'Anabta, 'Azzun, Qalqiliya, Te'enim Crossing, Wed 25.3.09, Afternoon
14:10: Qalqilya Checkpoint:
A line of 25 cars at the entrance, but it's moving, with almost no cars being checked. At the exit from Nablus there is a long line because cars are being thoroughly checked in front and back. It’s not clear why it takes such a long time. The soldiers finally understand that it’s possible to move the car aside and to allow the cars waiting endlessly and patiently to go past. The finally do so. Tami tries to get close to the checkpoint but a soldier shouts at her, “Get out of here or bring your I.D. card.” Meanwhile the two lines move forward and get shorter. A phone tall to the Liaison and Coordination Administration clarifies that they don’t know about the holdup. The parking lot is almost empty. The drivers say that there is no work. People are fed up and don’t leave home (if they don’t have to.) There is no work, there are no permits. What is the point of going out?14:45 Azun: Before we got to Azun we drove on the Palestinian road through Izbatabib to see if it was open. It was a bad road with heavy traffic in both directions.
We understood from this that Azun was still blocked from the main road. We went back and stopped at the main entrance to Azun. It was completely blocked by a dirt mound. Near the roadblock are two army vehicles and 4 soldiers. There is a truck on the side of the road loaded with bundles of concertina barbed wire. After talking with the soldiers (reservists) it became clear that there are erecting a barbed-wire fence along the entire road near Azun to prevent people from throwing stones from Azun onto the road. The fence is being built by soldiers from the engineering corps.
Before we left we saw a man walking through the roadblock without being stopped. We were not allowed to go through the checkpoint next to Shavei Shomron, and we continued on to Anabta.15:30 Anabta: Traffic is flowing in both directions. A police car is standing at the side of the road near the intersection.
Bulldozers are working on both sides of the road leveling the area (after uprooting the olive trees and obliterating the fields).
There is a sign hanging on the checkpoint that reads: “Thank you to the women of [Machsom] Watch for aiding terror.” Tami told the commander that the sign was against the law. He approached, saw it, and took it down.
16:00: Te’enim Checkpoint.
The gate to Jubara was opened for us immediately without any arguments or questions. We entered and reached the “Children’s gate” – gate 753 – separating Jubara and the Palestinian intersection between Tul Karem, A-Ras and Qalqilya. We remained in this God-forsaken place for close to two hours!
Apparently the checkpoint – merely a gate in the separation barrier – is now particularly problematic. The problem now, as in many other instances, is due to the attitude of the soldiers and not due to their orders. They hold people up and harass them while displaying total apathy. One of them stops his work to go into the guard booth to pray devoutly. A Palestinian man is sitting on a large rock with his back to us between the two fences with the security road inside. Tami approaches him, but the soldiers are immediately alerted and make her go back to the other side of the fence. It is difficult for us to talk to him from a distance, particularly because he does not speak Hebrew. Gradually we receive information from passers-by.
It turns out that he has a new shop in the village. He has bought goods from Tul Karem and wants to return home with his car, but the soldiers did not allow him through the gate because he has no permit to carry goods. He has been sitting on the rock here since 9:00 this morning without water or food, and withn no idea when he will be allowed to continue on his way. All the residents who go through the gate know the man. They claim that he is a resident of the village, and that he is the Immam of the mosque. He is a well-respected member of the community, but that does not impress the soldiers. Without a piece of paper stating that he has a permit he cannot go through.
Tami starts to call all the phone numbers she knows: the Humanitarian hotline, the Liaison and Coordination Administration, even the brigade operations officer. Everyone promises that they will deal with it immediately. And we call each one again and again and no one helps.
Meanwhile, the soldiers have evidently not only taken the man’s I.D. card but his keys as well, which is against the law. It is forbidden for them to do that. The head of the Liaison and Coordination Administration claims: “They’ll pay for it dearly.”
Meanwhile cars, pedestrians, donkey carts, and even a child, walking alone without his parents, pass by. The place is extremely busy. We never saw such heavy traffic at gate 753 before.It is ironic to see how a donkey pulling a small cart is held up, its driver is asked for documents as if he was driving a car, and his cart is checked. A woman with a toaster oven on her head (or perhaps a TV set) and a package in her hand arrives from the village with her husband walking in front of her empty-handed. She has to walk carrying all this from the gate to the crossroads where she can board a taxi. It’s rather far to walk with such a load, but no one complains. That’s life. Another person comes with a bright red bicycle, shiny against the dull surroundings. Apparently he bought it for his little boy. To our surprise he passes through with no problem. A car arrives from the village, and a man gets out and gives our detainee a bag – apparently a sandwich. The entire village already knows who is being detained here. More people come and tell the soldiers that he is the Immam of the mosque and owns a grocery store, and is known and respected by everyone. They are talking to the wall. The man will sit here endlessly until they bring a permit. Tami has reached the head of the Liaison and Coordination Administration on the telephone, who has told her personally that someone will come immediately. We wait…Meanwhile, we talk with the villagers who have arrived. They explain that this is the only place where vehicles can enter the village.
ON the side facing Teibeh there is no fence at all…but there is a ditch preventing cars from going through. Even a donkey with a cart can’t get through there. Young people can walk over (there are, of course, people who pass over illegally who do everything they can to make a living.) They also told us that they know that this gate will be closed to vehicles and pedestrian traffic soon. Only an “agricultural gate” will be left that will be opened only occasionally. They still don’t know when or for how long.
Instead of the crossing here a gate will be opened to Jubara near the Te’enim crossing (The Abu Hatem gate). To reach their land, instead of coming there directly in 5 minutes, the villagers will have to drive there via a bypass road (from Tul Karem to A-Ras) and then go through a checkpoint.
17:00: Finally a Liaison and Coordination Administration vehicle arrives. Two Liaison and Coordination Administration workers get out and begin to talk with the soldiers. From far away we understand that they are engaged in a convincing campaign. Two Liaison and Coordination Administration officers do not succeed in persuading the sergeant the three soldiers. After a long discussion they return the Palestinian’s I.D. card. Tami approaches and the Liaison and Coordination Administration worker tells her “Keep away. We don’t need your help. We can manage without you.” Then Tami asks him, “And what about his car keys?” He is surprised, goes back and takes them from the soldiers and returns them to the man. (They would have managed without her.) If she had not intervened they would have driven away and left the man’s car keys with the soldiers who had been reprimanded. His I.D. and keys had been returned, but that is not sufficient. A car belonging to one of the villagers leads the Liaison and Coordination Administration car into the village to check if the man indeed owns a store. We wait until the happy end.
17:50: The cars return from the village. There is indeed a new shop there and the man finally gets into his car and goes through the gate. He stops next to us and thanks us. It appears that we know him. We already helped him get through previously and I also wrote a lengthy story about it.
18:00: We parted amicably and left for home.