Instead of talking to G., with whom we’d made an appointment, and instead of visiting Falamya’s two gates, we spend a couple of hours with four young soldiers. We are waiting for the police who didn’t come to arrest two Israeli women who came to the West Bank, to a location the soldiers believed their presence was forbidden – a “red area.”
First stop, Z.’s shop
We continue north toward Sal’it checkpoint, from which we intended to drive to the Falamya checkpoints.
On the way we stopped at our friend Z.’s grocery in Jamal Village. He says things in the village are quiet. The army leaves them alone and doesn’t enter the village at night.
Z. asks to accompany us to the Sal’it checkpoint (839) where we’d arranged to meet G. from Kafr Sur. G. suggested we park on the roadside and ride on his tractor to the checkpoint but we took G’s suggestion and drove down in the car despite concerns because of the steep descent. We made a terrible mistake!
The road to the checkpoint, Sal’it on the ridge in the background.
The settlement is a secular township on the western border of Samaria, five kilometers southeast of Taybeh.
16:00 The gate is still closed. The sign doesn’t indicate the opening hours.
Here is the sign, warning that this is a military area and those entering take their life in their hands – no less.
We waited about half an hour for the checkpoint to open. At 16:15 four soldiers arrived in a civilian vehicle. They opened the gate and a long line of vehicles started to go across. We counted 21 tractors pulling wagons with laborers, 3 vans, and 2 Palestinians on a donkey. Most returned from their jobs at the factories in Sal’it and the rest from their olive groves.
A smiling soldier approaches us, tells us they were late because of a security incident. As usual.
The soldier, a sergeant, introduces himself – Yuval – and politely asks the two of us to drive through the checkpoint – yes, the military area that we, as Israelis, are forbidden to enter.
Two elderly women with a wealth of life experience make a terrible mistake, do what the pleasant young soldier says, and reach the security road.
And then the surreal story that is all too familiar begins.
We were asked to identify ourselves, and we did. Where are we, what exactly were we doing.
They reported to the situation room that there are two women on the other side of the checkpoint and were told to hold us until the police arrive.
They hadn’t heard of Machsom Watch.
We describe our years of activity throughout the West Bank, say that we don’t enter Area A, tell about our reporting, the website, Facebook, that all our activities are transparent and open, but nothing helps. The sergeant makes dozens of phone calls to his commanders and awaits instructions. All our stories about being detained in the past for no reason, that the police who were called released us immediately, that they’re only wasting their time and ours – nothing helped. The sergeant is following orders! Four IDF soldiers waste two hours guarding two Machsom Watch members who don’t learn from experience and do what a young sergeant asks of them.
Meanwhile, they take out a camping gas device and make coffee in a finjan. Perfect hosts! We begin to worry about getting caught in the dark.
Towards 18:00 they receive instructions to release us. Hooray! They suggest we go through the Jubara checkpoint. We refuse and follow them on the security road to the other Sal’it gate, which opens in our honor. We get on the dirt road around Sal’it, the car struggles, the sun will soon set, and we reach Israel via Tsur Natan.
We had to forgo the visit to Falamya’s two checkpoints…