Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300, 9:00 - 11:00 AM:
Naomi Gal (Translating)
Only two stations are open and most of the time a line of Palestinians is formed. Twice during the shift a police officer stood in the gate separating the two stations and swiftly let ting the Palestinians pass after getting a glimps on their permits.
The rest of the time they had to wait for the tedious checking by the computer and press their finger for the biometric checking.
An ecumenical volunteer said it took her 35 minutes to pass.
The second time the police officer decided to speed things up at the checkpoint there were 14 women (a group of English-speaking guided by Yael) who clearly witnessed this circus, the power-games of occupation and the absolute helplessness of the Palestinians. Hence the supposedly humanitarian act aimed to expedite the passage and skip the usual checking makes them completely redundant and highlights to what point they only serve to devastate the occupied.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
Shaked – Tura Checkpoint – 07:30—08:10
At about 07:20 we drove past the palestinian school at Um Riehan and saw the children entering the building. We are accustomed to coming here on Saturdays and we saw what things were like on a weekday.
There is a lot of activity in both directions at the checkpoint as compared to Saturdays. One person told us that a temporary checkpoint has been set up on the exit road from Yaabed, and as a result people have to make a lengthy detour and the drive, which usually takes 20 minutes, now takes two hours. It appears that no one is being delayed at this checkpoint. One driver got out of his car and returned after 12 minutes, turned around, and left. We did not find out why he was sent back. Another car passed through in five minutes, and a flock of goats also passed through quickly.
Reihan – Barta'a Checkpoint, 08:30-09:15
The parking lot is filled with drivers and taxis as well as a man selling coffee and cigarettes. There is a large crowd in front of the entrance to the terminal on the other side of people waiting to cross to the seamline zone. All these are things we do not see on Saturdays. There are two windows open. People told us about the temporary checkpoint at Yaabed and that it took them an hour and a half to drive the short distance. They had to drive 25 minutes to Reihan and then pass through all the checkpoints. Everyone coming out of the terminal expresses complaint and despair at the situation. At 08:40 there were fewer people entering the terminal, and we observed that it took about 20 minutes for people to pass through the terminal, and one window was closed. Apparently the crowd was caused by the delay at the checkpoint at Yaabed. Most of the traffic today is from the West Bank to the seamline zone and few people are crossing in the other direction.
Translator: Charles K.
“They don’t honor the permits they’ve issued” because “today they’re screening.”
Maybe because of last week’s uproar on the Temple Mount, maybe because of the heat wave, maybe because that’s just how things work here, today they decided upstairs to change the rules. Except they didn’t bother to notify in advance the people subject to those rules. Today, Friday, the day for worship, for errands, an order came down from on high (high up where, exactly?) that only women, and men older than 60, will be permitted through for prayers. Others, with standing permits (merchant’s crossing permit), aren’t allowed through. Those who’d made appointments ahead of time, who gathered all the required permits, who’d received a special permit for today (for a consular or a hospital appointment) aren’t allowed through.
At 09:00 the area beyond the initial revolving gates is full of Israeli police and DCO representatives of various ranks, but the latter keep quiet (except for one polite young man) and leave things to the police (?), in particular to an officer who refuses to speak to us and behaves superciliously – if not rudely - to everyone. Only one lane operating.
The police officer stands on the other side of the bars and screens those waiting. “Irja la’aura” [go back]!” he tells everyone who doesn’t meet this morning’s criteria. And there’s no appeal. Those turned back push through the ones waiting between the bars. There’s no humanitarian lane. The only crossing is via the screening lane - for old men and women, the halt and the lame.
A man with a permit, who’s employed as a painter and was supposed to finish a job for an elderly couple (who are living in the midst of the mess and are angry that the painter isn’t coming to complete the job as promised, and they can’t put everything back in place by themselves, and it’s Friday…) tried to go back (and perhaps even sneak in) through the congested line. His permit was confiscated. He’ll be able to get it back at the DCO, probably after a complaint is filed against him and he’s fined…
A polite DCO representative explains that many eyes are on the checkpoint today, that the orders from above can’t be altered. He hopes that people will be allowed to enter after 12:00 (after the consulates close, after losing a day of work).
People at the checkpoint are very angry. Some of the stories: about cement costing thousands of shekels scheduled to be poured today, and won’t be; about the Jewish owner of a flower shop waiting at the store for his worker, not able to understand why his colleague is being detained, particularly on Friday, when he’s even more urgently needed; about a university teacher from Italy, married to a Palestinian, who spent weeks assembling all the required permits to go to the consulate with her family (her son is leaving to study in Italy), and she’s irate, weeping, humiliated. “She’s not yet used to such treatment,” says her husband. She’s lived here for five years and still hasn’t come to terms with the arbitrariness and helplessness that is the lot of her new compatriots.
