Beit Furik, Beit Iba, Huwwara, Sat 6.12.08, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
From 06:30 to 13:00
"Blessings" from on high...straight to the land of "apples" and honey. ["Blessing" - Bracha - and "apple" - Tapuach - are the names of two settlements in the area]
Hesitating slightly whether to "risk" entering the "lion's den," we decided they're not going to deter us, and began our shift.
Route 60, south, was very crowded - unusual for early Saturday morning. We wondered whether the Palestinian travelers also figured out that while the settlers are still asleep, and then busy with morning prayers, the road will probably be open. Only at the end of our shift did we discover, if that was their calculation, that it was definitely correct!
Traffic flows freely. No inspections of people entering Nablus on foot. ID cards checked of people leaving Nablus. Only a sample of vehicles leaving Nablus are inspected by the dog from the "Oketz" unit, which barks from time to time. No inspections at all at the entry to Nablus. Two inspection booths and a gate have been erected at the junction leading to Shavei Shomron. From what we've been able to learn, Beit Iba will only be shut down at night, when the barrier will be closed. It wasn't at all clear what time the main checkpoint will close - we'll wait and see.
Lots of traffic at the entry to Nablus, apparently because of preparations for Eid al Adha that begins Monday. Since entry to Nablus is via a turnstile that people go through "wahad-wahad" [one by one], the line stretched to the parking lot. Even before we could say something, it was decided to let people on foot through the vehicle lane, and the line disappeared. The soldiers repeated this procedure again during our shift, when it was necessary. Cars enter Nablus freely - no need for authorization, and cars with Israeli license plates, driven by Arab citizens of Israel, were allowed to enter Nablus without being delayed. Rigorous inspections of those leaving Nablus - as usual. Average length of time for a car to go through - half an hour. There are no lines in the pedestrian lanes.
The new checkpoint apparently will open tomorrow. People on foot will, of course, continue to go through - in the future (since they're apparently planning for the occupation to continue forever) the checkpoint will be like the one at Za'tara. Meanwhile, the immediate change involves opening the new checkpoint, already decorated with flags in honor of the event. We can assume that the IDF spokesman will make certain to "communicate" the "improvement in conditions at the checkpoint, eliminating contact between soldiers and Palestinians."
Get Ready! Get Ready! Palestinians born before 1960 will (apparently!) be able to go through without having to show ID cards. (Let's not forget the "humanitarian lane" - where's the improvement?!) We've heard hints that they intend to move the taxis away from the existing parking lot - and apparently also to eliminate the informal market that's developed. But - we've learned from many years of experience that life is stronger than any decision - and we'll wait to see what happens.
Pedestrians aren't checked. People go through the turnstile, but their ID's aren't examined - neither at the exit from Beit Furik nor at the entrance from Nablus. Cars pass through quickly, but documents are checked at the entry from Nablus. That, apparently, is the meaning of the news that the checkpoint was "closed." We saw in our mind's eye the years of suffering imposed on those who had to use this checkpoint - and they're all recorded in the "chronicle" of the Beit Furik checkpoint on our web site! At the entrance to the village, near the "coffee shop," the yellow barrier again appeared. If it's closed at night, once again the position at the pillbox will be cut off from the gate, and there will be a problem in case of an emergency.
We were amazed to see Palestinian cars driving on the Madison Route. For a moment we thought it was a mirage, until it turned out that Route 60 had been closed from Huwwara south to the Yitzhar junction because of an alert about settler riots. In order to permit access to the checkpoint, the gate from the Madison Route to the parking lot was opened. The checkpoint continued to operate normally.
We drove, therefore, via Awarta and Beita, and then onto Route 60. An extremely long line stretched north. We walked to the junction of Route 60 and the road toYitzhar, where there was a temporary roadblock set up by the Border Police that turned back anyone heading north, toward Beita and Awarta, and from there to Nablus.
We returned to Huwwara and saw that traffic at the checkpoint was flowing normally.
The rowdies from Bracha apparently came down to the road on foot, bypassing the roadblock where forces were waiting for them. We learned from a phone conversation that settlers also rioted in the area of Rehalim - so there was also a line of cars at the Za'tara/Tapuach checkpoint.
Almost no traffic on Route 60 - definitely unusual for the afternoon. As we noted at the beginning of this report - others must also have guessed the same thing we were afraid of.