North Bank: We will get through with tricks

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Shuli Bar reports, Bracha Ben Avraham translates

There are three people who live on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier who are close to my heart.  They live in three different villages, and our friendship originated and grew against the background of occupation.   Since the 7th of October (which is referred to in Israel as the “Black Saturday”) they have not been able to cross the checkpoints that have been closed, that's why we haven't seen each other in three months.  Luckily they live in the northern area of the occupied West Bank and there are no harassing settlers in their area.  There are no stories of severe harassment of Palestinians like there are in the area of Hebron and in the Palestinian Jordan Valley.  Occasionally I call them to see how they are doing and to offer help if possible.  I believe in this friendship.  We are grateful to hear from each other and thank goodness the news is not too bad.   

Two of them, A. and M., have married children and grandchildren who live together in the same village. 

Me: Is everything OK with you?

M: Yes, thank God.  And how are your children?  Are they all right?

Me: Yes, thank God.

M: And how are you?

Me: Not good, not good.  I’m angry, worried, and we are hurting.

M. God willing, things will be better.

I answer angrily: God willing, but where is God?

He answers: But you know, there are a lot of Palestinians who want peace. 

Me: I know.
M. You know that I also know what pain is. Recently I lost my son and his mother and I think about him day and night.  (M.’s son was a policeman in the Palestinian police, who was killed in a raid on drug dealers.). M. misses the days long ago when he worked in Israel as a merchant.  I used to go to all the markets where I had friends.  Do you think that will happen again?

Me: God willing it will happen again.  What do you do now?  Do you have work?

We are at home.  Sometimes we work a bit in the olive groves near our house.  M managed to get to Nablus and Ramallah and to sell the olive oil from the last meager harvest at a much lower price than what he would have gotten from his clients in Israel.  This year he could not get there. 

Me: Is that at least better than nothing?

M: Yes, of course, thank God.   My wife is here and says that she hopes you and your children will be well. 

Me: Give her a hug from me and tell her I hope you will have a good day.
M: Call every day, do you hear?   every day! When all this is over my wife and I will come visit you.  
Me: God willing.

A., on the other hand, is a more quiet and concerned person who is worried and interested in how things are with me.
How are things with you and your family?  He asks.
Before the war began there were fatal quarrels between families in his village.  Sometimes he was unable to go to work because he had to stay home and make sure his young children and grandchildren did not go out into the streets.  Now the unrest has stopped, but there is no work.  How are they managing? I asked.  He avoids answering.  He has a B.A. in political science and keeps track of what is going on by watching Israeli television.  He is, of course, opposed to Hamas, who he feels are an embarrassment to Islam, but what the IDF is doing in Gaza…He is careful about what he says about this.  Perhaps, he suggests, I can come to the Checkpoint so that he can give you some olive oil from my treas..     

My third friend is younger than M. and A. and has four young children – three sons and a daughter. His daughter’s picture appears in his WhatsApp messaging app besides his name.  We have known each other since he was a young boy and  he calls often even if there is nothing going on.   He told me about Palestinians who have work in the seamline zone or Israel, but they cannot get to work easily because they have been denied crossing permits.  It is difficult for them to get to work but they arrive nevertheless. 


As usual, the need to make a living is the mother of invention.  Their invention is based upon cooperation among acquaintances – even among Arabs and Jews, religious people, uniformed soldiers from Israel and the West bank.   All of them ensure that people can cross the separation wall.  They are picked up from home and driven to the separation wall, where they climb over the eastern side using a ladder and descend on the west side with a rope.  An Israeli driver waits for them there and drives them to where they need to go.   All of this is done quickly, and each person has to pay 150-250 NIS to be transported from home to work – which is the sum of their daily wages or even more.    

What is the IDF’s answer to this game of ropes and ladders?    Barbed wire is being installed along the separation wall at a height of six feet.  The wall is about  25 feet high! 

What will be the next solution?