'Anabta, Beit Iba, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Sun 22.5.11, Afternoon
It’s of course presumptuous to say that the women of MachsomWatch are helping to harness change in the Middle East, but it’s true that we are, have been and will continue to be a democratic movement, and that we have called for an end to what looks like permanent occupation, and for a peace deal based on endorsing the reality of Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Six Day War. Our main objectives are based on the protection of Palestinian human rights of which earning a livelihood and enjoying freedom of movement are but two rights on which we report violations. Moreover, we who pass into the OPT and monitor the ever creeping Separation Barrier, and what it involves, see in it a demographic reality that does increasing damage to the fabric of Palestinian life with the non stop harassment and humiliation that defines occupation.
13:15 Green Line
We cross the Green Line, over Route 6, Israel’s only toll road, and wonder, as we do, each week, how our fellow citizens are left in total ignorance as to where that line should, in fact, be. There are no markings, no signs of what once existed or exists today on precious few maps. The Green Line between what is internationally recognized (the 1949 Armistice) as Israel and what is occupied Palestinian territory tends to be ignored both in theory and practice. And to the women of MachsomWatch it’s pretty clear that the Israeli government would like to move final borders as far east as they possibly can. It is therefore obvious why Netanyahu, now in Washington, downplays the significance of the Green Line. But the reality we view, several kilometers ahead and east of us, is the ever creeping Separation Barrier, snaking its way through lands that have, for generations, been Palestinian owned.
13:20 Habla Gate 1392
The gates have been open for a while; the almost brand new pedestrian gate is now padlocked, no longer used – after how few weeks? A soldier, one of a group of reservists, tells us that they are new here; that he has no idea about a school bus of Bedouin children, but a bus has already passed; he adds, quite cheerfully, that he’d prefer to be at the Dead Sea or in Eilat, but then the conversation ceases when a fellow soldier informs us that we cannot stand where we have been, but need to step back to the gate itself.
Another soldier trains a pair of binoculars on the village of Habla, and on being asked why, says he’s looking at “the view” including flowers of which there are none at this time of year.
A beautiful horse appears, together with a frisky and skittish young foal not far behind, but otherwise few people, just one tractor and one horse drawn cartful of fruit.
Route 55, Deir Sharaf, Anabta, Route 57
Nothing untoward to report, merely that Occupation seems to go on forever. Happily, the beautiful carpentry work of the Huwwash Brothers near the former Beit Iba checkpoint seems to display a more welcoming permanence.
Near Jubara, on Route 57, one Hummer has stopped an Israeli car (yellow license plates), on the side of the road, and at Jubara the two seated soldiers don’t even bother to get up as we pass.
16:10 – cows crossing the road make a change from the customary goats and sheep, and these, not the usual black and white, but light brown, waddle their way to yellowing fields, which seem to provide little sustenance for the likes of cows, near the back-to- back crossing at Irtah.
16:15 Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim)
A large crowd of returning workers in a never ending flow, but no women at this relatively late hour. We learn that entry into Israel for the laborers this morning, the first day of the new week, was “as expected” but, lo and behold, the entryway, through the turnstile, into the checking hall, is completely closed and, instead, a metal gate, leading directly to a turnstile, leading down to the other turnstiles by the parking lot on the Palestinian side of the “terminal” is now open.
We express our pleasant surprise to the Palestinians who greet us in their usual manner, but as they walk this untrodden path homewards, they display no emotion, either of astonishment or joy, at this so-called new found freedom. After all, the checking hall and its ugly monitoring of body and foodstuffs could be back tomorrow! Years of occupation have taught Palestinians that nothing can be trusted, that the only consistency about occupation lies in its inconsistency.
As is usual here, we have been spotted by the private contracting company overseeing this “terminal,” and a staff member appears from inside the checking hall, telling us, that today is the first day of a new policy: no checking of Palestinians on their return to the Territories. He has no idea who made such a decision, merely that for the first time in his five years at the “terminal,” there is no checking of returning Palestinians -- at least for today.