Beit Furik, Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 1.1.09, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
A new year, new checkpoints, but the easing of restrictions that was promised hasn't been implemented because of the situation.
6:20 Sha'ar Shomron going east isn't manned.
It's still dark, and we suddenly see a new traffic light at the junction to Kedumim and Emanuel.
The entrance to Marda is open, and Zeita is still blocked. A little farther, on a path that goes nowhere, a military vehicle lies in wait.
6:40 Za'tara/Tapuach junction:
The fighters have gone to war, and been replaced by male and female officer training cadets.
Five cars coming from Ariel.
A line forms from Huwwara. Only one lane is open, in addition to the VIP lane.
A car with an Israeli license plate, full of foreign workers from the Far East, waits in the parking lot for the employer who'll come get them.
There aren't any Border Patrol personnel at the entrance to Beita at the moment.
Burin/Yitzhar - nobody there.
7:00 Beit Furik:
Two soldiers at the vehicle inspection lane. Vehicles arrive without stopping at the intersection to wait for a hand signal. The soldiers said they were re-stationed there because of the situation, conducting random checks. They let us make a U-turn on the far side of the checkpoint.
A resident of Beit Furik tells us that there isn't any problem getting assistance at night from soldiers in the pillbox, who come down to open the hinged barrier to let an ambulance through.
We approach the checkpoint from the direction of Beit Furik; no one pays any attention to us, and we get to the deserted parking lot. Except for the paved area and the garbage, there's so indication there was ever an IDF checkpoint here. As we leave a soldier asks us in great amazement where we came from. ("Ramat Hasharon," we answered, of course)
The entry lane for vehicles at the vehicle checkpoint has been widened, but there's still no sign posted indicating that all vehicles are allowed to enter Nablus, and that residents of Nablus need authorization to exit with their vehicle. The checkpoint commander and the DCO representative promised to take care of it. They'll also raise the issue of women who have to wait in the rain for husbands delayed going through the regular lane.
Two vehicle inspection lanes are open, but the line is still long. There's an x-ray machine and a dog handler. Vehicle passengers wait outside at a distance in the freezing cold until the inspection has been completed.
Many students entering Nablus, even though schools are on holiday.
Light traffic at the pedestrian lane, and whoever arrives goes through quickly.
In principle, everyone could enter or leave Nablus by taxi, but it seems that because of the long wait on the vehicle line and during the inspection many people prefer to go through on foot and get a taxi in the new parking lot.
A British woman, from the Church Union, arrives. She's happy to see us, and asks us to explain the new procedures. She heard that, beginning today, anyone may leave Nablus. Apparently there's a delay in implementing the change because of the situation.
8:25 Beita junction:
The familiar Border Patrol jeeps are back in the parking lot, listing on a form the ID numbers of passengers in the taxis. This time they also stopped a private car. The process is very slow, about 20 minutes per vehicle. I suggested to the commander that he add another soldier to help fill out the form, but he says that the delay is caused by a security check they're carrying out vis-à-vis some unit in the rear. We suggested getting a laptop, like they have now at the checkpoints.
We didn't understand why an additional inspection point is needed midway, delaying people coming and going. He said that not all taxis go through Huwwara or Za'tara, and "if all they're doing is driving from one village to another, who'll check them?" He got tired of our presence at "his checkpoint" pretty quickly, and announced that he's going to arrest me. We saved him the trouble, and went on.
We passed the Za'tara checkpoint, which was pretty empty, and reached Sha'ar Shomron.
No one stopped us - or anyone in front of us, or behind us - to make sure we hadn't smuggled some attacker into the State of Israel.