Hamra, Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Sun 10.8.08, Afternoon

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Meirav A, Daphna B (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?
Guests: Hadas, film editor; Amira Haas, journalist; Fathi C, Jordan Valley activist

The stay at the checkpoints was short, and insteas we visited residents of a number of "pasture stations" (encampments) in the Jordan Valley.

11:15 Maale Ephraim Checkpoint
One car, its documents being checked slowly. When I get out of the car and approach the soldiers, the Palestinian car is released.

11:45 Hamra Checkpoint
No cars in either direction. We drive on northwards.

12:50 Tayasir Checkpoint
Only one taxi waiting, eastbound, with perhaps ten passengers, including a babyinfo-icon and toddlers, waiting to pass on foot. Ten minutes pass till the taxi is called for checking, in the normal ritual: the car stops 20 metres from the checkpoint, the driver gets outraises his shirt and pirouettes. (Of course, if he had an explosive charge or a weapon, he could leave them in the car and pull them out after the humiliating dance.) Another ten minutes pass till the soldier comes from the (air-conditioned) vehicle inspection hut to the pedestrian hut (also air-conditioned), and calls for the first of the transients. As they pass him, the anger is evident in their faces – they have been waiting more than half an hour, for nothing, with no one else at the checkpoint!!
Noontime and it’s very hot.

13:15 – we leave – there are no Palestinians at the checkpoint, and vehicles pass at a rate of one every five minutes.

Iron Gate Facing Roi
The locked gate blocks the path from the pastures of the Hudeida tribe, and others, to the mainstays of their livelihood - the West Bank villages Tamun and Tubas, the hospital, doctors, water sources and so on. The gate is supposed to be opened three times a week, for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon – on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Whoever needs a doctor outside of those times must travel by tractor to the checkpoint at Hamra or Tayasir (there are no cars or taxis in the area) – a two-three hour detour. There is nothing to be said about ambulances!

14:50 – right behind us a military jeep appears. A tractor is waiting to cross into the West Bank with three passengers. The soldiers sit in the jeep and wait.

15:00 – after an hour they open the gate only for the tractor. I ask why they do not leave it open till 15:30 as obligated, for perhaps people will still come. The answer: the observers at Beqaot will see if someone will want to pass, then they’ll come to open. Sure! Just like last week when Salah arrived with his children, after being summoned for interrogation at the DCO, and it was only our repeated requests that got them to open the gate after two and a half hours! Salah then said that if we hadn’t been there, they would never have opened.

15:40 Hamra Checkpoint

The waiting hut for the Palestinians – the only shade at the checkpoint – is being used to store the soldiers’ water tank, and the Palestinians have to wait in the sun.
A worker returning to the West Bank waits ten minutes, alone in the blazing sun, until they call him. There’s no reason for the delay because they are not checking anyone else. Just so! Let him wait! The soldiers try to drive us away with shouts and threats to call the police.

16:10 – we leave.

Visit to el Farsia on the Allon Road north of Rotem. Some 22 families (100 souls) living on the spot since before 1948. Electric power lines cross their land – cross but don’t stop. No electricity – it’s only for Jews. Living off the land, they grow cucumbers and tomatoes, and a year ago they also brought melon seed from Sardinia. A spring flows through, and they used it to irrigate the fields – and to live. Five months ago a white Civil Administration jeep drove up, at 10 am, without military escort (implying that they knew there would be no resistance) and cut all the pipes from the spring to the cultivated plots. They were told that they are forbidden to take water from the spring. An Israeli lawyer that they hired from Um el-Fahm succeeded in making the Civil Asdministration return the pipes (only a week ago) but what’s the point in that when they are forbidden to pump. The pipes lay idle while the fields and hothouses turn yellow, dry, with nothing left. Today they bring water in tanks from Ein el Bida. The children say that they sometimes travel to the nearest town, Tubas, to visit the extended family, but they vigorously (and angrily) insist "but here is our home, only here!"

Visit to Ahmad Halaf Bene Auda
Two hundred thousand Palestinians lived in the Jordan Rift Valley before 1967. Today most of them inhabit the Jordanian side of the valley. Many of the valley villages were completely erased, and only piles of stones evidence the fact that people had once lived here.
We found Ahmad by himself in the tent camp. The whole family had gone to a wedding in Samun. They went yesterday morning (through the checkpoint because the gate isn’t opened on Saturdays) and will return today at five or six, also by the long route through the checkpoint. There is no possibility of coordinating with the DCO a special opening hour for the gate in honour of the occasion, even if it is a daughter of the camp. Ahmad was born in 1939 in Mikhol, the ruined stone houses that can be seen at the turn to Hemdat. The village had both harmers and shepherds. The farmers fled to Tamoun and remain there to this day. He was a shepherd and, together with his family, flock and donkeys, crossed the River Jordan. They returned after two days, and have been in this place ever since. Until 1969 there were no problems. And then the Civil Administration demanded that they apply for a residence permit every six months, and the harassment began. (This was the beginning of the Allon Plan.) In 1991 he received the last permit (which he showed us). From July 1991 the Administration stopped issuing permits – so they are now "illegal inhabitants" in their home (tent). At the Civil Administration they told him – go to Jordan, go to Jiftlik. And he stayed put. He, the members of his household, his sheep and his donkeys. There is no water. It is forbidden to dig a well so water is brought from Shibli in the West Bank, beyond the closed gate. They have brought water from there before, but there were storage reservoirs and in winter they used the water collected there: "...it was only when there was no more water from the skies that we used tankers. Then the army destroyed the reservoirs. Sometimes the army steals sheep which must be redeemed with money. And, more trouble, which we have seen more than once in the last year, the destruction of the tent camp and driving away of its inhabitants: "some had their homes destroyed with warning, others without. Here, my neighbour – his home was destroyed, and he asked, why? You didn’t even warn me!" "We warned you 17 years ago," they replied.

And if that isn’t enough – landowners living in Tubas collect rents on the camp here, on the pastures, and recently they have increased the rent. And the Palestinian Authority, instead of pressuring the landowners to encourage the adherence to land on the site, is indifferent to their fate and allows this extortion. Many people have left – they have no strength left to fight both the Israelis and the landowners.

And if that isn’t enough – the checkpoints, the blocks, the separation trenches and the army. A daughter of the family marries a boy from Tamoun. How many difficulties will be placed in the way of members of the tribe when they want to visit her, the grandchildren? Two days ago the bridegroom decided to bring to the campsite yoghurt and lamb for the traditional wedding "mansaf." The gate was locked, of course, and the checkpoint so far away... The bridegroom decided to shorten the route, and crossed through the mountains. The observers spotted him and sent a scout after him. He was taken to Hamra Checkpoint where he spent five hours in solitary confinement – a day before the wedding.