the army means no accountability to anybody of consequence.
A steady stream of cars in both directions. A car bearing Israeli license plates (yellow) is not allowed to proceed: the young woman and her baby want to visit her sister, but she has no "permit." The driver, her husband, is with her at the side, waiting for her to be picked up by a family member.
Today, a jeep and three soldiers, who don their helmets when they see our car approach, greet us at the place where the earth mound encircling the town had recently been removed.
Soldier 1: "I don't know why we're here."
Soldier 2. "There are still terrorists around."
Soldier 3. "We're often here. For a short while. Our camp is somewhere in the area" (a state secret, it appears, since he won't tell us where). Soldier 3 is the commander, and on being asked about the building going on atop the hill overlooking the town of Azzun, where there's a military lookout tower, he answers, "They're moving it three meters from where it is now." ( !)
The outpost is deserted, but there's action atop the high hill on the other side of the road. New tents (the ones lower down the hill have vanished and only the detritus of settlers uncaring about "their" landscape in evidence). A baby swing is visible in the middle of all the mess....
As we approach the valley entrance to Anabta, we notice that the military camp above, at Enav, in the throes of construction - of what is hard to work out. A giant crane of some sort. And where is the military lookout tower? Once at Anabta checkpoint, we can't see anything at the top of the hill.
Once again, we're told, not by one, but by two soldiers, both of whom present themselves to us as the "commander," that we can't stand where we have stood for many a year, that we must go way beyond the red sign telling Israelis that they can go no further. We stand our ground, saying there's no point standing over there as we see nothing. Commander 1 tells us that we're being told for our own benefit, commander 2 just backs off and moves away.
The line from Tulkarm is endless, the checking sporadic and slow. A large pickup truck (Israeli license plates - yellow) is held up on the way out of Tulkarm, and it waits and waits. Another Israeli car is told to back up as the soldiers check the vehicle nearest them. One yellow taxi is stopped, the next, a seemingly identical one, speeds past the soldiers. Another taxi is stopped, the driver's ID taken from him, and he mimes to us, "Why me?" But after seven minutes' delay, he's off.
15:10 -- a refrigerator truck going to Tulkarm stops, has to turn off its engine, and the inside of the truck is checked. The next car is an Israeli car (yellow license plates), and has the honor of being the first Israeli car to be checked going into Tulkarm.
A Hummer approaches with a new transistor radio in place of the one that crackles loudly in the middle of the checkpoint. There are now eight soldiers at the checkpoint, four of the regular shift and four who've come on behalf of the crackly radio. Or, perhaps we should ask, "how many soldiers does it take to change a radio in the OPT?" We should also note that the crackling is now louder than ever....
A mother and her two teenage sons come from Tulkarm on foot. A pickup truck comes down the steep and rutted track from Rameen (a village, high up above the Anabta valley and cut off from the main road by boulders and earth mounds). The truck and Tulkarm residents meet at such an earth mound by the parking lot. Well over twenty bright yellow jerry cans of olive oil are offloaded from the truck and placed, neatly, on the ground by the parked taxis, waiting for a ride to wherever.....
As we turn back onto the main road, up the hill, towards Jubara, a convoy of huge and long army trucks advances towards us. Two of them carry parts of the crane we've observed earlier high above us, at the military camp at Enav. The third truck carries parts of the concrete lookout tower. One can but wonder what new Lego or Meccano production will greet us next time atop the hill.
The soldier has no idea who or what A-Ras is. But the lieutenant who approaches next certainly does, telling us in no uncertain terms that we have no permit, that we can wait on the side for such, but that without it, there's no way he can or will open the gate to let us in to the village. It's obvious that he will not lift a finger to make anything happen.