'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 13.7.08, Afternoon
"The Israeli occupation has gone crazy" wrote Gideon Levy in today's
Haaretz. He didn't see the hostile looking mythical beast newly
painted on a sign, proudly proclaiming which company was guarding the
checkpoint at Qalqiliya; nor did he see the open gate at Shavei
Shomron, a gate supposed to be permanently closed or the settler youth
camped anew on a hilltop opposite the empty outpost at Shvut Ami,
proudly flying the Israeli flag on yet another newly occupied
hilltop…. nor did he experience the soldiers at Gate 753 demanding of
a carload of MachsomWatchers, flying the MachsomWatch flag, in Arabic,
to see their permit to cross the separation barrier.
No line to Qalqiliya, a long line from the city, which dissipates
quickly – no checking. The new sign, hand painted by one of the
soldiers there, of a growling and hostile looking mythical beast's
head atop a dagger, denotes the artist's pride in his unit – and his
mate's pride in his artistic prowess.
Shvut Ami outpost
Near Qedumim - on the way to Jit Junction – although the lone house
looks abandoned, a bright, white, new stone "roadway" points to future
use. On the hilltop opposite, beneath a tarpaulin, sit settler youth,
demarcating yet another new outpost in an olive grove that is clearly
not theirs. An Israeli flag flutters arrogantly in the summer breeze.
A few kilometers from Anabta, past Beit Lid, near the junction leading
to Beit Iba, Palestinian vehicles, mainly large and small trucks,
again make their way through the dusty fields of summer: the ditches
now allow access overland, northwards from the main roadway, Route 55.
At Anabta, here, too, a unit shows its pride in the Occupation: a
clean flag is planted into the soil which appears more and more
damaged by the handiwork of the Occupier. No line to Tulkarm, and
Palestinian Israeli cars, bearing Israeli license plates (yellow), are
not checked. From Tulkarm, we see a bus, a small truck and a private
car instead of the usual long line. All pass freely. Only a
semitrailer bearing a private SUV on its platform, is stopped, its
papers checked. The soldiers here and at Jubara and at A-Ras wear
caps, not helmets, quite smart caps (not the baseball cap variety)!
Gate leading up to the village is speedily opened for us.
A wait, also on the way back, as these new soldiers take their sweet
time, checking papers and vehicles. As we pass them, signs prominently
displayed in front and back of the car, flag flying from one window, a
soldier peers at us and asks in Arabic (!) for our permit to cross the
separation barrier. Although he next insists that he knows all about
MachsomWatch, he then asks where we're headed and calls over his
intercom to the commander at A-Ras, to give us clearance!
As we approach, a Hummer screeches its way past the checkpoint, hoots
proudly -- and loudly -- and turns round. Out tumble a number of
soldiers who say a few words to their mates and then go on their merry
and noisy way. We see one large, full size bus making an agonized turn
around at this narrow junction in the road to park down the hill. At
the same time, another bus is stopped on the far side of the
checkpoint, coming from the south, and all its passengers, men and
women, young and old, all heavily laden with packages, make their
tortuous way from one bus to the other, from one side of the
checkpoint, in the middle of nowhere, to the other. All in a day's
outing in this part of the world….
Vehicles in both directions are checked, trunks opened and examined.
The south side of the checkpoint is manned by one soldier, two others
at the usual position and one in the crow's nest. From Gate 753, we
hear the loud and frequent questions, unusually simple questions,
posed to the soldier in the crow's nest over the intercom, questions
that are then relayed to an unseen and unknown woman somewhere else in
this occupied land.
It is not usual for all vehicles making their way to Tulkarm, from the
south, to be checked. Not so today. Every passenger's ID is checked by
the lone soldier. One large, arrogant semitrailer driver insists on
going to the head of the line, passing the waiting pedestrians, who,
of course, have to wait some more, and creating a few moments of chaos
– in the middle of nowhere. From the south, all vehicles, large and
small, lurch and sway along a roadbed that, since this past winter,
has more or less ceased to exist. But the excruciatingly deep ditch,
now filled with dusty sand, continues to give motorized vehicles a few
moments of torture.