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`You`re not allowed to use public transportation at all`
By Ofra Lyth
1 March 2013
I arrived at 4 PM at the bus terminal (near what is called the “Shomron Gate
Junction”). Until five it looked like nothing was going to happen. Blessed
boredom. Travellers get on and get off, including some who look like
Palestinians. A military vehicle behind the bus honked with pointless violence
and suddenly activated a siren, surely that was nothing more than the simple
boorishness of the soldiers who are the lords of the land.
At five o’clock sharp the action begins: a policeman, First Sergeant Shai
Zecharia, portentiously boards bus 286, which is stopped at the station.
Soldiers order all the Palestinians to get off. Right away they collect their
ID cards upon their exit from the bus. That way they can’t go anywhere until
they get permission. Nearly thirty workers, ages 30-50, obediently file out.
The soldier/officer roars: “Udrub!” (Move!) And then: “Sit on your butts! On
your butts!” They are then marched to the terminal fence and made to stand
along it in a line, then to sit on the cold ground and wait. The soldiers
check the green IDs (Arabic: hawwiye) and demand to see their “tasrih” (work
permits). A lucky few get their IDs back and board another bus – complaining
only about having to pay twice for the same trip. But our forces immediately
block this channel: one by one the workers are told to leave the terminal and
walk to the Azoun-Atme checkpoint, 2.5 kilometres from the Shomron Gate
junction. By now it’s cold; the sun has set. Most of them got up at three in
the morning for the trip to work. Their homes are only a few kilometres from
nearby Ariel. All they ask is to be allowed to ride the bus for another two or
three stops. They paid for the trip. And by the way, a “tasrih” costs 8,000
shekels. You have to work hard to cover that sum before you earn your first
The soldiers nabbed four workers who had dared to work without a “tasrih”. The
short one venomously says, “They can spend some time in the Yoav fortress.”
Then the next consignment arrives, about another 25 workers. The armed and
heroic little guy is soon shoving them with both hands. The procedure is
repeated: “Udrub”, on your butts, hawiyye, tasrih. Now move it to Azoun-Atme.
Within half an hour about eighty men have been subjected to this humiliation
by a few armed soldiers and one policeman. They all responded with restraint
and dismay, at most asking the obvious questions and now and then getting
enlightening replies, such as:
“You’re not allowed to be on Highway 5.” At long last: official confirmation
that there are apartheid highways in Israel, despite all the denials.
“You’re not allowed to use public transportation at all.”
First Sergeant Zecharia provided the following crucial information to one of
the older Palestinians: It’s better to travel in the special vans and not in
Israeli buses. Palestinians claim that there has been an unwritten commercial
alliance between some in the security forces and the Bedouins who operate the
vans, which cost five times as much as the buses for short trips. For a trip
of a few minutes, each one of them pays one or two hour’s wages.
I should note that the First Sergeant answered my questions as the law
requires when I asked his name and rank, but he immediately declared that my
questions were “causing agitation” and that “pretty soon” I too would find
myself spending a few hours in the nearby police station.
On the way back, via the Ayalon Highway, my heart goes out to the thousands of
Israelis who are delayed on the way home in Thursday evening traffic jams.
Questions and thoughts:
How many hundreds of Palestinians gone through this permanent
institutionalized harassment this evening, at the end of a work week during
which they cleaned, built, plastered and paved our Homeland?
What is the idea behind this harassment? How is it that workers represent no
“security risk” in Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion from morning to evening, but
their presence on a bus on the way home is a matter that requires the armed
intervention of the soldiers of the “Israel Defence Force”?
Should not those who are constantly warning us that the Third Intifada will
break out any moment have an interest in obedient and industrious workers
being allowed to get home in peace? (Incidentally, I have heard this
observation from the workers, who may be poor but are by no means stupid)
And furthermore: when a woman is told to “sit in the back” of a bus full of
Haredim, Israeli society responds with anger and revulsion and we demand that
the instigators of this obscurantist discrimination be stopped. But
Palestinian workers are forbidden to travel in “our” buses – even in the back,
and standing. And that is quite all right legally – unless something is very,
very wrong with the law.
How fitting it is this evening to excoriate the unknown judge who beat his
unfortunate children, and the judicial system that did not deal with him
severely. Because, as everybody knows, civilization, progress, human rights,
the rights of the child and equality before the law are our guiding
Happy Apartheid Week to *all* of you!
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