Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 15.3.09, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
14:40 - we rapidly crossed the Sha'ar Shomron checkpoint (entry into the West Bank).
At Za'tara-Tapuach Junction CP there were 2 vehicles waiting in each direction.
At the entrance to Beita village stood a military vehicle.
Linda was waiting for us at Huwwara Checkpoint from 14:30, we arrived at 15:05, as usual.
Checkpoint commander - Lieutenant Gai, DCO representative - Salah.
The flower pots we reported last week - are gone. We heard they have crossed the road and now adorn the army base nearby. The DCO rep told us that beginning tomorrow, vehicles will be allowed through the checkpoint traveling from north to south - without special permits, and without any geographic restrictions for West Bank residents. On the road, 3 concrete posts just like the ones placed at Za'tara checkpoint - 2 for checking 'normal' vehicles and the western-most one for 'humanitarian' vehicles and VIPs. Instruction are to perform random checks according to the checkpoint commander's own judgment.
The wide metal gate is half open and blocks about 2/3 of the pedestrian path leading to the turnstile for entering Nablus on foot. Men carrying large packages, women carrying babies in their arms, an elderly woman assisted with a walking cane - all have to cross through the very narrow turnstile and some bump into the metal bars, trying to go on turning the apparatus without anything getting torn or anyone hurt.
Three active checking posts, about 30 young men in each waiting line. Yesterday's and this morning's rain has created puddles all over the area just facing the checking posts, one cannot avoid dipping in. Those used to the rules 'free themselves' in time - of their coat, belt, watch, cell phone, everything is placed on the table past the metal detector. Others stare at the glass pane facing them, trying to locate the aggressive female voice growling at them in broken Arabic - Everything on the table! Money, phone! Go on, hurry up! Move back!! Come along!!" ID is presented, bags lifted up high, opened above shoulder height, then the deep bow to collect the ID that has slid through the low-lying metal slit. Then bags re-packed, belts re-done, coats back on.
Waiting time in the lines - about 15 minutes.
At the vehicle checking post - 2 active posts, most of the time. At one of them, a sniffer-dog is being trained to hunt for treasure in Palestinian vehicles. It hops from seat to seat, sniffs, drooling and shedding its hair, and leaving the car owner and passengers stunned, disgusted and helpless as they have to re-enter the filthied vehicle. When the DCO rep is around, the dog's trainer and another soldier pass a fleeting hand over the seats as if to remove or hide the hair and dirt left by the dog. When he is not around, they don't bother.
Empty commercial vehicles are allowed to enter Nablus here (instead of being sent to the further Awarta checkpoint). A truck bearing construction metal stands at the entrance, about 15 meters from the soldiers, trying to figure out whether it is allowed through or not. The soldier yells "Awarta!" but the driver cannot hear him. The soldier signals him to approach, and when the truck is caught between the concrete barriers, the soldier again yells "A-war-ta!!". Now the truck has to back up carefully and the whole line of cars waiting behind it has to back up as well to accommodate. The soldier is unconcerned. He has spared himself a 15 meter walk...
The vehicle checks are mostly rapid, between 1 and 5 minutes. A sniffer-dog inspection is longer, about 10 minutes. Waiting time - about half an hour.
The checkpoint commander's battle with the cab drivers persists. Those who get 'too close' to the checkpoint are detained for over an hour, then released to go on seeking their meager livelihood by hunting for passengers.
By 17:45 the pedestrian crossing is nearly empty, 5 vehicles await their exit from Nablus. The dog is still present. No detainees.
Beit Furik 16:45 - 17:10 - Vehicle random checks, no detentions or waiting line.
At Za'tara on our way back - few vehicles seen.
18:10 we cross back into Israel.