Thousands of Palestinians have been illegally entering Israel to go to the beaches for the past week, with authorities making no effort to stop them, according to Hebrew-language reports.
Some believe it is a form of nose-thumbing by Israel after the Palestinian Authority stopped all its coordination with the Jewish state in late May — including coordinating permits for Palestinians to enter Israel — in protest of Israel’s yet-unfulfilled plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Haaretz daily reported Monday that the new method of entering Israel through holes in the border fence began last week, at the end of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.
After initial attempts to cross into Israel were met with no response by the military, word spread quickly across the West Bank. Palestinians have short vacations for families, complete with transportation services to the several crossing points and from there to various Israeli cities using Arab Israeli drivers, the report said.
“My kids have never seen the ocean,” Siham, a mother of five, told Haaretz. “For them, it’s like they arrived at the most important attraction in the world. Touching the salty water and playing in the sand is the best, cheapest attraction I can offer my children.”
Most of the Palestinian families have been going to Jaffa, the report said, although others have gone to Herzliya, Haifa, Netanya, and other cities.
Typically, the families come with backpacks, food, and inflatable water toys. They pay between 20 and 35 shekels ($6-$10) for transportation, Channel 13 reported on Saturday.
Despite the potential security risk and the danger of coronavirus infection, Israeli authorities — fully aware of the phenomenon — have not taken action against it.
“The soldiers just don’t care. They could’ve stopped it in an instant,” one Palestinian man told Haaretz.
Aref Shaaban from Jenin, who has organized transportation to Jaffa and Herzliya, said that, in many cases, the troops even helped the Palestinians cross into Israel.
“The soldiers saw they were families with beach balls and food bags, not grenades,” he said.
Another Palestinian visitor told Haaretz that military jeeps turned on their headlights in the evening to help direct the families back to the hole in the fence on their way back.
Many were quoted saying that at no point did they feel threatened — not at the crossing point, nor in the Israeli cities.
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment.
A resident of the Nablus area who helped organize the transportation said the move was not coordinated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) or with Israel, and that it was seen as undermining the PA.
“The Palestinian government is imposing [coronavirus] lockdowns and Israel probably wanted to accept thousands of Palestinians and show the PA that it doesn’t control anything,” he told Haaretz.
An unnamed PA official was quoted by the newspaper as saying Israel “wants to prove to us that with or without coordination, they let the civilian population in.
“Additionally, instead of Palestinians vacationing in the West Bank and paying money there, they preferred for the money to be in Israel, even if it’s not big sums.”