Car on 443 311.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Only 15 motorists
with Palestinian Authority license plates chose to drive on Route 443 on
Friday, even though it was the first time in eight years that the IDF
allowed them onto the West Bank portion of the highway that links
northern Jerusalem with Modi’in and the road to Tel Aviv.Ankawi, a
father of three, said that most of his adult life had been marked by
changes to Route 443.
soldiers and reporters than Palestinians headed to the new checkpoint
guarding access to Route 443 near Beit Sira at 8 a.m., when the road
Route 443 opens to Palestinians
Knesset: Delay route 443 opening
Israeli motorists had feared that a sudden
surge of Palestinian drivers would lead to traffic jams.
Friday morning, there was no immediate lineup of Palestinian cars. An
hour later, only three vehicles had driven through.
Palestinian motorist was Faruk Ankawi, a member of the Beit Sira Council
who runs a parking lot right by the checkpoint.
other locals, have long wanted to use Route 443, because it is the
fastest way to get to Ramallah, if you exit by Camp Ofer and use the
road that leads from there to Beitunya.
But the High Court of
Justice ruling that ordered the army to re-open the road to Palestinians
accepted the IDF assertion that allowing Palestinians onto the Beitunya
road would endanger Israelis.
As a result, Palestinians can now
drive 13 kilometers on Route 443, from the Maccabim
near Beit Sira to a another new checkpoint set up 1 kilometer before
Camp Ofer and the exit to Ramallah.
The checkpoint keeps them
from heading to Ramallah by way of Beitunya and sends them back in the
opposite direction on Route 443.
Without the Ramallah link,
Palestinians complain the road now takes them nowhere.
doesn’t help us that much. We want to go to Beitunya,” Ankawi said.
circuitous traffic pattern means that only 8 kilometers of the road can
actually be used to any purpose, he explained.
The IDF estimates
that it will take an average of four minutes to inspect a Palestinian
That is exactly the same amount of time that it would take a
Palestinian driver to head 4 kilometers down Route 443 and exit at Tira
Palestinians, however, can get there in five minutes
from Beit Sira, using a one-lane road with no traffic markings that
links the two villages.
From the side road, they can see cars
whizzing up and down the four lanes on Route 443.
In the late 1990s, he ran a small
restaurant on the side of the road leading from 443 to Beit Sira. Most
of his customers were Israelis who pulled off the highway.
stopped coming after the second intifada started in 2000, forcing Ankawi
to close the restaurant.
By 2002, the IDF had closed the West
Bank stretch of the road to Palestinians, after six Israelis were killed
there by terrorists.
Ankawi then opened a parking lot for
Palestinians who wanted to leave their car safely by Route 443 as they
walked into Israel to work.
He said that his five-year-old
daughter had died because the road’s closure meant there was no fast way
to drive to Ramallah. His daughter was injured when a gate fell on her.
The only hospital was in Ramallah.
Before 443 closed, it took 15 minutes to get to Ramallah
Before Route 443 was closed
to Palestinians, it took them 15 to 20 minutes to get there. Instead,
because they had to take a longer route, it took an hour and 15 minutes
to get to the hospital, he said. The doctor said that if they had
arrived earlier he might have been able to save her.
So on Friday
morning, Ankawi wanted
to savor the victory, however limited and delayed, of taking his car
onto the road.
“We got something from the court. Not everything we wanted, but
something. I wanted to be the first. I wanted to feel good just once,”
He said that when he pulled up to the checkpoint, “Soldiers told me
turn off the car and to stand to the side. I felt like a dog. I stood.
They asked for my ID. I handed it to them and they checked it. They
wanted me to empty my pockets and to stand here and there. They checked
the truck and under the hood. I asked, “Do you want me to take out the
engine as well?”
Finally, they let him go.
But the inspection erased any positive feelings he had about the
opening, he said.
As he headed onto the road for the first time in eight years, Ankawi
said, “I felt nothing.”
He added, “But that is life.”