'Azzun 'Atma, 'Izbat Salman North checkpoint 1419, Beit Amin, Beit Amin Checkpoint south(1447), Nabi Ilyas
In the wake of various complaints from farmers in ‘Azzun ‘Atma, Beit Amin and Khirbet Jaloud who have land in the seam zone we went to see what was going on.
07:45 We arrived at the Beit Amin south agricultural checkpoint (1447). About 200 meters beyond the checkpoint we saw a new expansion of Oranit almost to the separation fence.
We saw no farmers near the checkpoint and telephoned the Qalqilya DCL. They told us that Beit Amin south checkpoint (1447) will open at 08:30, while Jaloud/Beit Amin north checkpoint (1419) already opened at 06:30.
We also telephoned the farmers we know from Khirbet Jaloud and they told us the information was wrong. It turns out to be the reverse: checkpoint 1447 already opened this morning at 06:15, while checkpoint 1419 Jaloud/Beit Amin will open at 08:15.
We hurried to checkpoint 1419, located near Khirbet Jaloud.
08:00 We saw a farmer waiting by the checkpoint for it to open. He told us he has two permits – for work in Israel, and a two-year permit to his family’s lands in the seam zone. He’s from ‘Azzun ‘Atma, and the Oranit checkpoint was next to his village. Today, after it was closed, he can use one of the other two checkpoints, but to reach them he must take a taxi and pay NIS 15 in each direction. He works for a contractor in Israel who treats him fairly and respectfully, but to maintain his permit to work in Israel the contractor deducts NIS 2500/month to cover the payments to the employment office. He says some contractors deduct even more – as much as NIS 3000/month.
Meanwhile more farmers arrived – three from ‘Azzun ‘Atma and two from Khirbet Jaloud.
Residents of Khirbet Jaloud and Beit Amin have no trouble accessing their lands through these checkpoints, but they complained that since Oranit checkpoint had closed, the scheduled afternoon opening of the checkpoint, that allowed them to return home in the middle of the day, was cancelled, so they’re forced to remain in the field all day, from 06:15 to 15:15, or from 08:15 to 15:30. They said that some of the landowners work in the village as teachers, or elsewhere, and used to go to their lands in the afternoon. Now they can work their lands only on Friday and Saturday. Two brothers told us they have 50 dunums where they grow za’atar, and both had permits valid for two years that expired a month and a half ago. They were renewed only in the past few days, and they complained that there was no one to irrigate and harvest the za’atar in the interim, and it dried out.
The owner of a flock of some 300 sheep, who’d received a grazing permit in the seam zone, arrived from Beit Amin.
08:15 The MPs’ car arrived and the checkpoint opened for 15 minutes. Three farmers who’d crossed at 06:15 returned with a tractor and produce – kale and lettuce. The five farmers and the flock’s owner, along with three more who’d arrived, crossed quickly and the soldiers closed the checkpoint at 08:30 exactly.
One of the farmers from Khirbet Jaloud who returned to his job in the village after spending two hours on his land told us his brother had a two-year permit. When it expired he applied a month and a half ago to renew it, but still hasn’t received an answer. We suggested he complain to the Moked for the Defense of the Individual, and also took the information to look into it ourselves.
One of the farmers with whom we’d been in contact by phone said that he applied for a permit a month and a half ago but was told he’d been blacklisted by the Shabak. But since he’s older than 55, he can cross through one of the entry checkpoints to Israel. So, in order to reach his land he occasionally crosses to Israel and makes a long detour to access it. That leads us to suspect that the Palestinians must choose between the frying pan and the fire – it seems that the Shabak blacklisting is only another form of pressure to make the lives of Palestinians miserable so they’ll relinquish their lands, or to pressure the Palestinians to become collaborators in the service of the Shabak
10:00 We reached the Nabi Ilyas bypass road. It begins at a giant sign festively inviting the residents of Shomron to use it. Traffic is heavy, and it’s not possible to park at the entrance to it. We have to observe from the little shopping center. Despite what we thought, it’s not an apartheid road. We saw a few Palestinian cars and some taxis, though very few compared to the number of Israeli vehicles. Traffic flows, as if the road had always been here.
At the entrance to the village we saw a D9 tractor continuing to excavate on the outskirts of an olive grove. We got out to see whether the olive trees will survive the next few minutes. We went over to speak to the workers. They’re all Palestinians. They’re building the settlers’ land in order to buy pitas for their families. They said the work is for Mekorot. We saw a pump and, in response to our inevitable question, were told that the village receives an unlimited supply of water. Since the workers included residents of the village, we asked how things were after the road opened. They referred us to the municipality.
The representative of the municipality: The village has 1500 residents who’d made a living from farming and commerce. He said that since the road opened some shops have closed, and more will do so. The village is mainly in Area B, with a little bit of Area C on its outskirts. The village is very densely built so that even if they wanted to expand with construction for industry or other enterprises, there’s no possibility of doing so. Area C surrounds the village in a kind of invisible wall. Closures in the future will leave only one entrance open to the village, whether to their lands or to access neighboring villages or Qalqilya, the regional center which provides services such as schools, clinics and other daily needs. A physician comes for four hours once a week.
To sum up: We watched the spokesman’s face and listened to his words, and it was impossible not to see and hear the sorrow and depression as they confront the reality that’s coming to pass and the village’s future.
As we left we said to each other: What happened to the bustling road that was impossible to cross only last week?
11:45 We left Nabi Ilyas.