Northern checkpoint: Why have I been going to the checkpoints for 17 years?
I woke up very early before dawn to a familiar thought: Why have I been going to the checkpoints for 17 years? I know exactly what I will see there: barbed wire fences, electronic gates, supervision facilities with or without beeping warning lights, bored and apathetic soldiers and security guards, the third generation of the only army in the world required to constantly harass the civilian Palestinian population who are occupied and have no civilian or human rights whatsoever. If they are asked, they don’t believe they are harassing anyone. This is the extent to which the army deliberately isolates them from information or understanding so that they will be able to carry out their “job” like robots. It is an extremely limited algorithm.
However, I got up and drove to the gas station at Arara, where I met Neta and we drove to Barta’a Checkpoint. At 06:00 AM, which is usually a very busy hour, there were a few people and groups going quickly into the new inspection facility that leads to the terminal. There was no crowding or waiting line. This was not because the workers from the Ministry of Security were working more quickly, but rather because many Palestinians have had their work permits taken away and because many have been sent to other checkpoints to cross into Israel or into Area C. What about the millions [of Shekels] that were invested in this major checkpoint?
We met a Palestinian at the checkpoint who related his story. He was picking hyssop in a field in the West Bank for his own use when he has the misfortune of meeting a Jewish inspector from the Nature Preservation Society. He had a bag of dried hyssop. He had never heard that it was forbidden to pick hyssop: his ancestors who have lived in the same village near Nablus had been doing so for hundreds of years at the end of spring. His punishment was that the bag of hyssop was confiscated, his car was impounded, and he had to pay a fine of NIS 3000. He has to stand trial for this serious crime, and until than his car will not be returned. He will then have to pay thousands of Shekels to get his car back and pay the attorney that he was forced to hire. He has a 16-year-old son who must undergo dialysis three times a week at the hospital in Jenin. He must now take his son in a taxi because he is unable to walk. Each trip costs him NIS 150. We gave him money from an emergency fund that was donated by Jewish friends.
From Barta’a we drove quickly to A’anin Agricultural Checkpoint where farmers who have been cut off from their fields by the separation barrier cross from the village of A’anin to their fields. The checkpoint is only open two days a week. We arrived on time. The soldiers also arrived on time, but took their time listening to music and waited 20 minutes, after which they finally opened the gate. A woman soldier said they were waiting from a representative from the District Coordination and Liaison, who did not arrive. About 20 people and one tractor crossed to the seamline zone. These 30 people are among the few lucky ones who obtained permits. Five or six people were sent home because they were dressed too nicely. Why? Because people who have permits to cross at an agricultural checkpoint should not be dressed in clean clothes. They must be headed for some coffee house or to blow up Tel Aviv. This excuse is now being used again by the soldiers as a pretense of security. You can relax, Tel Aviv, because “terrorists” from A’anin Checkpoint did not cross today. There are clothes scattered around the checkpoint that were brought by members of Machsom Watch for the people in the village. People accuse each other of throwing the clothes away, but nevertheless continue to ask us to bring them.
Before the crossing at A’anin Checkpoint ended we drove to Tibeh Romene Checkpoint, another agricultural checkpoint located on the separation barrier east of Um al Fahem. About 25 people and one tractor crossed. The bakery in Um al Fahem was closed because of Ramadan, so unfortunately we had to return home without pita with hyssop and coffee.