'Anabta, 'Azzun, Beit Iba, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Shave Shomron, Sun 9.10.11, Afternoon

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Alix W., Susan L. (reporting); Guests: Rachel B., Anne-Lawrence Z.

The October 2011 reports of the United Nation’s (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHOA), began either with “Fast Facts” or “Key Issues.” Both headings speak to an Occupation that is even more horrible than in the past. “Israeli forces injured 22 Palestinians throughout the OPT. Settlers injured another three Palestinians and vandalized around 250 trees. Israeli authorities demolished 26 Palestinian-owned structures, mainly including residential tents and water cisterns in “Area C,” where Israel retains control over security as well as planning and zoning. And all this throughout the OPT where already half a million Israelis live, and where Israel, in A.B. Yehoshua’s words, “nibbles” at the territory of the Palestinians where, in fact it is “plundering and infringing the very essence of the inhabitants’ identity.” What hope is there for a Palestinian state in such an environment?

Habla, Gate 1392
13:02 – the mess created by the change, in Israel, but not in Palestine, from daylight savings time last week, seems to have worked itself out. The same, we are told, could be said about the change from the IDF to a privately contracted firm to be on duty at Sha’ar Eliahu (Gate 109) where the checking , we are told, is a little less arduous than last week, but where Palestinians are treated very differently, surprise, surprise, from Israelis. These conversations go on while all wait for the gate/checkpoint to open. A soldier comes out to the waiting Palestinians, about a dozen of them, to say, “in two minutes.”

13:06 – again, surprise, surprise, the two minutes is, in fact, five when a Hummer arrives bringing the rest of those scheduled, including the Military Policewoman who again makes her presence felt here.

13:15 – the same people waiting here before 13:00, including the lady who offered us fresh “lubia” (freshly picked beans), still wait.

13:25 – only now do most of the waiting people get through. Shortly afterwards, the school bus comes by, carrying the cheerful Bedouin school kids (boys today) on their way home. We notice, not for the first time, that the bus, this school year, is much smaller than before. We wonder if this hasn’t to do with the number of homes that have been pulled down from the area near Alfei Menashe, in which case, those children probably no longer go to school in Habla.

13:30 – Separation Barrier near the ’Enclave’ around Alfei Menashe
Once again the gate here, facing us, is open, again no work on the new road being created by Israel near the Barrier, and we note that the flags are still flying at the little hamlet which is surrounded on all sides by Israel’s so-called “protective measures,” but which, in actual fact, give license for the settlement of Alfei Menashe to expand and attain contiguity with the nearby Green Line.
Free flowing traffic, no police or military
Route 55
All quiet today, few military or police vehicles around. At Azzun, we note, once again, that the flags that flew so proudly the day Abu Mazen returned to Ramallah from the UN General Assembly are no more. Individual flags, perhaps, for those who are brave enough to withstand the punishment of the Occupiers, but at the official level, say, the Municipality of Azzun, no way can they deal with the harassment and humiliation which has surely made them remove the colorful bunting and the flags from the central roundabout in this town.

Beit Iba
There are works going on at the former checkpoint, and rather than leaping to conclusions, we realize that the rocky road leading to Deir Sharaf is probably also caused by infrastructure works, maybe new sewers (and not the recreation of the infamous checkpoint).

Shavei Shomron
No checkpoint, no police or military in sight. Just the usual busy traffic making its way onward to Jenin.

14:30 Deir Sharaf
The DCO was “good enough,” we learn, to call the local Council to tell the Palestinian landowners that they had from 9-13 October to pick their own olives in the olive groves just south of the Shavei Shomron settlement. So, today, the second day of Israeli-authorized olive picking – from lands many of which were, years ago, stolen from local families, some  are indeed picking olives, but, once again this year, in their words, “It’s only half a harvest.” Only two brothers of the M. family are picking olives where once, maybe four or five years ago, some of us joined the many brothers and sisters, the aging mother and a variety of youngsters. S., the man selling vegetables and fruits from a cart, shows the meager picking of his harvest. Half a sack load where once he had sixty. He goes on to tell us of the scourge of wild boars that descend on the village after nightfall, the boars having been set upon the village of Deir Sharaf, by the Israelis, at the start of the Second Intifada, and boars, as most people know, eat everything and make life exceedingly difficult – but that’s the idea of this Occupation.

On the way to Anabta and Jubara, nothing to report, and at the Figs Gate, all our IDs or passports are checked or rather looked quizzically by an uncommunicative military policeman, our trunk checked. Business as usual.

15:30 Irtah/Sha’ar Efraim
Surprise, surprise, the guard, whom we already know, more or less welcomes us, telling us that Palestinians are no longer checked on their return from work as they make their way back home, but that we can’t join them. To Tulkarm, we wonder? And he tells of the delicious food, particularly the hummus that he’s eaten there. A mad world.

The many, many men returning from work are cheerful, and often have greetings for the four of us. One woman whom we’ve known from the Habla gate now tells of her great joy in coming through this “terminal” as she now has a job (plus, of course, a permit) to work in another town in Israel proper. The usual cheerfulness and friendliness of the Palestinian workers is heartwarming.