'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Huwwara, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 6.12.09, Afternoon
Today's shift, combining southern and western routes in the West Bank, around Nablus, and exiting at Jubara to reach Irtah/Shaar Efraim, felt like going through the scenes of some classic drama. There was scenery, some bizarre, much beautiful; there were actors, some on stage and many behind the scenes, as the totally hidden producers, and there was a Greek drama chorus, representing the overall Palestinian population, offering us a grasp of the continuing theatrical production that is the "Tragedy of the Occupation."
On Route 5
15:00 -- at Zeita, the earth mound is firmly in place, a number of Palestinian cars wait on the apartheid road side of it.
Few cars but a mass of red and white banners around the central military compound, proclaiming, in Hebrew only, "No entry for supervisors to freeze outposts." Just in case the Hebrew is not clear, there is the large universal no symbol, a red circle with a white line through it.
The village seems quiet to day, the ploughed fields beyond it a rich gravy brown, making a welcome contrast to the dinginess of the main road.
At the checkpoint, the tattered Israeli flag flies besides two equally tattered green and yellow Golani flags. Here, too, the same "No entry" settler banner as at Zaatara, but only one. Yet high above, on the mountain, the half built cement homes for normal population increase, hover at the settlement of Bracha, seeming to bless the checkpoint below.
There's a line of five vehicles ahead of us: they are trying to get into Nablus, we to the parking lot. One of the five trucks is thoroughly checked by the two soldiers on duty at the checking post in the middle of the roadway, some distance from the original version of this checkpoint.
To remind us of the original production of this checkpoint, there is a soldier atop the lookout tower at the southern edge of the checkpoint and more soldiers, atop the larger, more imposing military tower in the middle of the checkpoint. On the ground, there are six soldiers (no dogs), and "pedestrians" are only checked as passengers in taxis or private cars.
The second lieutenant commander calls something to the two soldiers at the checkpost as we arrive, but his words are indistinguishable, except that traffic into Nablus now flows more smoothly, with no checking. Not the case with traffic coming out of the city.
15:20 -- as one vehicle is checked coming out of Nablus, a line develops behind it, and the soldiers make no attempt to pull it aside. Only one of the three checking booths is open in the center of the checkpoint, and the one lane that is open is full of ruts (in spite of lack of rain this winter). Nearly every taxi is checked, IDs taken from the driver, and the soldier returns to the checkpost and calls in the IDs.
15:30 -- a disembodied voice calls out from the lookout tower; the second lieutenant stays and chats with us. As we leave we ask if there are soldiers on duty at Beit Furik (none last Thursday), but he has no idea where that is. On hearing that it is on the apartheid road, leading to Elon Moreh, a road, he is told "for Jews, but not for Arabs," he quickly offers a correction: "You mean Palestinians."
16:45 On Route 60
Opposite Yizhar, soldiers are positioned on the Burin side of the road.
16:55 -- below Shavei Shomron, the new road, still without a painted middle line in the center, is functioning. A truck makes its way up the curving roadway to the settlement above.
Freely flowing traffic in both directions.
The still bright and shiny new checkpoint is unmanned. Not a soldier in sight. Just a police car and the white DCO jeep visible, both parked in the middle of the four lane checkpoint, making traffic swing around both.
On Route 57
At Shufa, on the north side of the road, there's a new earth mound where a newly leveled dirt pathway had recently been made (by the villagers, we assume), and used for access to and from the apartheid road. We imagine people have to make their way up the steep dirt path a little to the west, as before, but nobody is around today to substantiate that point.
16:20 Irtah/Shaar Efraim
There must be about 150 people in line, waiting to go through the "terminal" building to go home after a day's work in Israel. We can't see inside the building, since one of the two yellow doors, beyond the turnstile, is closed, making it impossible to see how many booths are open. According to the Palestinians, just one.
We phone the DCO and are told that they will take care of the matter. Either that, or the guard in the window above spies us and makes things move speedily from now onwards.
16:30 -- ten minutes later, there's not a person to be seen waiting to go home. Things change in the next minutes, however, as more vehicles disgorge workers in the parking lot. Now the turnstile turns so fast, that its non stop squeak is a delight to hear!
16:50 -- twenty minutes later, there's again a line, again a phone call, this time to the Humanitarian Center since the Palestinians come in a never ending flow. From many, there's a greeting, from some the frequent refrain of, "But you should come in the morning," and from one, "There's no solution to this problem, it's the same in the morning," and from above, the civilian security guard gazes at the people below, wanders from one window to the other, monarch of all he surveys.