There’s constant tension between ‘Azzun’s young people and the soldiers

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Shoshi (reporting), Pitzi (reporting and photographing), Mustafa (driving) Translator: Charles K.

We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station (where at 7:30 AM there are already no parking spaces available) with many packages, to meet Z. who awaited us with his wife at Izbet Tabib.  Z. says it isn’t safe to enter ‘Azzun these days; the situation is very tense.  We saw no soldiers at the entrance.  We unloaded the packages.  Z. still has tremors, also in the legs, but looks a little better than last time.

‘Azzun lies beside Highway 55 which links Qalqilya and Nablus, a busy settlers’ road.  There’s a yellow roadblock at the entrance to the town which, on the army’s orders, opens for longer or shorter periods.  Even when it’s open, soldiers are sometimes stationed there.

There’s constant tension between ‘Azzun’s young people and the soldiers.  The soldiers’ presence at the entrance and on the streets, the blockading of the town, is an ongoing threat to the residents.  They don’t distinguish between settlers and representatives of human rights organizations, and stone anyone arriving in a vehicle with Israeli license plates.  That’s why we haven’t entered ‘Azzun for months.

In the past year three unarmed youths who didn’t endanger anyone were killed in ‘Azzun.  The trigger finger is light when it comes to Palestinians.  The soldiers suspect everyone as they continue their important task of keeping the routes safe.  That’s according to the military spokesman; for a long time there’s been no reason to believe him.

We continued toward Burqa, our goal on this visit.  We passed Deir Sharaf, a village that has become a town.  Many shops and restaurants serving grilled meat line the main street, despite the military position in the center of the road.

Mustafa asked one of the female residents how they feel about the constant presence of soldiers.  She said they’ve grown used to them.  I think that’s terrible. The army blocks roads with concrete barriers; vehicles are inspected one at a time, resulting in a long line.

A checkpoint at the entrance to Burqa.  The soldier doesn’t stop us, just glances.  Cars leaving the city are inspected.  A high concrete wall topped with coils of barbed wire flanks the road.  Mustafa says it’s an army base; the map also shows what appear to be military structures.  We’re shocked at how large is the area of the base!

We meet Burqa’s mayor and this assistant at the municipal building.  A color photograph of Burqa hangs on the wall, bearing this text:

We want our freedom

We are demanding our rights

We want to live in peace and safety

However, given what’s happening around them it doesn’t seem they’ll attain this anytime soon.  The illegal Homesh settlement, the “yeshiva” that already has a number of pre-fabs, water and electricity, stole 350 dunums of their land, and there’s an additional area of 4500 dunums (!!) surrounding the settlement that’s been designated a special security zone, entry to which is forbidden to Burqa residents and is also life-threatening.

A young man who came to the municipality to deal with some matter joins us. He speaks excellent Hebrew, together with the secretary, traditionally dressed.  She reports that in December settlers came to the village, burned cars and damaged buildings.  They damaged the house adjacent to hers.  In every such incident the army and the police appear, and the police support the attackers.  The soldiers only stand watching.  That’s what they understand their role to be.  On June 4, 2023, “hilltop youth” arrived from Homesh, burned cars and broke windows.  The army fired rubber bullets and injured 59 Palestinians.


I quietly say that I’m embarrassed to be Israeli, and the young man fires back –
“So leave.”

“Where would I go?” I reply.

The conversation takes an unpleasant turn.

“Go back to where you came from.”

“I was born here,” I say.

“And your parents? They came from Poland, Russia – go there.”

“There the Nazis murdered my parents’ entire family.  I’ve nowhere to go.  You have, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia.”

“But this is my land.  My father’s, my grandfather’s.  You’re newcomers here...”

At this point Mustafa intervenes, ends the discussion.  He’s uncomfortable the young man is insulting us, guests, much less that we came with good intentions.  He explains to the young man that we’re from Machsom Watch, what the group does, but it didn’t appear to have made a difference and he leaves the room angrily.  He says that the Israeli leftists demonstrating are doing so because of the proposed legal changes, not the occupation.

I understand his anger, but we’d never before heard such insulting remarks.

We continue the interview:  Most Burqa residents work for the Palestinian Authority.  Some have permits to work In Israel, but not many are interested in working for us.  We didn’t ask why…

There are two schools in the village.  Young people also attend university, and some continue to a Master’s degree.  The question is, what do they do with it when they finish.  Many move to the Gulf countries and earn a good living.

Burqa has 5,500 inhabitants.  We asked about water.  As it has done everywhere, Israel closed all the wells and provides water to the village as it sees fit.  11 liters/day per resident, compared to 70 liters/day per settler.

We saw many abandoned buildings, some already in ruins.  Their inhabitants left for the Gulf states or to Jordan.  That’s the settlers’ and governments’ wet dream. (photo)

At the exit from Burqa we can see Homesh sitting on the hills directly above the village, surrounded by a cleared area, shining white, a sign of the security zone. 

From there we continue toward Huwwara.  There are many flying roadblocks on the way, such as at the Sara junction.

A large truck passes us, loaded with concrete cubes, material for an additional flying checkpoint.

We reach the portion of the road that bypasses Huwwara, which is being built very rapidly.  The road for Israelis will be raised, with many overpasses, and a lower road for Palestinians.  Many soldiers provide security for the site.  All the workers and the contractor are Druze from the Golan Heights.

A flying checkpoint at the entrance to Beita – a concrete barrier and a few soldiers, who inspect every vehicle that exits, causing a huge traffic jam.  (it’s not clearly visible in the photo)

Most of Huwwara’s shops are open and operating.  Some of those that had been set on fire have already been renovated.  Some shops closed because their owners were not from Huwwara, and they don’t intend to reopen them.

It’s said to see how such a bustling town is limping along.  The soldiers’ presence is clearly felt.  They walk on the streets as if they own them.

The access road from Huwwara to the surrounding villages has been closed.  There’s a roadblock and the familiar, threatening yellow gate that can be closed whenever the army feels like it.

We insisted on knafe, trying to sweeten the bitter pill.

Tapuach junction is full of concrete barriers and soldiers.  The whole area appears on the verge of war. Who knows?