Tayasir, Tue 30.3.10, Afternoon

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מקום או מחסום: 
צופות ומדווחות: 
Dafna B., Tal H., Susan L.(reporting)

Israel's policy of colonizing Palestine through land grab, settlement creation, expropriation and annexation of Palestinian lands for settlement creation has been written about ad infinitum. There are various military orders which authorize and facilitate land grab from Palestinians, and the exercise of pressure to evacuate their land through the threat of house demolition and land seizure for military purposes.  Often these concepts linger as words, just words. A trip, or a MachsomWatch shift, to the Jordan Valley makes it all too real - bringing it all home.

Dead Sea
The northern end, coming from the ever growing settlement of Maale Adumim, is alive with camels strutting for tourists, various dwarfs for decorating gardens, clay pots and citrus fruit and all manner of "stuff' to attract the stream of Israeli tourists out to enjoy a day in the Occupied part of the Dead Sea... The checkpoint nearby is hardly noticed by them, although a Palestinian car bearing internationals is thoroughly searched by one soldier and one policeman, and a car with Israeli license plates (yellow) is stopped since one of the young men sports a red kaffieh!
As we approach the checkpoint, it's clear that neither soldier nor policeman wish to talk to us, and, in fact leave a few minutes after our arrival, at noon.

By the Dead Sea itself, a decrepit army camp together with the remains of a hotel mar the landscape, but since vehicles turn right, towards Qumran and southwards, they tend not to see this blot on the landscape or to notice that they are having fun in occupied territory.

On Route 90, "Gandi's Road" to Beit Shean
Thank goodness the road lacks an "h" in the name, certainly Mahatma has nothing to do with what's going on in this part of the world. A herd of young camels wander majestically on the edge of the fertile fields surrounding the oasis city of Jericho. At the northern entrance to the city, we are confronted with huge concrete blocks, formerly used by the army as a checkpoint, now strewn across the roadway, a roadway never to be entered. The arid landscape is wide open, and we've hardly gotten out of the car when an army jeep arrives and asks where we're headed.

East of us, a lovely looking monastery, St. Gerasimos, hidden in palm trees; a bleak entryway leading to the Allenby Bridge, a couple of small Palestinian towns, Al Auja, later Fassayel, with most lands and wells confiscated by neighboring Jewish farms and numerous military settlements. We note that many greenhouses that formerly housed the vegetables so proudly grown here, are falling to pieces and have been replaced by endless vines growing on the sides of the road. A better way to make a living - for some?!

Leaving Route 90, we head into the hills, and are now in Bedouin country where houses are demolished as a matter of course. In one tiny place, we see the new clinic, created by a group that claims to "resist to exist," or vice versa.... Built of straw and mud, it's empty, until a health worker, hopefully a doctor, arrives, "emshallah tomorrow." We are soon surrounded by friendly small children and two young men who explain what they've wrought.

Other mud houses, "pisé" in other arts of the world, namely in Morocco, are seen from the roadway, as it clambers up the hills, verdant green fields on either side, tent encampments, however, marked by the ever present tall concrete markers, explaining, all over the area, "Danger: Firing Area Entrance Forbidden." In three languages, these "orders," were meant to scare off the Bedouin population, the hope being that they would evacuate themselves, but they are still here, as are these monuments to crass insensitivity and the horrors of colonization. Land grab, and if not yesterday, then there's always tomorrow.... Meanwhile, people try to eke out a meager living, aided somewhat by the Jordanian Authority, under whom they are helped to survive.

The occupation is visible, too, with its checkpoints, existing to guard nothing but an entry way to the strategically important Jordan Valley beyond, but otherwise to make life miserable for the locals, isolating them from their surroundings, again in the hope that they will leave on their own. The gate at Guchia is another indignity, open three times a week, making it impossible for children to attend school locally. Of course, in sight of this gate, the well tended agricultural settlements of Roi and Beqaot.  And a sweet bird sings above the newly dug trenches and mounds built by the army to keep the people in or out. Whatever - isolation is the key word. In fact, their isolation is policy and is almost complete.

At Tayasir, a flag flutters alongside a military camp, and four soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint which seems somehow familiar: like Beit Furik in its heyday. At Hamra, a newly improved checkpoint, there's again a sense of familiarity, a covered shed to keep the people waiting to be checked out of blazing sun or driving rain, except today there is nothing but a large packet of Matzo and sparrows tweeting away. And the fact is that, in reality, pedestrians that have to pass here, checking booth, turnstiles and all, in the middle of nowhere, walk on the roadway, open to all the elements. An X-ray truck completes the Huwarra-type picture. The only positive sight: beyond the checkpoint, the road is being widened with the help, finally, of USAID (Agency for International Development). At the sides of the checkpoint, people are picking vegetables and call over to us to join them.

The shame of this trip on the so-called "festival of freedom" is one that all of must share.