Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah)
11:45 – Tapuach (Za’atara) Checkpoint
Permanent checkpoint post was unmanned. On the southern side of the junction, the road bound for Ramallah and Al Quds Jerusalem, 3 soldiers stand at the bus and rides stop, next to a plastic barrier used for the occasional blocking of the road, and stop cars as they see fit. Across the road a white police jeep is parked, serving the same purpose.
12:10 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint
12:40 – Beqa’ot (Hamra) Checkpoint
Upon our arrival, 7 cars were waiting to cross from the Jordan Valley into the West Bank hills region. The soldiers at the checkpoint stop each car and exchange words with the driver, sometimes with the passengers s well. Not actually inspecting the vehicles. Still, they delay every car wishing to reach its destination. The waiting time in line was about 7-10 minutes. Hardly any cars are traveling in the opposite direction, from the West Bank hills into the Jordan Valley.
For some weeks we have now seen a stray shepherd dog at this checkpoint, which the soldiers have taken to heart, “adopted”. Last week I saw a soldier stroking and feeding it. The animals strolls or snoozes inside the checkpoint itself creating a problem for the Palestinians who are sometimes required to disembark and fear the dog. According to one of the Palestinians, residing close to the checkpoint, last week this dog attacked and bit Palestinians at the checkpoint on two separate occasions. Since we were not present at the time, we cannot validate this claim, but we certainly witness the fear and aversion it creates (for Muslims a dog is an unclean, untouchable animal) as it hangs around amongst them.
15:00 – Tyassir Checkpoint
Cars are carefully inspected, even those traveling from the Jordan Valley up into Area A in the West Bank hills. Drivers are required to get out of their cars, open the trunk, the soldier looks at the taxi-van passengers inside in the back of the car. In one of the vehicles a stick was found in the trunk. The driver explained is a shepherd and this is his shepherd’s stick. The object is passed from one soldier to another, all wondering what to do with this mighty weapon… 5 minutes later they decide to let this car go.
The Palestinians repeat the familiar refrain – When you’re here they do it fast, when you’re not here we wait a long time.”
There is not much traffic this time of day, but between cars the soldiers relax in their shed or just stand around talking while the Palestinians wait impatiently for their turn.
One car is driven by a woman. The soldiers take her ID to their shack, all 3 soldiers examine it thoroughly and only then it is returned to the humiliated woman – this procedure has not been applied to any male driver we saw going through the checkpoint.
16:30 – 17:15 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint
From afar we can see a long line of waiting cars winding around the road bend. 30 vehicles await their turn to cross this checkpoint at this time. IDs are taken from every single driver and passenger in every car for inspection, and at this rush hour, the slightest delay becomes a lengthy wait. At the roadside stands a car with 5 youngsters standing next to it, frozen, their shirt hoods held tight. They are very young, practically children, shivering in the cold. One of them tries again and again to plead with the soldiers. They left home at 4 a.m. this morning for work in Fatza’el settlement, and now he has to rush his younger brother to the hospital. All five do not have their IDs on them, and the soldiers are punishing them. This is no inspection, as they have no IDs to inspect – only punishment.
Gradually the waiting line shortens, and 45 minutes later every car arriving at the checkpoint is let through. The ID-less boys are released as well.
At Tapuach-Zaatara Junction again the checkpoint is unmanned, but south of the junction, at the bus and ride stop on the side bound for Ramallah soldiers stand at the ready. We did not see cars being stopped so neither did we.