'Anabta, 'Azzun, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Mon 24.11.08, Morning
Translation: Galia S.
O7:00 – For those who don't remember, Ras-at-Tira is a small village, situated in the Alfe Menashe enclave, surrounded by a fence with a gate that opens at 06:30 in the morning (but we forgot to ask what time it closes in the evening).
This gate actually leads into Israel, as the fence has been moved farther away in order to surround Alfe Menashe. This is why magnetometer checks, etc., are held there. The three villages that are near Ras-at-Tira are "in" the territory of Israel. There are three schools the children of the villages go to. The problem is that some of them are in the territory of the Palestinian Authority and some in the villages in the alleged Israeli territory. In the past there were many problems at the Ras-at-Tira gate passage, which is why we have gone there this morning. We are curious to see how the passage of teachers and schoolchildren goes. The workers report that the gate opened at 06:30. When we get there, there is no line of pedestrians or cars at the exit from the village and the inspection is brief.
The drivers leave the cars and enter to undergo the magnetometer check while the car is quickly checked at the gate. No one enters the village at this hour.
07:15 – The checkpoint commander tells us that he knows the drivers who transport the schoolchildren and that the buses have already gone into the village to pick up the children who go to school in the other villages. He says they will be back soon. The two buses come back, don't stop at the gate and enter without inspection. The older schoolchildren and the teachers who pass on foot are not checked by the magnetometer and their documents aren't checked, either.
07:35 – We don't see any workers waiting at the gate to pass and neither is there a line at the entrance to Israel, maybe because we arrived late.
07:40 – There are new barbed wire spirals that close the bay on the right side of the checkpoint (in the direction of Qalqiliya), which prevents pedestrians and donkey-drawn carts from passing there, and if a car has to be held for inspection, it blocks the passage. The reservists explain that this barrier is their idea aiming at enabling them to concentrate on a quick passage of the cars. Pedestrians and cart owners are not checked at all and can walk around the checkpoint. Palestinian cars pass without inspection. Israeli vehicles pass after a quick look into them. At the exit, too, the checks are random, if any.
The soldiers suggest that we go to see what is going on at Eyal Passage, where they think, the situation is terrible. The soldiers there are conscripts who spend their military service only there and "have probably forgotten that they deal with human beings", as one of the soldiers put it. Another soldier says he has alerted the commanders to the situation but to no avail.
08:00 – The checkpoint is open. In Shvut Ami the encampment on the hill looks deserted.
09:40 – At Beit Iba we were told that in the morning there are very long line at the exit from Tulkarm, but when we arrive, there are no lines at all. One of the soldiers has told us that this morning some official of the Palestinian Authority came and tried to push into the line, which caused trouble, but generally they try to make sure that the passage is quick. Although one can see that from time to time cars that leave the city get to the checkpoint and have to wait but no longer than 2-3 minutes. There is no line at the entrance to the city.
The taxi drivers that are waiting for customers complain it is impossible to make a living.
10:10 – The gate is opened for us after a check over the phone. The situation remains unchanged.
10:15 – Four bored reservists are sitting in the shade of the watch tower talking about the employment situation. No checks in any of the directions. We wish them more time of boredom.