Hamra, Tayasir, Thu 6.11.08, Afternoon

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Yifat D, Daphna B (reporting)
11:00 Maale Ephraim Checkpoint
One car went through quickly. We passed without stopping.

11:30 Hamra Checkpoint
No cars from the direction of the valley, and three waiting from the West Bank.

14:10 Tayasir Checkpoint
Change of personnel throughout the Valley. The changeover slows traffic, but the inspections are not meticulous and relatively are quick. It seems that the soldiers still lack confidence, and they are behaving without the arrogant forcefulness of their predecessors. One of the soldiers does point his rifle at the faces of those being checked, but maybe he is just following orders like any fresh soldier and not being provocative.
The soldiers carry out orders by the book, so we see a 12-year-old boy who is required to remove his belt, like an adult. As usual, they try to drive us away from our regular vantage point. As usual, we persist, and from that point on most of the soldiers ignore us. Only one, with a French accent, sticks with us and tries to read what I am writing: his whole interest is in us.
The DCO officer at Hamra said that the orthodox Nahal unit is moving to Jenin and will be replaced by Combat Engineers; all the soldiers, except from the commander, are religious.
We left at 15:00.

15:10 Iron Gate facing Ro’i Settlement
This is the gate that blocks the path and the Bedouin traffic from the Valley to Tamoun and back. As usual the gate is locked though this is opening time. Only one tractor driver, a young man who works in Hadida and returning to Tamoun.

15:30 – half an hour late, the soldiers arrive to open the gate. I plead with them (they are new) to take into account the distress of the population that passes through this gate, and to pay attention to the times. Their commander apologizes (to me but not to the waiting Palestinian) for today’s delay, explaining it by saying that they are new and promising to make every effort to be on time. Inshallah!

15:40 Hamra Checkpoint

Throughout our shift there were no westbound lines (from the Valley to the West Bank). Occasionally three or four cars line up and the soldiers pass them through quickly. However, from the West Bank to the Valley the line is long: 13-18 vehicles and very slow passage – not that the check is meticulous, but because the soldiers take long breaks between cars. Waiting time for each car is between 50 minutes and an hour. I went to the commander and drew his attention to the length of the line. He refused to relate, only saying that they presently have a warning (difficult to believe: the soldiers were without helmets, the atmosphere was calm, and a number of soldiers came to talk to us). The soldiers here are reservists – will be here until the Combat Engineers arrive. For a change there is a DCO officer, a battalion commander, something we haven’t seen in a long time. At 18:15 Zefa, the checkpoint warrant officer, arrives to collect the officer. Again – no DCO officer present...
As usual, the cars stop 20 metres from the checkpoint, the passengers alight and cross (quickly) to wait on the other side. This wait takes about an hour. The driver raises his shirt, turns around, showing the soldiers that he does not have an explosives belt on his body.
A football team from Balata on their way to a game in Jericho (against el Hader) is delayed because their driver, a Nablus resident, is not allowed to enter the Rift Valley. Our phone calls, and those of the DCO officer, help. Finally, at 16:10, the minibus passes. They all come to shake our hands and to thank us, then rush off to the game which is supposed to start at 17:00.

The shed for waiting Palestinians still provides shade against the Valley sun for the soldiers’ water wagon, while the Palestinians wait in the sun. An Israeli arrives (apparently a settler), drives his car into the checkpoint, crosses to the west side, turns around, stops the car in the middle of the checkpoint, gets out and starts a conversation with the soldiers.

17:45 – we leave.

18:00 Maale Ephraim

One car passing quickly. We don’t stop.