Falamiya North Checkpoint (914), Kufr Jammal

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Rachel Afek, Tzvia Shapira (reporting).  Guest:  Amira Hass, journalist from Ha’aretz; Translator:  Charles K.

On Saturday, 17.12.16, we met Amira Hass at Yvonne Mansbach’s home in Jerusalem, at Amira’s request.  Also present were Roni Hammermann, Karin and Vivi, from Jerusalem.  Amira wanted to become more familiar with the area of the seam zone in the central West Bank, apparently in order to publish a comprehensive report about it.

She asked to meet Sunday, 25.12.16, at 05:00 at the entrance to ‘Azzun.  It was pouring.  We drove to the Falamiya north agricultural gate (914).  When we arrived and parked, we thought no farmers had come because of the terrible cold and the unceasing rain.  But as we approached the shed near the gate, we met about twenty people wrapped in coats, trying to stay dry.  The farmers had told us some time ago that they erected the canopy with their own money.  Each gave NIS 10, they bought materials and placed the roof on a structure which was already there.  There isn’t a shed like that on the other side of the gate, and even thought they submitted a request through the DCL for one to be built, to protect them from the rain in the winter and the fierce summer sun – their request was not fulfilled.  We wait about twenty minutes until the first jeep arrives to inspect the area.  Amira conducts animated conversations in her excellent Arabic, interested in everything.  The people respond and recount their difficulties and their never-ending problems.  Rachel and I notice the new, narrow passageway through which farmers on foot may go through “like a line of sheep,” that’s how they described what it feels like.

Until the soldiers in the jeep get organized, the three of us – Amira, Rachel and I – stand in the shed with the farmers getting wet in the rain, among them, sheltering under our large umbrella.  Ten more minutes pass, the rain doesn’t stop, four soldiers emerg and approach the gate in the narrow passageway, two (MP’s) walking in front:  one holds the key to the lock hanging on the first gate, the second with an antenna rising from his back walks beside him, two armed soldiers walk behind them with guns drawn.  They came near us – not one word of greeting, no “Good morning,” as though we were all transparent, invisible.  The soldier with the key tries to open the lock, his hands don’t work so well in the cold.  I stand watching him without saying a word, he briefly lifts his head and our eyes meet, and I see how frightened he is of the clump of soaked Palestinians standing quietly before him waiting for the gate to open.  He seems to be certain that as soon as he opens the gate they’ll all draw knives and attack him…  As soon as the lock opens the soldiers hurriedly move away from us, actually retreat, followed by the soldiers  with weapons drawn.

 And many thoughts come to me – on the one hand, I’m glad to be standing among the Palestinians with no fear at all, and on the other hand I understand the effect of the IDF’s brainwashing of these young soldiers who have never in their lives met a Palestinian for an ordinary conversation, and whose commanders have made them so frightened of Palestinians that they can’t even manage to say “Good morning” to the people standing before them.

Those on foot went through in half an hour, followed by three tractors.  We hurried toward Sal’it gate, north of Falamyia gate, but arrived too late and there were no longer farmers and vehicles beside it.

We returned to Kafr Jamal.

A. from Kafr Jamal invited us to his home.  Rachel and I met him during our shifts at the Falamyia north agricultural gate.  He’s a big man, charismatic, who’s able to tell the Palestinians going through that gate what to do, and to organize strikes in order to obtain what they want.  For two years he had a crossing permit on which was written “despite being blacklisted,” and when it expired he was refused a renewal that would enable him to cultivate his land.  The house was warm and pleasant.  We met his lovely daughters and his son (named Gevara, after Che Guevara, whom A. admires, as do many other Palestinians).  We also met his wife (A. proudly told us she studied in university, and continued her studies.  Immediately after they married he asked her not to work, but to devote herself to the family and the home).  She didn’t stop bustling around us and offering warm, thin pitas covered with za’atar, labaneh, olive oil and vegetables – an irresistible dish - and juice of course, tea and coffee, according to Palestinian tradition in every home you visit.  A. told Amira about the various problems of the farmers going through the gate; it was interesting to listen.  And perhaps Amira is even able to speak to someone from the IDF about it, and perhaps, who knows, A. and his friends may even benefit from this visit.  They agreed that Amira will visit the village next week, meet all the farmers whose entry permits to their lands have recently been confiscated and summarize their demands.

We left A. at 09:30 and drove to Kafr Sur to meet J.  He has many fields both within and outside the village and he’s also very familiar with the problems Kafr Sur villagers have with the agricultural gatesinfo-icon.  The rain didn’t stop beating on the roof and the windows.  Here, too, there’s an animated conversation about the difficulties they confront.  Again we sat face-to-face with a smart, experienced person who understands the true purpose of all of Israel’s machinations regarding Palestinian land in the seam zone.  None of them are naive, all wished only to live quiet lives as farmers and work their lands, free, not subject to a repressive, thieving, robbing regime…

We parted at 11:00.  Amira promised to meet with Kafr Sur villagers one day next week.