'Azzun 'Atma, Thu 5.3.09, Afternoon
Translator: Louise L.
“Do you see what happens when you let them open their market here?”, one soldier says to another.
On road #505 between Oranim and Shearey Tikva a new pillbox, a new checkpoint and fences have been set up. We enter the village through the checkpoint. Behind the checkpoint children are calling out the names of the vegetables in the boxes in front of them. Workers are getting out of their vans to be inspected by the soldiers. After the inspection only a few people stop to buy vegetables from the children: they still have a long way home, 3 kilometers further on there is an additional checkpoint, and then there are still more checkpoints where their baggage is being checked, so who needs more bags? Sometimes they smile at the children and sometimes they joke with them.
The following is an excerpt from a former report by Vivi T. explaining the situation in the village of Azun Atma until a month ago:
The village Azun Atma is fenced off within the separation barrier between the settlements Oranim, Elkana and Shearey Tikva, in order for these settlements to remain Israeli territory. The village has become a jail within a jail and not an enclave in the seamline, as it is officially called.
To the north there is an army checkpoint with a large number of male and female soldiers, a magnometer room, towers, sentry-boxes and turnstiles. Everybody, including pregnant women and small children, have to pass through the magnometer room. Along the fence there is a security road. To the south of the village, close to road #5, the separation road on which Palestinians are not allowed to drive, there is a stone roadblock.
A month ago the work was finished and today the village is completely fenced off, to the south as well. Both checkpoints are locked at 21.00. Ten houses in the village are located on the other side of road #505. Any transgression is met with “just” measures.
We used to meet S. and A. at the northern checkpoint. They live in one of those houses on the other side of the road. Originally they are from Gaza, but they have lived here for many years with temporary permits. However, it has been a year since such permits were issued, and each time on their way home they are being detained for hours at the checkpoint until somebody somewhere confirms that they are allowed to pass through. And so one more obstacle has been added, and they have been waiting here for two hours already. They tell us that their 17-year-old daughter has to go to another village on the West Bank to take her matriculation exams, but she does not get a permit. In the meantime a teacher brings her the exams to the school in the village.
It is impossible for the children to sell the vegetables from their village to Israel, and that is why they are almost begging people to buy. The cab drivers hardly work as well, since people without permits and looking for work do not return this way. Only the ones with special permits such as the workers from Elkana, Shearey Tikva and Etz Efrayim come this way, and even they are sometimes sent to Qalqiliya. It depends on the soldiers. A., a cab driver and a very intelligent man, who hardly ever complains, looks sad when he says that he does not have any money. While we are talking army jeeps are driving out of the village through the checkpoint. Each time a soldier comes to open the gate, since this is the only kind of vehicle that is let through. A. explains to me that the army vehicles do not drive on the security road of Shearey Tikva the way they used to do, but drive through the village all day and all night making a lot of noise.
A soldier, angry with the little vegetable vendors, gets out of one of the jeeps. He shouts at one of the children crossing the road: “Move away with your cart! Get out of the way!” and to the soldier who opens the gate he says, “Do you see what happens when you let them open their market here?” It seems that he is going to turn the boxes over, but then the other soldier takes him aside and tells him that we (Jewish women) are here. He answers “Who cares?” but controls himself and does nothing for the time being.
“Guantanamo no. 2” says A. The families living on the other side of the road are allowed to bring in only small quantities of food, for example, 1 kilogram of potatoes. The soldiers weigh the products. How can a family with ten children manage with 1 kilogram only? A few days ago a man brought a package of pita breads, which the soldiers counted. They let him take only ten.
Smiling A. says: “The people in Shearey Tikva don’t want the gate either, not because they like us, but simply because once their houses were worth $300,000 and now with the gate they are worth only $100,000.
We leave at 18.00