When missiles are flying in Gaza, killing dozens each day, a small word like “closure” can seem benign. Particularly to those of us who are used to being able to go where we like, buy what we need, work when we are supposed to and come home when we are done, go to

the doctor if we have to, and, and, and … as Palestinians say.

Maybe we even think that a day when we were forbidden to do any of those things would give us an excuse to stay home and rest, like a snow day.  And if it is one day or two, sometimes that is true.

On Tuesday night, October 7, our friend and neighbor, Abu Rabia, came to tell us that he had just been informed of a new order to take effect the next day.

He is the DCL, or District Coordinating Liaison, for the Salfit District, so he gets this information first, directly from the Israeli authorities. The order was that no Palestinian would be allowed on Israeli roads, otherwise known as settler roads, by foot or in a car.

Any car found on the road would be confiscated, anyone walking on the road could be arrested, and most significantly for the people in our area, no one would be allowed to pick olives, inside or outside the villages. Top

There would be army at the entrance to every village in the morning to enforce the closure.  No reason was given for this crackdown. No time frame was given either, it was simply “until further notice.” There had been closures like this before.

Usually they last for two to four days, and are selectively enforced.

On Wednesday, we went to the roadblock at 6:30 a.m., and indeed, there was a jeep at the entrance to the village, and eight soldiers controlling a large crowd of people gathered there, waiting. A handful of people were allowed through the checkpoint: teachers, doctors, government workers, some people who needed to go to the doctor, but not students, most workers or anyone wanting to pick olives. Interestingly, that day buses and service taxis still ran on the settler

roads, but hundreds of people were detained for many hours at various junctions around Hares.

The next day, the situation at the roadblock was the same, and there were no Palestinian cars on the road at all. The closure went on for nearly three weeks. Hundreds of cars were confiscated, usually for two weeks. Thousands of school and work hours were lost. Dozens

of taxi drivers were arrested, despite having the proper permits for the roads they were driving. Top

They were told they were supposed to know that the area was

closed. Our neighbor was one of them. He was given a scrap of paper as a receipt for his car, written in Hebrew with a pen and not signed, except with the name of the army unit who made the stop. Israeli legal organizations said they could not do anything, that this was legal.

A group of visiting nurses, who had been giving physicals at a school in Zawiya all day, was stopped by the army while waiting for the van that was supposed to pick them up to go back to Salfit, where they all work and live. The army commander said that the women could not go back to Salfit, but must return to Zawiya. They refused.

Eventually, he said that since they had been allowed out in the morning, they would be allowed to go back, but if they left again

the next day, they would not be allowed back. The women then learned that the van had not been able to pass the checkpoints between Salfit and Qarawat, so they had to walk 45 minutes to Hares to get transportation on the inside roads. One of the nurses said, as we neared Hares, ‘If someone told me right now, go see your mother, she lives right down there, I would not go even one more step to see her.’ Traveling to Jerusalem, which normally takes about an hour and a half by bus or service, and costs 13.5 shekels, became a torturous affair, taking 3-6 hours over harsh bumpy roads and costing 30-50 shekels. Top

On a trip from Tulkarem to Nablus, which normally takes no more than 30 minutes, IWPS women were driven for hours over the mountains on a trail rather than a road. Often you would set out in one direction, then abruptly change course and go back where you came from, to try another way of getting around the new ‘roving’ checkpoints the drivers heard about on the grapevine. If you were less lucky, you could end up waiting many hours at those roving checkpoints, sometimes told you could not go through nor could you

go home.

The price would be unpredictable; the answer to ‘Qaddesh?’, ‘How much?’ was ‘Well, if we can go this way, it will be 20 shekels, but if we must go this way, then it will be 50.’ So people might not find out until they got where they were going whether they could afford to go there.

In Qarawat Bani Zeid, south of Salfit, two men were shot on their way home from work and olive picking on October 16. One of the men, who is over 60, was shot three times in the backs of his legs. The ambulances were not permitted to pass the checkpoint. After

waiting over an hour, both men gave up and went to the village doctor instead. Top

The hamlet of Jbarra, a town of only 300 people just outside of Tulkarem, was cut off from Tulkarem for 9 days during this closure. There are no stores in the village. The kids, who all go to school in other villages, were not allowed through the gates to go to school for 11 days.

The only checkpoint into the city of Qalqilya was closed for three weeks, with no one from the city allowed out. This only ended when city officials called a demonstration which marched on the checkpoint, where they negotiated with the District Commanding Officer to open the city for the day. No one knows how long it will remain open, and still, young men were not allowed through. While we stood there, soldiers delayed an ambulance carrying a woman

in labor.

Olive pickers in Deir Istya, Marda, Jemaiin, Kifl Hares, Mas’ha and Hares were sent home by the army day after day, shattering hopes of getting their harvest finished before Ramadan. In Mas’ha, three farmers were arrested for trying to go to their land to pick.

In Jayyous the gates in the Apartheid Wall, through which farmers access their land on the other side (nearly all of the land belonging to Jayyous is on the other side of the Wall), were not opened for seven

days. One day, in an act of resistance, farmers broke the lock on the gate. Nearly a week later, seven families were held all night on the western side of the Wall, without food or shelter, to force them to tell the army who had damaged the gate.

In the village of Kufr Eyin, in the Ramallah district, the army occupied two houses and set up a checkpoint in the middle of the town for four days. No one was allowed to pass the checkpoint, which meant that 70% of the people could not pick their olives, and none of the teachers could get to the school so the school was closed. Twenty families who live on the other side of the makeshift checkpoint were unable to buy any food or other needed supplies. In order to get into the village, we had to scramble up a steep trail of rocky terraces and boulders. A woman coming home from the doctor was making the same climb with a tiny baby in her arms.  Top

One Saturday, two IWPS team members were invited to lunch in Yasouf. They arrived at the roadblock at 1:00 p.m. and found many people being prevented from leaving the village. They were also not allowed to cross into the village. It was 4:00 before they were allowed to cross.

After one week of this treatment, the frustration and despair was palpable in the air. In the village, people’s tempers were short. But after two weeks, by the time the closure started to ease, people had

adjusted. More and more yellow-plated service taxis (sherut) from the nearby Israeli town of Kufr Qasem were hanging around villages to pick up the passengers left stranded, incidentally transferring more income from Palestine to Israel.

Abu Rabia said one night, ‘This is the longest, most severe closure since the beginning of the Intifada. I think the purpose is to see what we will accept, to see if they can get away with turning our homes into prisons.’ Top