Tayasir, Sat 11.6.11, Afternoon

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Daphna Banai

Translator: Ilil Naveh-Benjamin

I was invited to guide activists from the Committee Against Home Destruction, who were planning guided tours of the Jordan Valley (the southern region in particular, due to its proximity to Jerusalem and their reluctance to carry out long tours out of concern that people wouldn’t come.)

The tour itself was brief.  I told them about the valley closureinfo-icon, about water being withheld and about the destruction of homes in the northern end of the valley.  On the way to the Hamra checkpoint, I pointed out the various blockages (gatesinfo-icon, gigantic boulders, trenches, high piles of dirt), the “fire zone” signs posted at the entrances to Palestinian towns, and the difference between Palestinian towns, with their faded yellow surroundings and entrances marked by yellow water tanks, and the intensely green vineyards of the settlements.

Hamra checkpoint  - 14:25

Movement was sparse.  Since I was alone, I decided not to approach the checkpoint, but to watch from afar.  About 10 young men were crossing the checkpoint on foot, holding their belts, and they waited in the sun for ten minutes.  No cars passed during this time.  Coming from Tayasir and heading to Jericho, the men were waiting for the taxicab that had brought them, which was still delayed at the checkpoint. The taxi finally arrived, its driver filled with rage, cursing and yelling. According to him, he’d waited for an hour at the western side of the checkpoint.  A soldier had motioned him to the side and said, “Until three cars show up, I won’t let you pass.”

In my estimation, the driver hadn’t waited an hour, but he did wait in the merciless sun for over half an hour.  Something similar happened in Tayasir (see below).

Tayasir checkpoint – 15:10

Movement is very sparse.  I stood about 100 metres away from the checkpoint (and 50 metres east of the Palestinians’ stopping point) in order to observe without being noticed by the soldiers.  Two cars – a taxicab and a truck – stood on the western side (the West Bank side) and waited for permission to approach the checkpoint.  And waited.  And waited. 
A full 10 minutes passed without a single car being checked (even the passengers sat still in their cars).  The checkpoint stood vacant, the soldiers inside their air-conditioned booths and the Palestinians roasting in their non-air-conditioned cars.  Then, one of the soldiers motioned with a lazy hand for the taxicab to approach.  The passengers disembarked at the end of the pedestrian path. 
The taxicab entered the checkpoint, was thoroughly examined, including its trunk, and passed.  Meanwhile, the passengers stood and waited for instructions to approach the checkpoint. And waited. And waited. 
The checkpoint commander approached me (I’d gotten closer to speak to the drivers who were waiting to cross to the West Bank).  He slowly walked towards me, motioned me to roll down my car window and asked, “Is everything OK?”, adding, “If you have any questions, I’m here.”  I asked, “Why are these people, the taxi passengers, standing at the checkpoint and not being called forward to be examined and pass through?” His answer: “Because I came down to speak with you, and when I’m not there - they don’t pass.” 
By the time he returned to the checkpoint, 15 minutes had passed since the 11 passengers had disembarked, and 10 additional minutes went by until everyone, including children and elderly people, passed one by one, finally reaching their taxicab.  In short – over half an hour (!!) went by from the moment they arrived at the empty checkpoint until they were allowed to continue on their way.