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Roadblock dismantled in Jenin by heroic activists


Roadblock dismantled in Jenin by heroic activists

The road between Jenin and Berqin is essential not only to the 5000 people living in Berqin, it is the eastern gateway to the provincial capital of Jenin and is used by people living in a dozen villages in the eastern part of the Jenin District.

After closing the road for a week, the Israeli army finally closed it completely on Thursday by building a roadblock from one mountainside to the other. The narrow valley was comprehensively closed off to all vehicles and persons not able to climb the five metre high pile of dirt and rocks.

By Saturday, it had been removed by ISM volunteers working with the Berqin Municipality, thereby allowing traffic to use the important gateway to Jenin for the first time in a week.

The four ISM activists present in Jenin became aware of the roadblock early Friday and went to inspect the sight the same day.

Saturday morning they left their homes in Jenin, armed with just a shovel and three pickaxes. Several phone calls to the municipalities of Jenin, Qabatia and Berqin asking for a bulldozer to do the dirty work ended up without success. Instead, the four international activists, two Palestinian men and a boy aged 13 years started what seemed an impossible task - to remove the roadblock by hand.

Passing Palestinian townspeople offered their enthusiastic encouragement and the labouring crew sometimes numbered as many as twelve. After five hours of hard toil, the result was a narrow, bumpy road useable by four-wheeled cars.

At that point, a bulldozer finally arrived and started work. The municipality of Berqin had expected Israeli soldiers to turn up and start shooting at the workers. But after five hours without any military interference, they decided to lend their support to the action.

In half an hour, the bulldozer cleared a narrow pass through the roadblock and the bumpy area surrounding it. The mayor of Berqin had emphasised to the driver of the bulldozer that he should only partially remove the roadblock.

Years of experience have taught the Palestinians that the bigger the operation, the greater the risk of the army showing up the next day to rebuild the roadblock again.

By the late afternoon, traffic was flowing easily in the Berqin Valley, saving everyone an arduous climb up a mountain of dirt and a long walk afterwards.

Lasse Schmidt, Jenin

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