Route 443 Develops

Click here for more information about Israel's segregated roads.

Palestinian road snaking through a tunnel under route 443
The drive along route 443 became a little more interesting during the past month. Until recently Palestinian were barred from the road and could only traverse it through tunnels underneath. However the Israeli high court decreed in January that segregated roads for Palestinians and Israelis were unlawful, even by Israeli law.

Since then some of the hitherto closed side roads have been opened up to route 443 for limited use by Palestinian traffic. Several new checkpoints have been built, complete with concrete watchtowers and sophisticated hi-tec steel barriers.

Of course the use of limited stretches of route 443 by Palestinians merely creates some short cuts between villages, and does little to facilitate regional transportation since the direct road to Ramallah remains closed, and Palestinians are forbidden to cross the checkpoint into Jerusalem even if they have a valid permit. To enter Jerusalem they are required first to travel to Ramallah via back roads, cross the city, and enter Jerusalem via Kalandia Checkpoint - adding 1-3 hours to the journey depending on the checkpoint bottleneck.

In the meanwhile route 443 has become a favoured short cut to Jerusalem for many Israelis. The increased traffic has spawned an interesting little business. Just south of the village of Tira a new roadside cafe has made an appearance during May.

I popped in for a cup of coffee this morning and had a chat with the owner, Guy, who is from the nearby Jewish settlement of Beit Horon, named after the biblical community. The settlement was established in 1977 with a mix of secular and religious families, now numbering over 600 people.

Customers can sit a few meters from the razor-wire fence viewing the Palestinian village on the distant hilltop
Guy has become something of a local entrepreneur. After observing the new 4-lane boulevard being built off route 443 he approached the authorities and received a lease on a small plot of land at the junction of the two roads. Smart man.

He bought a kitchen/trailer, and with a small generator, a few tables, chairs and sun-umbrellas he created an instant cafe right next to the fence with its 3 rolls of razor-wire to keep out Arabs.

I sampled a breakfast of Shashuka, a local specialty which Guy creates in gourmet style. Eggs are cooked in a pan, embedded in a delicious stew of fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic, lightly spiced. The concoction is placed on a whole-wheat roll with fresh basil. Delicious!

However the setting is bizarre. Literally 200 meters from the separation barrier with additional fencing and razor-wire to create a kind of no-mans land next to the outdoor cafe and boulevard. The other side of the fence is home to thousands of Palestinians living in Tira and beyond. The new road will service the new neighborhood of Gvat Ze'ev, a settlement that stretches out from Jerusalem deep into the West Bank.

During a quiet moment Guy relaxes with me in the shade, nods and smiles serenely when I gently mention the obvious madness of this intermingling of Israelis and Palestinians while gerrymandering the fencing to keep the peoples apart. The mother of one of my daughter's friends unexpectedly drives up for a coffee, and when I query her about the fence she says, "Thank God it's there. we don't need Arabs on this side"  . . . . . .

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2 comments:

  1. How about a few words about why the barrier was built and its role in ending terror and daily death in Israeli cities? While you're at it, you can also mention why road 443 was originally closed to Palestinian cars. Something about drive-by murders, I seem to remember. Am I right?

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  2. Actually Doug you are only partially correct. The Separation Barrier is today only 70% complete and anyone who wants to circumvent it can do so.

    The Israeli government estimates that about 10,000 Palestinians enter Jerusalem and Israel illegally every day to work. Any one of them could be bringing arms of bombs, yet there few cases of violence against Israelis. In fact after the devastating incursions in 2002, the Palestinian military organizations and terrorist groups changed their strategy under military pressure from Israel and pressure from their own populations. Thank G-d the bombings ceased.

    Route 443 came under attach by snipers from the nearby hills during the 2nd Intifada, not from dive-by shootings. Closing the road to Palestinians did little to stop this.

    Violence against civilians is always deplorable. terror acts by any party to a conflict must be condemned. yesterday I witnessed the devastation caused by settler residents of Itamar and mount Grizim near Nablus. they torched hundreds of Dunams of Palestinian land and olive trees to make a 'point'. This type of terror must also cease.

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