'Azzun 'Atma, Eliyahu Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 7.7.10, Afternoon

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צופות ומדווחות: 
Sara F., Nava M. (reporting)

Translator:  Charles K.


15:10  Azzun Atma

Quiet and peaceful.  Laborers trickling back to the checkpoint.  Soldiers are eating lunch. 
One comes over to talk to us, pleasant and friendly.  He says that this is when people return from work, but they arrive in dribs and drabs; he’s bored, and glad of it.  Mu’iz, the boy selling turmus beans, is a friend of the soldiers.


15:25  Back to Route 5.  Ten cars on line at Shomron gate.

We drove past the outskirts of Haris and turned north. 
On the roadside before the turn to Yakir and Nofim are orphaned concrete cubes, remains of the checkpoint that used to be here. 
We passed Deir Istiya.  When we reached the village of Jinsafut we went in, drove along the main road, shops are open but only a few people on the streets.  A number of youths stretched out in a shady spot, alongside bicycles.  We exited to the north and got on Route 55 next to a well-organized auto junkyard.


15:45  Al Funduq – Things are happening here, shops are open.  People on the street.

We drove on, northeast on Route 55 toward Jit junction, and north from there on Route 60 to Shavei Shomron.

15:55  Where the barrels checkpoint once stood, there’s no longer any sign of it.  [There are still a few barrels there].

16:05  Deir Sharaf.  We stopped at Jamal’s store.  Ice cream and coffee served to begin a trilingual conversation about the situation before and after, the dividing line, according to Jamal, being the start of the intifada.  Before 2000 everything was wonderful.  Since then things have been going downhill more and more quickly, until last year.  The biggest improvement: no restrictions on travel to Nablus or Jenin.  Soldiers still patrol at night, but don’t harass people.  Many of the 3000 inhabitants have no regular employment.  The conversation turned to everyday topics [increase in the price of cigarettes, dental treatment using local anaesthetic].  Jamal says that the paving of the road to Jenin is nearing completion; it should open in a month.


16:55  Eliyahu crossing checkpoint.  A short line of 3-4 cars in the lane for Palestinians.  In our lane, the one for the privileged bearers of yellow license plates, stands a female soldier who greets us with a broad smile and a “How are you?”  Nadim, whom she’s addressing, replies with a smile, a wave of his hand and a nod without saying anything.  Experience has taught him she wants to hear his accent. 


17:00  Irtah. 
It’s peaceful when we arrive.  A few cars, apparently belonging to employers, dropping off laborers who walk slowly toward the checkpoint.  We see no guards, policemen or soldiers.  We come closer and see a line of some thirty laborers waiting at the revolving gate.  Not a single inspection booth is manned and the revolving gate is closed.  The number of people waiting on line slowly grows.  Some say that yesterday at this time all inspections stopped for about half an hour. 
We look for security staff, but there are none.  Suddenly two buses arrive, relatives returning from prison visits.  The situation is becoming serious.  The relatives mingle with the laborers, women next to men.  The tension builds.  We call the humanitarian office and describe the situation.  We call the DCO but there’s no answer.  More buses arrive.  Three Red Cross representatives stand helplessly.  Suddenly, at 17:20, the revolving gate opens and people begin going through quickly, first the laborers, then those who were visiting prisoners [men and women together].  After ten minutes we can see the first people exiting on the other side, and the line has now shrunk to 10-20 people.


As we were leaving, the guard observing from above called out, “Nu, did you help them?”

Sara answered with a question of her own, “Why do you harass them?”

The guard replied, “Why don’t they release Gilad Shalit?”

That’s how the shouting back and forth and verbal sparring continued.