Beit Furik, Huwwara, Sun 8.3.09, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
We arrived at Huwwara Checkpoint at 15:10, Linda had been there since 13:40.
There was no waiting line at Za'tara/Tapuach Junction Checkpoint.
The first thing that caught our eye at Huwwara Checkpoint today were the...
flowers. In pottery (or stone) containers placed along the high fences that prevent non-free human beings from passing freely in and out of the city of Nablus. An avenue of lovely red and pink flowers, freshly planted in the the fertile soil of flowerpots. A bit knocked-out, like everyone, from the dust and heat, their heads hanging a bit, and still these joyous color stains peeping through the thick layers of metal wire. Fence-fence-flower-fence-flower-flower-fence. Thanks you for choosing Huwwara, welcome to Nablus, the Israeli army wishes you a pleasant stay at the checkpoint.
An elderly Palestinian asks rhetorically: "What are these flowers watered with?? With our own blood." This more or less sums up the reactions we heard.
At the checkpoint itself - about 150 pedestrians waiting in line to be checked. One metal detector went out of order around 2 p.m. and from then on waiting time was at least an hour. At the special side line for women and elderly, things proceed at a quicker pace.
2 DCO representatives and a junior officer as checkpoint commander run the place today.
2 vehicle checking posts, both activated most of the time. At the vehicle waiting line there are about 10 at the beginning of our shift, at least 20 when we leave.
The x-ray truck is activated, the porters run from one side to the other in order to catch the packages they have just loaded onto it before they fall down to the rickety table at the open end and from it down to the dusty ground. "I have about 1000 shekels worth of goods I bought for a wedding" a concerned woman mutters, hoping nothing gets ruined. There are no sniffer-dogs present.
4 detainees stand with their backs to the detention post. According to the DCO, these are taxi drivers who got too close to the checkpoint. Throughout our shift a persistent struggle is conducted by the officer and the DCOs against the taxi drivers. Several times each hour the soldiers walk along the now-beflowered path leading to the taxi park on the entry to Nablus side, catch a driver or two who stand there waiting to catch some fare, detain them for about an hour, free them and catch some others instead. That is how this game is conducted, a bit of catch, a bit of hide-and-seek, the rules are known and so are the foreseen results. The soldiers don't run, the drivers don't really escape. Among the detainees, a European volunteer with a Nablus-based human rights organization recognizes two youngsters who also volunteer for that organization. As we talked, they were released after being detained for nearly an hour.
The inspection ritual as always - includes the men taking their belt out of their pants, taking e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g out of their pockets, going through the metal-detector, if it doesn't bleep they advance to the soldiers' bunker, place their ID inside the 'sterile' track. They lift their belongings up high in the air so the soldier sitting high up inside the booth may see the contents through the glass window. At times they are ordered to take e v e r y t h i n g out: a rake, an empty plastic container, a toothbrush, perfume, etc.
A man with a metal leg brace is body-searched by one of the securing soldiers in plain view of everyone waiting in line. Naturally he made the metal-detector bleep as he crossed. IDs slip back down the 'sterile' track, and when the Palestinians bend down to pick them up, from the side it looks like bowing. They make sure it's their own ID (there is only one track for two checking post...) and step aside to re-insert their belt and re-pack their belongings.
The lights at the pedestrian checkpoint are on at all times, but at sundown there is no light on around the vehicle checking area. There are street lamps a short ways after the roundabout leading to the checkpoint, and from there on - darkness reigns. This is in sharp contrast to the chain of lights shining up the hill along the road that climbs towards the Har Beracha colony overlooking the checkpoint and the city.
Today, too, the officer threatens us with 'police' if we don't refrain from photographing. And soon enough an agitated policeman arrives in his phosphorescent yellow vest, no name tag, and calls out to us over the fence: "Please go away, leave, this is closed military zone and you are forbidden to take pictures". Our knowledge of the law is greater than his and he leaves just as agitated as he arrived.
Once in a while yells resound from the waiting lines, answered by loud, intermittent yells over the loudspeakers - "get back!" "Shut up!" and the like. The amplified voice has no body, no face. It emerges out of the PA system overhead - beware, Big Brother is watching you...
On the eastern side of the checkpoint, the area is still being flattened. Inscriptions such as "Welcome, my brother my hero", "We're going back to Nablus because Joseph still lives" (referring to the fact that the reputed grave of biblical Joseph is situated inside the city of Nablus) adorn the outer wall of the local council compound which is also at the entrance of Huwwara army base, and create a fitting frame for the 'development' works there, as well as the flowering fields and abounding plastic bags and waste.
We left at 6 p.m.. There were still about 50 men waiting to be checked.
Beit Furik Checkpoint
3 soldiers quickly check vehicles coming out of Nablus. No detentions, no one sent back in. The entry to Nablus is unchecked. Alerts, says the commander. There are hot alerts.
On our way back we see a military vehicle standing facing the entrance to Beita village and the Zeita-Jama'in checkpoint.
No vehicles waiting at Za'tara.