Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 26.6.11, Afternoon

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Chana P., Rina Z. (reporting)

Jordan Valley, 26.6.11, afternoon

Translator:  Charles K.

An unusual traffic jam outside of Ariel.  At the Palestinian grocery on our way back we learned there had been a suspicious object.

Za’tara junction 12:30 

The central plaza is empty.  Soldiers inspect vehicles coming from Huwwara.  No line.

Hamra checkpoint 13:00

Six cars waiting from our direction.  As soon as we arrived inspections began and the line vanished.

An army Hummer at the junction.

A Palestinian approached us; his attempt to obtain a permit to work in one of the settlements was refused by the Israeli DCO without explanation.  We referred him to Sylvia.

Bags filled with garbage are scattered along the road in front of the checkpoint, indicating that someone takes care of cleaning up, at least near the checkpoint.

The earthen berm preventing vehicles from going west from the Alon road begins right after the checkpoint and continues to the Gochia gate.  We can see that work goes on to make it higher.  Physical separation of the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank is the implementation of the political position that the Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control, even if and when territory will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

Near the Maskiyot settlement

We visited a family living opposite the settlement, not far before Qadri’s encampment.  They said there hadn’t been any problems recently with the Maskiyot settlers.  They also called our attention to the ongoing expansion of Maskiyot along the ridge on which it sits.  The new blue tent is actually a shed.  The women said they heard people singing in it.  Apparently it’s used for public events.

Tayasir checkpoint  14:20

Five cars waited in line on our side (east of the checkpoint) when we arrived.  Because we weren’t flying flags, and stopped behind a truck, the soldiers at the checkpoint didn’t see us.  We waited 15 minutes, and not a single car went through – that is, the checkpoint wasn’t operating.  The number of cars waiting rose to 15.  All that in the oppressive heat of the Jordan Valley.  The Palestinian cars didn’t have air conditioning.  We didn’t know when this break had begun.  In the meantime we called Zaharan, from the DCO, and the humanitarian office to file a complaint (which they will do what with???).  As we said, inspections began 15 minutes following our arrival, but only on our side.  Cars stood on the western side (we couldn’t see how many), and only after 17 more minutes did their inspection begin.  We spoke to the driver of the first car.  A young man with two small children, aged 2 or 3.  With no air conditioning.  He’s returning from taking the children for medical treatment.  This morning as well, when he went through the checkpoint in the opposite direction, he waited about half an hour with the sick children.  He says the wait is longer at night, sometimes an hour, even though there’s no line at all.

Five minutes after inspections began on the western side only one car had crossed.  The second, a taxi, is still being inspected.  The checkpoint commander doesn’t answer our questions.  Maybe the phone calls helped after all…

We leave for the Gochia gate.  We’re running late today.

Gochia gate  15:10

An army jeep at the gate.  The gate is open.  The soldiers say a tractor crossed.

Ma’aleh Efraim checkpoint  15:55

There hadn’t been any soldiers at the entry gate to the Jordan Valley when we came earlier.  Now there are.  No vehicle crossed from the West Bank when we went through; they’re inspected.

Za’tara junction  16:10

A police vehicle (Border Police) in the central plaza, two army vehicles and a Palestinian vehicle.  We enter to see what’s going on.

Five young men in the Palestinian car.  They’ve been detained by Border Police personnel and their ID’s taken for inspection.  When we approached they got their ID’s back.  They were frightened, didn’t answer our questions and left immediately at the order of the Border Police.

A religious man wandered around the plaza and photographed us with his cellphone.  Then he had a friendly talk with the Border Police, who then came over to deal with us.  First they, too, photographed us with their cellphone and asked for our ID’s.  They began to explain that it’s a military area, and the tiresome argument about our place at the checkpoints began again.  Because in any case we’d finished what we came to do, we left.  Incidentally:  the religious guy is the security coordinator for one of the settlements.  His job has some acronym, we don’t have an acronym, so what he’s allowed we’re forbidden.