'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 23.12.07, Afternoon
A winter’s afternoon shift in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and one wonders why an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, comes to mind:
“The time has come the walrus said
To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings.”
True, we can’t help but observe that we’re surrounded by fields where cabbages grow and by “kings” or rulers who have to be obeyed. Other than that, each MachsomWatch shift consists of “many things” – all of them having to do with the basic denial of the “other’s” humanity and the right to a decent life. So, it matters little if one talks of “shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,” for the bottom line is always that close by to all our homes, and not “Through the Looking Glass,” is a bleak, harsh reality that is completely appalling and unspeakable, and if not reported by us, remains ignored and unseen.
Taking a photo, at the entry to the OPT, of the infamous sign, one of the few signs found OPT in both Arabic and Hebrew, is, we’re told, “forbidden.” We persist and return, along Route 55, and turn off south, behind one of the nurseries along a dirt roadway towards:
13:10 Habla – agricultural gate
Soldiers are just closing, not one, but several yellow metal gates, placed between a number of nurseries or in midst of cabbage fields. Of course, we’re shouted at by the two soldiers there, “No photos,” and we note that there’s no sign about opening times on the gate where we’re parked. But we soon learn about those, three times a day, for an hour at a time: we had just missed the 1:00 closing as we stop by the fresh vegetable and fruit stand and by a beautiful nursery, filled with brightly colored plants. We hear of the horrors of the seam line zone, Palestinians, working their own land, their own few acres, forbidden to build on it, even an overnight shelter, and, worse, of course, of permits taken away, for no obvious reason, by the Shabak (General Security Service), the decision upheld by the DCO, who kindly suggests that the Palestinian “talk to God, there is nobody else. One of the men suggests that our shift should have two Palestinian women on it too (good idea),complains too about collective punishment on Qalquilya (50,000 punished for one miscreant) and of the nightly incursions by the army into surrounding villages.
14:10 Gate 753 and A-Ras
The soldiers, reservists, are gung ho, polite and happy: there’s even an electric kettle plugged into some of the plentiful electricity at this rural checkpoint, and there’s a mildly raucous reunion with the soldies from an army medical truck which passes by and stops a few minutes. There’s nobody in the crow’s nest, but both positions at A-Ras are manned by the soldiers, and vehicles both to and from Tulkarm are checked. The line down the hill is rarely more than three to four cars. A pickup truck is called over, pulled aside, but after a quick phone call goes on its way south.
6-8 vehicles, mainly cars filled with family members, on their way out of the OPT. As we take a photo of the same sign placed at the mini “terminal” here as at Qalquilya, we stop by one of the many returning Palestinian Israeli cars: families have visited relatives at Tulkarm over Eid al Adhar and return happy but for the many checkpoints and the fact that one asks if we’ve heard of the idea to “transport” (evacuate) Israel’s Palestinians to the OPT.
Vehicles, Israeli as well as Palestinian, pass freely for a while, to and from Tulkarm; one of the reservists wanders over to us, “We’ll try not to bother you.” (That’s a reversal of the usual situation)! Another comes over to say he’s on our side, but “I’m on duty… my buddies come,” leaving aside the obvious question to a thinking human being, so why does he do this?
14:55 A taxi is stopped, checked in the middle of the roadway, so immediately a line develops, up to 20 vehicles. The commander arrives at the first position, waves everybody on, and the waiting line disappears in three minutes – until the next time.
14:58 A mobile clinic, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, bearing words indicating it’s from Italy, is stopped; two minutes later a mini bus, one ID, of a young man, looked at, it moves on, and two other transporters are not stopped. The randomness of the occupation continues.
We note, with some satisfaction, that there are lots of sheep, feeding on the side of the road or wandering with shepherd in fields, maybe in keeping with the season, but suggesting also that many survived the Feast of the Sacrifice!
16:45 On the way from Jit to Qalquilya
The pink house, illegal settlement building, has a huge pile of earth by its front door. Along the roadside, a number of new signs, in Hebrew, telling people (Jews) to buy from Jewish merchants!
A long line of vehicles, mainly private cars as we approach the checkpoint, dissipates by the time we park and go to stand by the Border police. As one comes over to approach us, another beckons him and tells him, we vaguely overhear, about who and what we are. Cars are flashed forward with a flashlight in the darkness, and there’s no checking while we’re there, except for a longe Israeli care which is soon quickly on its way towards the city.