'Azzun 'Atma, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), יום ש' 21.3.09, בוקר
Translation: Suzanne O.
The shift was from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
There are 5 military vehicles of all types, among them a Border Police jeep and a group of some 20 soldiers, some of them reservists.
The first Palestinians to cross the roadblock were two of the residents of the house on the south side of Road No. 505 near the granite works and right opposite the roadblock. They are on their way to the grocer. One of them carried a barefoot child aged about two in his arms. The soldiers demanded that they identify themselves, although they probably go to the local grocer quite often. After a short confab they are permitted to cross and a few minutes later they return holding bread and milk. Meanwhile two reservists came over to us; one of them only speaks French, and tried to find out if we were there to deal with men who beat their wives. We did not even bother to reply - but suddenly the one who speaks Hebrew realised who we are and he gave a 'suitable' explanation to the Frenchman. Now that the picture had become clear we heard, in French which we only partly understood, who we are and what our ideals are.
Meanwhile about 20 workers had gathered on their way to the granite works opposite. They were all thoroughly inspected by the Border Policewoman and, apart from one, they all crossed - although very slowly. The rest of the many soldiers stood happily around drinking their morning coffee. The man who was refused the crossing turned back and a few minutes later returned accompanied by an older man who helped the soldier to look through the lists and the man crossed.
We were going from side to side to observe the roadblock when an officer came over to us (a reservist with a long pony tail) and introduced himself by name (Uria). He is the 2nd in command of the unit which will be serving at the roadblock until the end of the month. After a short conversation we were given his telephone number (0524580957) with a request that we contact him at any time if we see something out of the ordinary at the roadblock. We told him of the article in the newspaper 'All the Town' and he did not appear to be shocked: "anything can happen". The soldiers left after about an hour and left behind the Military Policewoman and two 'bodyguards' on their shift. The traffic was light, probably characteristic of a Saturday. Even at the 'agricultural' roadblock we only met one woman and an elderly man. From conversations with those coming and going we heard complaints about what goes on at the roadblock the rest of the week. The occupation at its best!
There is a very long queue of cars from the north to the south. Paratroops are serving at the roadblock. The roadblock commander, a 2nd lieutenant, blond and wearing glasses, comes over to us the moment we arrive, blatantly, and 'warns' us not to talk to the soldiers or the detainee who was waiting to find out what will happen. During the whole time we were at the roadblock the officer displayed 'manly irritation' which appeared to us to be aimed our way - so that we should not forget 'who is in charge here'.
Since it appeared that the detainee would not be released in the near future we decided to act. After hearing the usual reason from the humanitarian centre (he is wanted) we decided that, although it was Saturday morning, to telephone Zaharan. This was the 'wonder formula' for five minutes after the commander, 'the man', received a telephone call the detainee was released. From a conversation with him - under the enraged eyes of the officer - we found out that he had been held for two hours and no one had dealt with him apart from arranging for him to have his own private soldier to guard him the whole time he was detained. Perhaps because of us the irritable officer offered him bread, yoghurt and water but the detainee refused to accept the humanitarian homage. We were very pleased to have been able to help but on the other hand we were back again in the painful region of 'trying to ameliorate the occupation'. How much longer would the detainee have been held for no reason without our intervention?
The inspection of vehicles was quick and the queue reduced within minutes. It appeared that the inspections were random, apart from buses which were all sent to the car park. Documents were inspected in the bus and the passengers were not required to alight.
The traffic of pedestrians into Nablus was very heavy. People with baggage get tangled up again and again in the turnstile and find it difficult to get through. There are few pedestrians in the pedestrian queue and the humanitarian lane. There are two detainees in the detainees' hut. We saw one of the detainees as he was arrested and the other one came out from time to time to the soldier guarding them, apparently to find out what his fate will be. The DCO representative was nowhere to be seen. After our effort at Za'atra we didn't try to call the humanitarian centre. We were happy to see that both of the detainees were released within a few minutes.
The car queue from Nablus 'was not particularly long' - 22 cars when we arrived, but the crossing took about an hour. The inspection by the dog and the fact that the soldiers acted like 'car mechanics' and stretched out on the road to check underneath the cars, opened the bonnet and only then started to inspect the inside of the car, partly explained the terribly slow crossing. The x-ray machine is still 'napping' in its morning sleep and this too causes hold ups. The soldiers inspected every item in the cars. Only at 10:00 a.m., did the x-ray machine start to function - which cut down the waiting time by a few seconds.
It is important to reiterate again and again the way the hand luggage of pedestrians is inspected. The shelf on which they have to put their baggage is narrow and high and the situation is humiliating in the extreme.
The 'market' is open, although it is mainly sweets and rolls which are being sold. Today plants (lovely ones) are being sold as well as socks.
As we were about to leave the father of the young man from Salem who was beaten two weeks ago came over to us. One of his brothers was arrested five days ago and has been held since then in Huwwara. The family have employed a lawyer from East Jerusalem to represent the prisoner. We were sorry not to be able to offer any help in the matter.