Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir

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Keren Abiram, Dafna Banai (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?
10:45  Shomron gate.  A bus from Birthright and a few Israeli cars plus six military vans stand on the roadside, preparing to enter the territories together.  So much security for a Birthright tour, or is someone or something special involved?


11:05  The Za’tara/Tapuach checkpoint isn’t manned but a bored soldier stands at the hitchhiking station going toward Ramallah, a second in the observation post above the plaza.  The checkpoint could be restored in no time.


Home demolitions in Jiftlik

Two days ago the occupation authorities demolished four homes in Jiftlik, in the Jordan Valley.  Unlike the rest of Area C, there’s an outline plan for Jiftlik, but so what?  Only 60% of the village houses are included; the rest are slated for demolition.  And in fact, since the plan was approved in 2008, many homes have been demolished.  Each demolition is an absolute disaster for the inhabitants.  We can’t imagine how someone feels who one dark morning is left exposed to the sun’s heat, the night’s cold and all his belongings are dumped outside, assuming the soldiers even allowed him to save a few items (in 20 minutes if he’s lucky).


Abu el Hab lives in the southern part of Jiftlik on a rise to which access is difficult.  Before dawn on 20.10.14 the bulldozers came and demolished two of the three buildings.  “Why do you think they left the third one?,” I asked.  “It’s new; they didn’t have a demolition order,” he said, adding, “But they’ll return.  I stood there weeping…”  Abu el Hab lived in caves in the South Hebron Hills and moved here ten years ago because he’d grown tired of being harassed by the occupier and its settlers.  “Where will I go now?” he asks despairingly.  The army also demolished a sheepfold containing 200 head.  He moved them to a friend so they won’t die out in the sun.


We stopped farther west at a grocery to ask where the demolition occurred.  A man named Rashid volunteered to come show us.  A small tin shack where the six members of his brother’s family lived, next to the ruins of an attractive stone house.  I asked why they don’t rebuild the ruins.  “Ahh,” he sighed longingly, “It’s too great an investment for a house they could demolish tomorrow.”


There’s a small grove of young date trees across the way and a greenhouse with vegetables.  Everything’s small, meager.  A poor family which barely makes a living from agriculture.  Now they live in Nablus; the father comes daily to work his land.

On the way Rashid shows us a new structure, a refrigerated storeroom for dates grown in the area.  It holds 40 tons of dates, and there’s a demolition order.  The bulldozers could arrive any day, “And then what will become of us?,” he says, expressing the existential anxiety everyone feels.  Farther east, next to the junction of the Hamra-Jiftlik road with Highway 90, are more poor, miserable habitations; there the army demolished the sheepfold.


Along the Alon Road/Highway 578 we see they’ve made higher the earthen berm which cuts off residents of the Jordan Valley from the West Bank.


14:15  Tayasir checkpoint.  Palestinians reported that the checkpoint has been “good” recently.  And we found crossing was fast and smooth.  A bus goes through without its passengers having to get off, a pleasant soldier attempts his few words of Arabic.  There are no delays.  And yet – a checkpoint in the middle of life, armed soldiers stand between each Palestinian and the few opportunities life under occupation permits him, and even though they’re smiling and polite they’re the operational arm of a destructive repression.


On the way to the Tayasir checkpoint are many tent encampments on both sides of the road.  Many little children run to the road when they see us, to ask for food or clothing.  They jump right in front of the car – it’s very scary, we don’t want to hit them!  The inhabitants of the encampment at the foot of the Crusader fortress were ordered to vacate the area today and on October 29, from 6 AM to 6 PM.  Why?  Because the army is conducting maneuvers.  We saw people unloading their few belongings from wagons attached to tractors, but we saw no sign of maneuvers.  Nor an increased military presence.


Opposite the Ro’i settlement, where a concrete sign (one of many scattered throughout the Jordan Valley) identifies a firing range, Israelis planted two vineyards.  Six months ago a “nature festival” was held behind them where 10,000 high young Israelis cavorted to rhythm of loudspeakers blasting the eardrums of everyone living in the area.  The dirt road created for the festival is often used by Palestinians who are tired of the long detour they’re forced to make to travel back and forth from the Jordan Valley to the West Bank through the checkpoints.  A month ago Khaled, who distributes water to residents of the area, was caught here and his tanker confiscated.  The state of Israel demands NIS 8000 to return it.  It’s parked in Qalqilya.  Why was it confiscated?  For entering a firing range.


15:00  An army jeep with two soldiers lies in wait by the path and the vineyard of Palestinian shepherds lest they dare try to ease their difficult lives.


15:15  Hamra checkpoint.   A line of eight cars waits to cross.  We stopped for a moment and saw the soldiers were changing shifts.  We didn’t wait because we wanted to reach Aqraba for a solidarity visit at the mosque settlers had torched last week.