'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 5.4.09, Afternoon
Later this week, both Passover and Easter (Protestant and Catholic) will be celebrated, in the middle of a Middle East springtime: the evidence was everywhere in the OPT today: even now green covered hillsides, sheep everywhere grazing on still luscious grasses and tall foxgloves and thistles and plenty of yellow and white flowers everywhere. So, seemingly plenty of renaissance and rebirth? Hardly, since the overriding message of Passover -- freedom - was completely lacking. In fact, there is more barbed wire, more steel fences, and no hope for the "other's" freedom, no evidence of lack of restrictions - or freedom -- for a people oppressed by the very people who will celebrate Passover.
12:30 Habla: Gate 1393
The gate is open on the north side, "for the soldiers," we are told by a tractor driver, who also tells that the gate is open only one hour at a time (less than last year) at 6:30-7:30 in the morning; 11:15-12:15 at noon time, and again at 17:00-18:00.
No traffic at all to Qalqiliya, none from Qalqiliya, although this changes in the next few minutes when there are, suddenly, eight vehicles going to Qalqiliya, but no checking.
An interesting sight as we drive by the restaurant and the neighboring butcher shop with attendant lambs (alive and otherwise) outside. A group of men, four of them with black skull caps (obviously Orthodox Jews) are watching as the local butcher cuts some lamb for them. Evidently, Hallal can be good enough if you are Kosher!
There is plenty of new barbed wire before the town, which is still barricaded with an earth mound, and more ominously, meters and meters of metal posts for about to be installed metal fencing on the south side of the apartheid road.
13:30 Deir Sharaf
The men working in the stone and brick factory are used to MachsomWatchers, even point out the place where to park, near the barrel fencing of the "plant" which has given the checkpoint its incorrect name. It is part of Deir Sharaf.
As we go towards the checkpoint, an unusual sight: a car with Jordanian number plates stops, a complete family on their way to Tulkarm: children, their parents and a driver. The mother speaks good English, tells of her delight at what we're doing as her husband reads our tags. We leave with words of friendship and we get a handful of sesame cookies! Delicious.
At the checkpoint, vehicles, cars, trucks but no pedestrians, go through without being stopped. Only Israeli vehicles (yellow license plates) are turned back although, surprisingly, we see one, fancy car, drive in the opposite direction, from Nablus. There are four soldiers and a representative of the DCL office. We are told, in no uncertain terms, that we can go no further; that the police are fining Israelis who do continue beyond the checkpoint, and that if we continue to stand where we are standing, we are "annoying the soldiers" (heard that one before).
Alongside the checkpoint, one of those primitive checkpoints which we know will grow into something bigger and "better," as at Anabta, see below, there is a rushing stream, admittedly with cement colored water in it; long, long green grass midst silvery gray olive trees, prickly sabras and the ubiquitous sheep, grazing peacefully alongside this atrocious Occupation.
Purple thistles, yellow mustard and a few white and pink flowers continue to decorate this once lovely landscape. Three earthmovers, two belonging to the army, both soldiers in charge of them in army fatigues but without bulletproof vests, and a truck which is hosing down water on the gravel which has been placed on the newly widened roadway, are at work with plenty of noise. There is hardly any traffic to Tulkarm, Israeli cars (with yellow license plates) pass freely, others are not checked either, and only seven to ten, at any one time, coming from Tulkarm. At one point, the two soldiers at the far checking post get out a football and begin to kick it around. A sign of humanness! Based on a conversation with one of the soldiers at the near checking post, it seems possible that this group of relaxed soldiers may indeed see the futility of what they are about.
On brief questioning, we are "allowed" up into the village of Jubara, the soldier who opens the gate for us saying, on our return, with a grin, that he should have left the key with us. Indeed! But there is nothing to monitor or document at Gate 753, a couple of soldiers, not a Palestinian in sight, and Abu Maher, in his small shop, is watching a movie about an Israeli who swam in crocodile infested waters in Costa Rica!