Hamra (Beqaot), Za'tara (Tapuah)
A deserted outpost on Yanun’s land
The well on Yanun’s land
Kafr Yanun’s caves, above their land
09:15 Za’tara checkpoint/Tapuach junction
Heavy traffic, many soldiers but they are not stopping anyone for inspections
We met Khirbet Yanun’s mukhtar and got on the road up from the Jordan Valley highway, known as the Alon Road, to the West Bank (near Aqraba). This road was blocked about 15 years ago by boulders and concrete barriers. Since then the paving has been removed and the road has become a track in poor condition. A few months ago the barriers were removed but only a 4x4 vehicle can traverse it. The mukhtar says the road farther up is close to outposts and settlements of Itamar, Alon Moreh, Har Beracha, Gva’ot Olam, Gido’nim, and Hill 777, whose buildings are located on the road itself and prevent residents of Khirbet Yanun from reaching their lands.
Background: Until twenty years ago, about thirty families lived in Yanun. Seven remain today. In 2002 the village was completely abandoned because of repeated attacks by settlers. Ta’ayush activists convinced residents to return home and for about six months took turns sleeping there until EAPPI volunteers came and have physically defended the residents until today.
The Yanun mukhtar arrived with two of the volunteers for our meeting.
According to the mukhtar, 1200 dunums of village land are located in the Jordan Valley, 8-10 km from the village, more or less above Mechora and next to Khirbet Tana, which suffers greatly from house demolitions. The difficulty reaching their lands was twofold – they were inaccessible from the village because of the violent inhabitants of the settlements who’d blocked them in the past, and the road was blocked from the Jordan Valley side by concrete barriers. The farmers lived four months of the year in caves above their lands. Two years ago the army declared their lands a “firing range” and forbade their cultivation. The outlines of the fields are still visible. The army erected on the land two emplacements built of concrete panels (today abandoned) and blew up the caves. Since then they haven’t worked the lands.
Regarding the claims of “dual residence” that Israel continues to use against the communities of shepherds in the Jordan Valley: living conditions in the tent encampments in summer in the Jordan Valley are unbearable for people and endanger the flocks. Until the Israeli occupation, the shepherds had small houses on the West Bank where they lived during the summer and sometimes throughout the year, when they had to be near various services such as schools, medical facilities, commercial centers and also near relatives, The men continued to live in the tents. Following the occupation, and in the wake of the constant harassment and threats of expulsion by the violent settlers, they began living in the tents all year, and the house were maintained in case of an emergency (to allow the children to go to school, because many roads in the Valley are blocked, or in the event of a serious illness, etc.). Israel uses the existence of the houses as an excuse to expel them from the Valley, as if it were a vacation home in Caesarea. This is a crude intrusion into a way of life that’s been maintained for hundreds of years by the Palestinian shepherd communities.
12:15 Hamra checkpoint
No soldiers at the checkpoint. On the hill above is a compound for the soldiers, surrounded by a wall of concrete barriers, who can immediately reoccupy the checkpoint. And they do – every morning at 05:00, when laborers who awoke in the middle of the night are hurrying to work in the settlements’ fields. Then the soldiers detain them for rigorous inspections which lead to long lines. After an hour or an hour and a half the soldiers withdraw to the closed compound. In the late afternoon they return to harass Palestinians at the checkpoint.
15:00 Hamra checkpoint, Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
Open to traffic.
15:45 Za’tara checkpoint
Heavy military presence. A large group of Border Police soldiers with backpacks waits at the transport location west of the junction (toward Ariel), on their way home. But at the junction itself there’s (as yet?) no roadblock.