Mes'ha - the CP closes too early and the work cannot be finished

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Karin Lindner (photographs), Micky Fischer (reporting); Translator: Hanna K.
המעבר במחסום מסחה וגגות התנחלות עץ אפרים

All the agricultural seasonal Checkpoints in the Salfit region should have been opened, according to the agreement between DCO Ephraim and the Palestinian liaison, for 4 days, between February 24 and 27, and a list had been passed on by the Palestinian Liaison to all the local councils in the region. In fact however, during the week prior to these dates, the Kafr Mes'ha Council received an update notice from the Palestinian Liaison that the seasonal checkpoints in its zone, 1634 and 1649, would be opened on two days only, on Monday and Tuesday 25.2-26.2. Two days obviously are not enough for all the necessary seasonal activities – plowing, pruning, weeding, the gluing of pest control stickers on the trees against the harmful fly which last year caused the olive blossoms to shed and eliminated the yield of the olive picking season 2018.

At the time we asked the legal advisor, in a meeting concerning the summing up of the olive picking, that the seasonal checkpoints be opened at a fixed time each season for a reasonable number of days, but were answered by letter that this was not possible, and that the seasonal checkpoints would be opened according to the requests of each village and local council.

The requests are answered only after a long time and just for an unreasonable number of days considering the completion of all the tasks. For why does one need more? After all an occupation is an occupation and who considers the needs of the farmers if they are Palestinians?...

07:00 – a seasonal agricultural CP – it rains, a nagging trickle. Only 15 farmers have arrived, amongst which there are children and women. The others have probably renounced owing to the rains. One farmer who owns 100 dunams in the seam zone arrived with his herd in the hope to pass and to pasture in his orchards in the seam zone.

The CP was opened at 07:00 exactly.  Two military policemen and two DCO soldiers arrived. The farmers presented their licenses and passed quickly to the area adjacent to the Etz Ephraim settlement which has expanded and whose houses already reach the CP and the Palestinian fields.

The shepherd showed his license, and got an authorization, and then went to bring his herd and take it across at the CP, but then the soldiers suddenly thought otherwise and refused to let the herd pass. The farmer tried to argue, and claimed that until that day there was no problem to take the herd across once the CP had been opened. We tried to help – we appealed to the DCO soldiers and the DCO woman officer phoned to  clarify the matter with her superiors but the permit was refused. We asked for the reason of the refusal and she said that the lands at the seamline zone were very near to the houses of the Etz Ephraim settlement and pointed to these houses which were at a distance of 20 meters from the separation fence. The object of that day’s opening was the plowing, and therefore the army did not designate another person to watch over the herd lest it deviate, and enter, God forbid!, to the settlement…

הרועה והחיילת
רועה ועדרו במחסום מסחה

And there is a link to the short film:

During the olive picking season, she added, bigger forces would be allocated, in order to watch over the farmers and void friction between them and the settlers...

The shepherd returned in the direction of the village very disappointed that he was prevented to pasture in his own fields even for a few days and we remained helpless in face of the occupation bureaucracy.

07:15 The soldiers closed the barrier and drove to the next seasonal CP at Sha’arey Tiqva. They noted that they were opening one CP after the others these days. At 06:45 they had been at the adjacent CP, close to the Hany 1649 gate, but there, there was nobody that morning. They also reported that to the best of their knowledge the seasonal gatesinfo-icon would be opened another two or three days, in accordance with the decisions their officers had reached.

07:30 – We visited a grocery which is activated by a woman, an inhabitant of the village, who had suffered twenty years before from a stroke and as a result half of her body was paralysed. She told us that her husband had divorced her and mover to Jordan, and left her with a child which she raised by herself. For her upkeep she rented the shop where she sells sweets, snacks and toys, to people who live in the neighbourhood and schoolchildren who attend the nearby school. She is there every day from 07:00 to 19:00 and her entire profit, after deduction rent of 500 shekel and probably the purchase of the different products, is 1000 shekel per month. In the past she enabled groups of women to hold meeting in the shop, but the women’s organization probably was dismantled or stopped functioning. (I leave it to you to decide whether to put this in the website or not).

08:00 – the Mes'ha municipality – we met there S., who is responsible for the connection with the Palestinian liaison. He told us that the farmers of Messha own 5000 dunams in the seamline zone, but only very few of the receive permits. The Council sent a few letters requesting the opening of the checkpoints during this season. At first they promised them that they would be opened at the beginning of March, but didn't, and in the end, after further appeals which were sent by means of the Palestinian liaison, the CP was opened during these days. At first they got a notice about the opening for 4 days, from 24.3 to 27.3, but on Thursday the Palestinians liaison informed them that the CP would be opened for two days only. He pointed out that this period would not suffice to carry out all the required seasonal actions, and that furthermore it rained on that very day and owing to this the farmers did not go to the fields as it was impossible to plow the wet earth.

מיקי במועצת מסחה רואה את ההודעה על קיצור ימי פתיחת המחסום

He furthermore pointed out that they received from the Palestinian Authority special pest control stickers against the harmful fly and showed him the stickers, but he feared that the farmers would not have time enough to glue them on all the trees in the seamline zone.

A farmer who was there and did not posses a licence in force, complained that during the olive picking season the soldiers are positioned in the fields belonging to the farmers in the seamline zone and watch over them lest they approach the houses in the Etz Ephraim settlement, God forbid.

This is annoying as there are women and children who feel embarrassed by the presence of the soldiers, and he turned to us to ask us to ask that the soldiers would at least move away about 100 from them, and not stay in their plots with their weapons.

On the second floor of the Council building we me N. the head of the Messha council whom we remembered from the time of the struggle against the fence in 2003, and we also talked with three young lady employees of the council – an engineer and two lawyers who arrive each day from Nablus to Messha, and they told us that their task was to perform measurement and registration of the plots in the land registry office for the farmers of Messha in the Palestinian authority.

They showed interest in us and our activities and asked to join a group on the sea days. We exchanged phone numbers and hope for the continuation of the connection.

On Thursday we tried to find out by phone for how many days the Messha checkpoints would be open – only 3 days!

The village council will approach the Palestinian liaison and will demand from the Israeli DCO additional days for the completion of the seasonal work, but asked us also to help them in this matter.