'Azzun 'Atma, Sun 17.8.08, Morning

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Ziona, Edna C.; Translation: Deborah J.

  We arrived at the entrance to the village at 05:20, in the dark. We entered with our vehicle by way of the obstacles.

 When we got to the grocery store, the place where the day laborers wait for work, we asked them: How’s the checkpoint?” The reply: “Full of people. Well, that’s logical, it’s Sunday morning . We sped in the direction of the checkpoint, while in the back of our minds were the latest reports of the endless queues at the checkpoint and the prohibition on Machsom Watch women crossing the checkpoint to stand on the side where the queue is. And we especially thought about that commander who talks to the Palestinians and the MW women along the barrel of his drawn rifle.

 After we parked our vehicle, I prepared Ziona to make a break for the other side. It should be noted that it’s important to stand over there because only there can you see the unbearable length of the queue. Also, no less important, there’s a concrete obstacle block that can be sat upon. No less important. I told her to lengthen her stride and to walk upright, not looking left or right at the soldiers, as if she had written on her chest that she owns the checkpoint.
We stood tall and crossed proudly and swiftly to the other side. The CP commander, armed, approached us with alarming strides and said, “Gals, if you want to stand on this side, please do so behind the concrete obstacle block.” We almost dropped. In our astonishment at his not having kicked us out of there, we didn’t pay attention to the strange way things were being conducted. It’s five-thirty in the morning, and there is no, no, no queue of people at all. Empty. People got out of their cars, or streamed quickly in the direction of the houses, passed through the turnstile that was for the most part open and wasn’t slammed shut in their faces, and hop! after a half minute they were on the other side.

 Also the queue of vehicles was being handled in an uncommon way. Usually, after one car is inspected, turns on the engine and drives off, the soldier performing the inspection is free to light a cigarette, chat up the girl soldier beside him, scratch himself a bit, and only then wiggles his finger imperceptibly to signal to the next vehicle’s driver that he can approach. This morning, even before the first car’s inspection is completed, the one after it gets the signal to approach, and even – oh, no! – inspecting cars from both sides, actually simultaneously. So no wonder there was no queue of vehicles either?

We stood still for long minutes, astonished by the possibility that there’s another way of doing all this. We asked those passing without queuing up, if there was something special today, if people had been laid off from their jobs, if some fast day we didn’t know about was being observed in the settlements so that people weren’t showing up for work. No, they said, everything’s ordinary. There’s just no queue. And they quickened their pace to go through the turnstile, that usually would flip shut in their faces but today simply swallowed up people one after another.

We approached the commander, Yossi. He answered simply: If you do the work well, everything’s o.k. What’s there to talk about? Apparently he “does the work well.” Apparently there hasn’t been even a smidgen of inclination to make things difficult or act in an arbitrary manner. 

We looked around, searched for anyone in restraints, anyone detained, anyone beaten, that would justify our having gotten up at 4:30 a.m.

We left there frustrated. You can never rely on “business as usual.” Every time there’s another surprise from another direction. What a crappy country.