At first, the soldiers called the detention facility “Jorah” (an Arab word meaning pithole, used in colloquial Hebrew for sewage). Every checkpoint has its Jorah. It is a quadrangular concrete fence, of various sizes, according to what the Civilian Administration calls the volume of traffic at the checkpoint, with a small entrance, and usually a roof, too. Reasons for detention are plenty. A Palestinian can be detained because he is, what is often referred to as a “bingo”, that is, blacklisted by the Shabak. It is very easy to get in that blacklist, but I’ll leave that for now, that’s atopic deserving post of its own. A Palestinian can also be detained because his ID is torn – there is no crossing the checkpoint without an ID – and also because he didn’t stand nicely in line, or because he bypassed the long queue on the exit from Nablus by using the entry road (at Huwwara checkpoint the entry doesn’t require a security check. At Beit-Furik, five minutes away from there by car, the entry does require a check. At Beit-Iba checkpoint a security check is required in both directions. Why? No reason), or by going through the fields. A Palestinian will also be detained if he holds a position that the Civilian Administration considers “problematic”. For example a policeman in the Palestinian police, or a fire-fighter. Or if his belongings include a photo of a Shahid (Arabic for martyr). I saw students detained in the Jorah (or in solitary confinement, see below) because the received at An-Najah, Nablus’s university, propaganda material for the elections of the student body. There are lots of reasons for detention.
And it is important to keep in mind – nowhere does the Israeli law specify that Palestinians have to go through the checkpoints.
Here is the Jorah at Huwwara checkpoint (south of Nablus). I took this photo on April 2006 (the photos from Huwwara’s Jorah or old because in the last two years detainees in Huwwara have been held in solitary confinement. See below).
The detainee in the Jorah is a good friend of mine. He is from the Balata refugee camp. That day he was on his way to see a doctor in Ramallah. He missed his appointment because of the detention. He waited for the soldiers to let him go back to Nablus. He was detained because he tried to obtain permission to leave the West Bank for studies in the US. He was admitted to a program in Film Studies. He told us of this woman in the camp. A love story that can’t be realized, he explained. They sneak in order to meet. He told us that soon she was going to pass through the checkpoint on her way back home: “I’m ashamed to have her see me standing in the Jorah”. Shortly after we saw her, going into Nablus. They exchanged glances. All this happened shortly before the Seder night, the first night of Passover, a few days before a curfew was announced on the whole of the West Bank. A curfew imposed every year in honor of our festival of freedom.
And here is the Jorah at Beit Furik (southeast of Nablus). I took this photo on July 2008. This young lady, a minor of 17, went to visit her sister at Nablus. She’s from the village Beit Dajan. Earlier she did groceries at the market of Beita and that’s why she entered from the Huwwara checkpoint, where there is no security check at the entry. Only at her sister’s did she notice she forgot her ID at home. She was afraid to go home through the fields. She decided to take her sister’s ID, hoping the soldiers wouldn’t notice, because of their resemblance. She arranged with her sister than in the evening her husband would come to fetch the ID. But the soldiers noticed. So she was detained. She called her father, who came to the checkpoint with her ID. When he saw is daughter standing in the Jorah, he started crying. The soldiers refused to let her go. “She deceived us”. The enemy as a young 17-year old lady.
Another photo from the Jorah at Beit Furik. I took it on July 2006. A detention of five hours (two hours more than army regulations allow). The detainee was not offered food or water. I was prohibited from going near him.
The Jorah at Beit Iba (west of Nablus). The photo is from March 2006. This young man was suspected to be a “bingo”. Three hours later they found out the soldier made a mistake. The name sounded like a name from the blacklist. The young man, who is a student, missed a day of school.
When MachsomWatch volunteers began using the term “Jorah” and especially the order “Go to the Jorah”, the soldiers received an order to call the facility from thereon “a waiting pavilion”. This young boy ,of 13 years old, was detained with two of his friends for three hours in the waiting pavilion. They went to register for high school in Nablus. On their way back they saw the line was long, and decided to cut through the entrance road. They were caught. After three hours the officer of the checkpoint agreed to release them, on condition that they go back to the end of the line (the waiting time in the line then was about two hours). The two friends agreed, this young boy didn’t. This is how it ended (the photo was taken on May 2006):
Where there is no Jorah or Waiting Pavilion, things are improvised. For example at Za’tara Junction (Tapuah). I took this photo on May 2007.
Structural changes at Huwwara checkpoint (to be described in an upcoming post) brought an end to the Jorah /Waiting Pavilion era. Now the detentions are done in solitary confinement.
April 2007. Three youngsters tried to cut through the checkpoint through the entrance road:
This youngster is an emergency medical technician of the Red Crescent. Personnel of positions that are considered “delicate” are often detained. Photo taken at Huwwara, June 2008.
For several weeks the confinement at Huwwara was covered with a green canvas. My friend Judith Levin took this photo on February 2008.
When the solitary confinement was introduced, Palestinian were allowed, not without prior negotiations, to use the Jorah as a waiting and praying area. This is another photo of Judith’s. From June 2008. Note that the gate is open.
Sometimes you can do without a Jorah, and without solitary confinement. I took this photo on June 2006, at the fields nearby Awarta, not too far from Huwwara checkpoint. Students from the villages returning from a day on campus. Where is it written that they have to pass through a checkpoint? Is there a law prohibiting walking in open fields?
The checkpoints are not border ports. The are stationed deep in the West Bank, away from the Green Line. Huwwara checkpoint, for example, is 15.5 miles away from the Green Line. For maps marking the relation between the checkpoints, the Green Line and the settlements, see here.