'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Jubara (Kafriat), Sun 23.10.11, Afternoon

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Alix W., Rachel B., Susan L. (reporting)

The turmoil created by the “Arab spring” revolutions may have affected people here, not so its politicians who haven't changed the strategic equation and continue with occupation and settlement building in a language that is, frankly, just stuck in the past. The celebrations on both sides of the divide in the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas last week freed more than 1,000 prisoners, including Gilad Shalit, and came about through the vox populi, not the vox dei. And what about the situation in the OPT as observed today: more of the same, none of the good, plenty of the bad and the ugly.

12:30 Habla
A magnificent lesson on what goes on for the long time inhabitants of Qalqiliya and today’s dire life in the Seam Zone, complete with map. The effect of the “girls” (that’s us, MachsomWatch women) on the overall perception Palestinians today have of Israelis – all for the edification of a newcomer. We are called something like “angels of mercy,” but that’s mainly thanks to the women who work with Menuei Shabak and Menuei Mishtara: “they work as if pouring water over hot coals.”

13:10 Gate 1392
We arrive late because of the above session. Six people wait on our side of the Separation Barrier, and it’s clear that this is one of those extra slow days which seem to typify guarding this checkpoint. Nothing moves, and then we begin to understand that the five Palestinians who are called at any one time to be checked inside the concrete house come in as a group and exit also as a group.
13:15 – a Hummer arrives, followed by a jeep as the Hummer soon drives off into the distance. The soldiers’ shift, twenty minutes late, is now complete, but this does nothing to speed the checking.

13:23 – the elementary schoolchildren’s bus has been waiting for nearly half an hour, and it waits some more as the commander, a reservist, confers in the middle of the Separation Barrier with another soldier (also a reservist). Two soldiers, plus the usual woman Military Police enter the bus.  

Eliahu Gateway/Gate 109
For us no problem as we are made to cross the obstacle course to get to blue Police and Border Police who sit, waiting for what, on the ground. But at Gate 109, on the far side of the so-called gateway, stand two Palestinian buses, with nobody inside. Palestinians are certainly being checked in the newly expanded and improved checking facility there. In the mornings, Gate 109 continues to be a terrible place for Palestinians who have permits to go to the Seam Zone. Often, if they arrive at 7:00, they don’t get out until 9:30, and the kinds of demeaning behaviors they are subjected to remind us of the worst days at Huwarra or Beit Iba, being forced to undress, subjected to uncouth behaviors of women soldiers, etc. All this seems to have started here at Gate 109 since its privatization.

Route 55
It’s quiet today, little traffic, as if everybody, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, had had enough of the endless festivals in Israel proper.  

Deir Sharaf
Another disastrous year for the olive harvest.

14:50 Anabta
The checkpoint is closed, a row of concrete boulders stands across the narrowest part of the access point. Parallel to the boulders is an army jeep. The soldiers never get out. They watch the endless stream of semi-trailers, cars, trucks, etc., approach the checkpoint, and then watch them maneuver, with difficulty, to turn around. We see one car valiantly clamber up the steep IDF-made mound having found a way to circumvent this latest obstacle in the daily life of a Palestinian. Later, during our watch, a few brave cars, all without four-wheel drive, make their way down this huge mound, into the dust-filled dirt path to make their way to where they want or need to go. Of course, no signs announcing that the checkpoint is closed today as there are roadworks beyond, or so we are told. No, let them come up to the concrete boulders, and let them do what they will. Not a concern for the army of occupation.
We have time to study the junction itself and the signs on it. One, in particular, takes our fancy, or at least draws attention to itself. In bright, glowing colors, on the background of a photo of the beautiful Roman ruins at Sebastia, near Nablus, (which we are forbidden to visit, in spite of their fame and beauty) the “next festival of Samaria in Sebastia” is announced for Sukkot (the just passed Jewish festival) on 17.10.11. Once again, the settlers are more equal than all others.

15:15 Jubara
A soldier there asks where we’ve been shopping, but the name of Habla means not a thing to him, nor does that of MachsomWatch!