Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah)

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Chana Peres, Rina Tsur (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

*Why does the army keep harassing the resident of Halat Makhoul?

*What is a contractor for the Nature Reserves Authority doing in the Jordan Valley grazing lands?

*What happened to the Gochia checkpoint, which was supposed to be an “agricultural gate”?

*What happens when an Israeli policeman loses a Palestinian’s ID card?


10:15  Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint.  Three soldiers on the road in the direction of Jerusalem, two toward the Jordan Valley.  We didn’t stop to see whether they were detaining Palestinian cars.  The plaza is empty.  Its entrance is blocked.


10:30  Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint.  No soldiers, nor when we returned.


In the settlers’ fields along the road

Only some of the leased fields of the Gitit settlement (near the pumping station) are cultivated.  We don’t know who’s leasing them now.  There were no laborers in the fields.  The Mechora settlement is expanding its cultivated area along the road from one season to the next.  It’s non-irrigated land.  Maybe it’s also leased?

The settlement of Hamra is also expanding its cultivated land along the road.


10:50  Hamra checkpoint

Usually the soldiers carefully inspect cars entering the Jordan Valley, while those heading toward Area A cross without inspection.  Today it’s the opposite.  Cars going to the Jordan Valley cross quickly, almost without delay, while those entering Area A are inspected carefully, at length.  So there’s always a line of 7-10 cars to the east during the entire time we observed.

Today passengers weren’t made to get out and go through the pedestrian checkpoint; it was closed.


11:30  Halat Makhoul

It was demolished by order of the Civil Administration about four months ago, rebuilt primarily with UNWRA’s help, along with the Red Cross and Israeli volunteers – according to the residents we talked to.  Every time these organization brought equipment the army intervened; there were also confrontations, but eventually the tents were re-erected.

Recently, they told us, the army is harassing the residents with unannounced searches of their tents, looked for weapons, but finds nothing.  But the invasions, making the residents get out, the searches and mess created of their meager belongings (four months after the demolitions) – this is serious harassment.  It’s worth mentioning that even during the most serious period of the intifada, the Jordan Valley was quiet, there were no attacks and no “hostile activity” by the residents.

The most recent search was conducted a month ago.


13:00  Tayasir checkpoint

The checkpoint is empty of cars most of the time.  The pedestrian checkpoint isn’t operating.  Everyone is inspected while remaining in their cars.  A taxi coming from the west (Area A) is turned back.  We asked why; the soldiers said the driver had no identification.


A visit to S.’s tent, next to the Maskiyot settlement

Two months ago his tent was demolished.  He has ten children, the oldest girl aged 18, the youngest aged 2.  After the family had spent some time out in the open he re-erected his tent some distance from the settlement, and it was demolished again.  He erected it again, and three weeks ago it was again demolished.  This time he erected the tent and a small pen for his flock in a small gorge in the wadi, and hopes they’ll leave him alone.  The family is very poor, neglected, worse than we’ve seen even among the Bedouin – and they’re the ones who are being picked on…


The Nature Reserves Authority and the poor man’s lamb (2 Samuel 12)

We were told that two weeks ago a truck from the Nature Reserves Authority came to El Malih, confiscated A.’s only cow and took it to quarantine near the Adam bridge.  They didn’t tell him why.  When he went to the Jericho DCO they told him he had to pay NIS 2200 (a fine and the cost of keeping the animal in quarantine).  He doesn’t have the money so he’s lost the cow.

We know the Nature Reserves Authority has hired a truck driver, N., who drives around the area catching cows or sheep and transporting them to quarantine.  I believe the excuse is usually that they’re in a firing range.  Since the whole northern Jordan Valley has been declared a firing range, he’s free to decide what to take.  Could his pay depend on how many animals he collects?  Who supervises him?  The victims of the Nature Reserves Authority procedures are those grazing the sheep and cows, which is their only source of their (very meager) livelihood. They are terribly poor.  And so the state of Israel repeatedly robs the poor man’s lamb. 


What happens when a policeman loses a Palestinian’s ID card?

We were also told about W., who was arrested two days ago by a policeman who’d passed him on the road when he was driving a tractor without a license (he’d forgot it at home).  The policeman confiscated his ID card.  When he came to the Ma’aleh Efrayim police station they told him they didn’t have his ID – he should get a new one at the DCO.  They didn’t even give him a document confirming they’d lost it!

I don’t know what the procedure is, what fines, payments, authorizations, running around, etc. a Palestinian must go through to obtain a new ID card, but I know how unbearably easy it is for all kinds of people in the occupation apparatus to confiscate a Palestinian’s ID.  A Palestinian can’t leave his home without an ID.


13:30  Gochia checkpoint

The checkpoint, located next to the Beqaot settlement, west of the Alon road, is part of a long barrier – a long ditch and berm – to prevent vehicles or livestock from crossing to the west of the Alon road, sort of a roadblock between the Jordan Valley and the West Bank.  The Gochia checkpoint is the only crossing, limited to holders of special permits, and it’s supposed to open three times a week for half an hour in the morning and in the afternoon.  It separates the town of Tamun, which could serve as a regional center for the Bedouin in the area (schools, clinic, a commercial center, etc.).  Even if it opens three times a week, it would be impossible to maintain an ongoing connection.

Meanwhile it’s supposed to serve primarily the tractors coming to work in the fields west of the road.  Even people who live next to it don’t have crossing permits (we spoke to some of them).  Even residents of Tamun who work in the settlements along the Alon road aren’t allowed to cross there.  The alternative requires a detour of dozens of kilometers through the Hamra checkpoint.

We met a man from Makhoul at the gate who’d returned on foot from visiting his family on the other side of the checkpoint.  He told us that now the arrangement is that if someone comes to the checkpoint during the half hour people are allowed to cross, they must wait until they’re noticed on camerainfo-icon by someone in the Jordan Valley and 15 minutes later someone will come open the gate…

But, not surprisingly, in the face of an impossible decree the human brain finds solutions, and whoever can do so bypasses the checkpoint.  Unfortunately it’s an obstacle course full of potholes and rocks which cause wear and tear and damage the vehicles.  Another Israel-bluff:  the army knows, the crossing places are known, but it continues.


14:45  Tapuach junction – Za’tara checkpoint

Two Border Police soldiers stand at the junction toward Jerusalem.  We stopped for five minutes.  No Palestinian vehicle was stopped during that time.