Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sat 20.12.08, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Huwwara, the new checkpoint -
While it may seem that there's not much difference between the new area and the old, there's a big difference - it's harder for us to see what's happening. Not only the physical distance from the people waiting on line, but also having to get used to looking through the bars surrounding still another fence, and more iron bars, and zones of separation and zones of isolation, and having to look from a distance at the men standing for an hour, or an hour and a half, or two hours, in pained obedience.
It's impossible to catch someone's glance, see someone's expression - only afterwards, outside, when they're in a hurry, and are swallowed up in the taxis taking them home. Someone said that flowers will be planted in the empty areas between the fences - but I hope that doesn't happen, not only because of the associations they would have, but also because they would serve as an additional screen of bushes or trees that hides even more.
The inspections continue as in the past, without any innovations. The man places his belongings on the table, removes his belt, takes off articles of clothing and shoes until the metal detector stops beeping, passes his ID card through a slit to the soldier in the fortified booth, returns to the table and brings his bag to the window of the fortified booth for inspection. There were three positions like that, as well as the line off to the side for women, children and older men.
Men wait an average of one hour, with dozens today on each of the three lines. The same single turnstile to enter Nablus, and the taxi drivers awaiting passengers on either side of the checkpoint. The checkpoint is closed to pedestrians between 9 PM and 5 AM, and to cars from midnight to morning. There's a soldier in the guard tower in case of emergencies.
It's already been noted that cars and taxis don't need authorization to enter Nablus, but vehicles need permission to leave. Drivers who were briefly happy to speed into Nablus were very disappointed to discover that they needed permission to take their cars out again, just like before, and when they couldn't leave Nablus through this checkpoint they were forced once again to make the detour via Asira Shamaliyya, Route 17 and the vehicle checkpoint at Shave Shomron, whose hinged barrier closes at 6 PM. There go the 40 shekels the driver gets for the ride into Nablus.
Which only goes to show that every restriction that's lifted is accompanied by spin, so that we don't look like fools making life easier for people. Later, speaking to soldiers at Beit Furik, we understood that all the arrangements are temporary - as the saying goes, "they'll give, they'll get."
There aren't yet bars or walls at the vehicle inspection lane, and we were able to talk with passengers who put their bags through the x-ray machine. We spoke briefly with young soccer players traveling to a tournament in Ramallah. We shook hands with the captain and with the coach - despite everything, life bubbles up, like the small outdoor market that once enlivened the checkpoint. The stalls are all destroyed now, you can see the roofs that were torn down, the ripped canvas. This is the third, or fourth, or who-knows-how-many times that this has happened to some of the market's vendors. The fathers, breadwinners, sit home, and the children, who helped, continue to sneak in between the taxis to try and sell things - the acrobatics of survival. ‘Isam, the DCO representative, was one of the people who tore down the stands, and said he had been following orders, but he doesn't think they should be there because they cause dirt and litter. When they tore down the stands a year ago the reason was that they got in the way of the taxis, and when they demolished the market at Huwwara a few years ago they said that it could encourage disturbances and endanger the soldiers.
At the entrance to Beita there are jeeps, police and the army; the "Ma'an" news agency reported that last night there was a military operation, houses broken into and 15 youths arrested.
At the turnoff to Jit, a jeep checks cars, three cars on line, we didn't stop.
At Za'tara cars slow down when they reach the booth, and most aren't inspected.
Beit Furik -
Is there a checkpoint, or isn't there? No inspection, Palestinians can only go through in cars, in both directions, tight security on the road that leads directly to Huwwara (the Madison Route, that Palestinians aren't allowed to travel on). One detainee at the checkpoint because he drove on that road. We tried to find out when Avihu, the commander, would release him, and he proudly reported to us that, earlier, he'd held someone for six hours, because, or in spite of, the fact that he'd come from California - What do you want, someone else murdered in Itamar? Once again we understood that removing the checkpoint and the changes in the arrangements for cars at Huwwara are a trial balloon released by the army to see what happens, and everything is temporary, and the checkpoint could immediately resume operating as it had before the changes were made.
The hinged barrier blocking cars from leaving the village for Nablus is closed at night, and in the case of an emergency the soldier in the tower has to see and hear what's going on. It's not clear how he can do so with the tower a few dozen meters away from someone who has to go through.