'Anabta, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 8.3.09, Afternoon
12:05 Habla Gate 1393
Ten minutes to closing time, the four soldiers stand about, as a truck or two pass in either direction, but another one is not so lucky and is sent back.
A steady stream of vehicles in both directions, no checking, and only two soldiers! They are quite wiling to tell us that the other two are eating: "after all, it's lunch time."
They are, in fact, inside the makeshift tent on the side of the road. On the other side of the road, where we stand, some of the infamous spikes have been placed, ensuring that pedestrians (and MachsomWatchers) stay in their place and don't dare to tread any further.
Never have we seen the line of vehicles stretch so far beyond the junction with Route 55. There are at least 15 vehicles past the junction with the apartheid road: a solid mass up to the checkpoint, about one hundred is a fair estimate. A solid mass of vehicles from the Tulkarm direction also. Less surprising. Nothing moves. All except one large yellow Caterpillar earthmover which is busily churning up the rich, dark brown earth of this once pristine valley. Doing what? Why creating a bigger and better checkpoint! Not working, but much in evidence, two huge army earthmovers and a smaller one, stand in the half destroyed area that was once a pond with freshwater plants and miraculous spring flowers. On the other side of the road, part of the olive orchard has been destroyed and huge clods of brown earth are piled up in a huge mound.
15:15 - only the earthmover moves. The rest of the world at the checkpoint is at a standstill. The rest of the world waits, or rather the Palestinian world of cars and trucks, buses and taxis, semi trailers and pedestrians wait and wait. For what? Godot? No, another new and enlarged, updated checkpoint for this never ending Occupation. The muezzin in the village above sounds in the ugly stillness of the scene below.
A small blue Golf car, a Palestinian police car, places itself across the checkpoint where the vehicles are attempting to come from Tulkarm. A moment later, a white jeep, belonging to the Civil Administration, starts up from the side of the road where it's been standing, and the two move, allowing the line from Tulkarm, finally, to start moving. No checking in either direction as semitrailers, taxis and the rest of the traffic begins to move.
15:20 -- five minutes later, another official Palestinian police vehicle, this time a white jeep comes from the other direction, followed shortly thereafter by yet another. Meanwhile from the other direction, an Israeli army jeep hoots its way through the lines of patiently waiting vehicles, creating yet more delays and frustration.
15:30 -- by this time, the line to Tulkarm is back to its usual length; from Tulkarm still streaks beyond where we can see.
As we leave, and turn up the apartheid road, a white DCO jeep turns towards the checkpoint, followed by a blue Palestinian police car: something new under the sun!
We're here only because we want to go up and through the seam line village of Jubara to see what's going on at Gate 753. Ten minutes of waiting and story telling, or of things already known (A-Ras, as a checkpoint, is no more), of checking if we are authorized, and we give up on soldiers who wish to know and do nothing - until next week's shift, but we take note that there are new boulders by the gate on the Abu Ghatem side and new plastic barriers, to add to the locked gate, the traffic light and barrier arm on the checkpoint side.