Hamra, Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Thu 11.12.08, Morning

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Dorit H (photographer) Daphna B (reporting)

Seemingly "easement." The orthodox Nahal is not here, and the Palestinians say "the checkpoint is better." Hundreds of people pass relatively quickly (festival), the DCO officer is present and the iron gate facing Roi has recently been opening on time and staying open for half an hour. With this, the reservists serving here (declaring themselves "leftist") arrive half an hour late today. Young and old wait for them in bitter cold, respectable oldsters are required to lift shirts, farm labourers are not allowed to pass here because their passes are only valid for the distant Hamra checkpoint. In practice, little has changed. As long as there are men with weapons, who are the law and the rulers in their own eyes, they are the ones who set the rules, who give and take, and the burden will persist.We toured together with the man from the Civil Administration responsible for water, with the objective of easing the water situation of the Palestinians, and especially those shepherds who receive no water at all. All this separately... 

10:30 Maale Ephraim Checkpoint
Two cars waiting from the south. When we pull up behind them, they are passed through quickly.

10:50 Hamra Checkpoint
Hundreds of people festively dressed, who have already passed, waiting for their taxis that haven’t been

checked yet. On the other side scores of taxis and buses waiting for pedestrians. Nablus residents, joyfully equipped with musical instruments on their way down to the Dead Sea (in the hope that they will not be prevented as in the past). The checkpoint is manned by a reserve unit. The isolation cell is occupied by a "bingo" (suspected wanted man). He says detained two hours, the soldiers say 20 minutes – either way a long time to check his ID. The soldiers try to prevent us talking to him. At 11:20 he is released. 

13:10 Tayasir Checkpoint
I have never before seen so many people at this godforsaken checkpoint. Cars arrive and disgorge scores of people and children, all dressed for the festival. From the distance we saw no movement at the checkpoint, and as we arrive passage becomes quick. Here too older reservists, and they also try immediately to drive us away. We ignore it and remain in our regular spot facing the centre of the checkpoint. One of the soldiers persists in inciting his comrades against us and orders them to remove us, but the soldiers – clearly embarrassed are in no hurry to obey. In conversation with the Palestinians, we are told that generally speaking the checkpoint is now better, but it depends on the soldiers in the shift. They note disparagingly the aforementioned soldier (short and bald headed) who checks vehicles and delays them, according to our informants, many hours. Yesterday they were stuck at the checkpoint until late at night. 13:55 – ten minutes after we left, we get a phone call to say that, when we left they stopped checking for a while. Apparently they all went to eat (they were talking about it while we were there), and the Palestinians – they can wait!

14:55 Iron Gate facing Ro’i Settlement
Our friend the mukhtar of the Hadidia tribe, told us that since the night they didn’t open the gate, the situation has improved. We came with expectations. One tractor is waiting west of the gate, with three men and two women sitting behind with four small children. After 20 minutes a tractor arrives from the east side: our Hadidia friend, with his wife and ten children of school age and two toddlers. The parents are bringing the children to Tamoun, after they spent the festival at the tribal encampment. The children stay in distant Tamoun with relatives, and from there they go to school in the village of Kafr Atouf. All that because the iron bar here is closed most hours of the day, making it difficult for parents to take their children to school every day. After our friends go through, they will have to stay ibn Tamoun till Sunday, because only then will the gate open again to let them go home.Four young men arrive from the direction of Roi, where they work. They live in Atouf Village – about a mile from the gate, but their permits are only for crossing at Hamra Checkpoint. Bevause they mi9ssed their ride to the checkpoint, and there are few Palestinian vehicles going to Hamra, they want to try their luck at crrossing here. From Hamra to Atouf the distance is 40 kilometres.
Meanwhile the jeep with the keys does not arrive. A cold wind is blowing and it is far from pleasant to wait in this open desert terrain.I phone the DCO and the answer is "what do you think? We do it on purpose? There is an incident and when it’s over the jeep will come." 
15:30 – the jeep arrives with four reservists. I go over to a soldier, who seems to be a student from Tel Aviv University, and ask why they are late. I try to explain to him the distress of the people, and get an aggressive response: "Life is hard."The soldiers feel no need to apologize or to speed up passage because of the delay. One of them begins to check people. First of all he makes them back off. Then he demands that they approach one by one, while raising their shirts. Whoever doesn’t raise high enough is sent back to repeat the exercise, till he learns. The soldiers refuse to pass the four labourers because their permit is for Hamra.The workers beg, the soldiers respond: " What do you want, that this gate should become a checkpoint?""Only people on the list pass here."
Finally the soldier relents and phones for instructions from his commander.He checks the Bedouin the same way. These are not young people, appearing to be respectable, as for example Abu Sakker, the mukhtar of Hadidia, who has to descend from the tractor and expose his abdomen. The tractors are also inspected thoroughly.I approach the "student" and say to him: "You want to know what is a hard life?" When because of this gate the father is forced to leave a six year old for a week a long way from home, with relatives, so he can go to school. That’s a hard life."He answers: "What do you think, that I don’t want to be in university now instead of doing reserve duty here?" I asked if he doesn’t see the difference between the small child and himself, and he was insulted. I was saddened that this apparently humane, leftist youngster cannot see the "other" at a distance of a metre, but only himself. He so much reminded me of my son, from whom I get the same responses.Meanwhile an answer comes over the radio: the workers will not pass. They continue to beseach of the soldier...Go with them, says one of the soldiers – and we take them. It was only when we got to Hamra that we saw that the jeep had followed us all the way. One of the soldiers descended and came over to us – to prove that we were in danger?!! "Honour but suspect," he said, convinced that if they hadn’t followed, "it’s not certain that you would reach Hamra..."

16:15 Hamra Checkpoint
Here too a lot of people waiting and passing, many buses and taxis, crowds of youngsters: in Jericho there is an appearance by the famous singer, Hani Shaker. As usual, the passengers alight 50 metres before the checkpoint, pass through on foot and wait 100 metres beyond for their ride. Two detaineesinfo-icon in the isolation pen, Bingos (wanted men). Being checked. One has already been waiting ten minutes, the second 20. At 16:45 one is released, and according to the DCO officer the second is released shortly after.