Dozens of people crowd at the fence, running back and forth, stretching hands with documents toward every approaching officer, pleading for understanding, for permission. “You want us to become violent,” says one man, a merchant who’s been refused to cross on business, “but we won’t succumb to temptation. And eventually you’ll collapse.”
The Military Police dictates fashion rules to the Palestinian Farmers
05:55 A'anin CP
At this CP, Palestinian farmers from the village of A'anin (on the West Bank), holding permits for agricultural work in the seamline zone (that is to say, for working on their own lands which are separated from the village by the fence), go through, as well as others who have permits to work in the seamline zone.
The gates are open. The first person goes through. Inspection is done near the middle gate. We approach and are courteously banished. The passage is very slow. A few are not allowed to go through. Two of those going through tell us that some people were returned to the village because they did not have a valid permit. and others were turned back because their clothes were too new and too nice(!) - not suitable for agricultural work, according to the soldiers.
One of the people going through offers us coffee that he pours from his thermos.
A father is not allowed to take his 12-year-old son with him. The military policewoman says that heis not his son, and the proof is that the father does not know his son's I.D. number by heart! The man has eight small children, all listed in his identification card, and unfortunetaly he can't remember all those numbers.
We call the DCO (the civil administration that manages the Palestinians' lives) in connection with the limitations on Palestinian men's fashions; The DCO advises us to ask at the brigade. In the brigade they say that it is a matter for the military police and they will ask about it there.
In regard to the father's short memory, not remembering his sons' I.D. numbers, the DCO tells us that it is possible to demand that the father remember his children's names, but not their I.Dsnumbers. The father left on his way quickly and did not wait for our information. He sent his son back to the village immediately.
The Bedoui children come up to the CP from their encampment and wait for a ride to school. We leave before the passage of A'anin residents ends.
07:05 Tura-Shaked CP
School children, students and adults are going through from the seamline zone (the area imprisoned between the separation fence and the green line, Area C) to the West Bank. Many are waiting near the turnstile at the entrance to the inspection hut. Here, too, the passage is slow. One person tells us that he does not feel well; he told this to a military policewoman and she told him to bring a note from a doctor. In the end, she gave in and let him go through without stopping in the inspection hut and she also was willing to give up on the doctor's note (the nearest doctor is in Jenin....).
07:50 Palestinian side of the Reihan-Barta'a CP
We do not want to get stuck in the big parking lot, the one close to the CP, because it is full and bursting at the seams. We park in a private lot (usually for a fee) which is about half a kilometer further on as the road rises, and we are given the privilege of parking without paying.
On our way from the parking lot to the CP we pass eight trucks waiting for inspection. The drivers share breakfast on the open door in the back of one of the trucks. They invite us to have pita with humus and beans and a cucumber. We learn from them that inspection of the trucks begins at 08:00 and that two groups of trucks are already being inspected. They have been waiting for two and a half hours. Drivers of the first group who have already entered parked their vehicles here at night.
08:20 We climb up to the parking lot. A bus with schoolgirls from East Barta'a passes the CP and turns into the upper parking lot. The schoolgirls remain in the bus, eating and playing their darboukas (Arab drums). The driver tells us that the girls are on their way to Tul-Karem and they are waiting for an additional bus, which has not received a permit to go through yet.
08:35 The second bus goes through and we go home.
On our way home, we pick up a hitchhiker near Katzir. It turns out that he lives in one of the 'privately-owned farms in Shaked. We did not know such a thing existed. As we drive, Yoaz Hendel speaks on the radio about the implementation of a new right-wing organization which will monitor human rights at the CPs, or as he puts it, under the auspices of Zionist citizens of the state. This, of course, reminds us that on the Left, there are no Zionists.
A fantastic ending to a morning in the occupation.
Translation: Suzanne O.
On the radio they talk about the budding Intifada – around Nablus only the almond trees are in bud.
'Today the roadblock is not good' say the labourers. It turns out that one of the computer stations is not working and the exit queue moves very slowly. Tens of people crowd around the turnstiles. According to the labourers the waiting time is over an hour. The soldiers are not prepared to put in place someone to take notes manually. According to them their business is to take care of security and order not the welfare of the labourers.
At the entrance to the roadblock there is a new red sign. It does not prohibit the entrance to the village, just warns that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter. Is this not pronouncing a verdict?
There is no police presence at the exit from Israel.
There are no soldiers in the checkpoints.
Almost without our noticing it the settlers' buffet in the car park, which has been there for years, has been dismantled. One of those waiting for a lift says it has been removed because it had no licence. Has the law of the land reached settler country?
There is no military activity.
A military vehicle is parked at the side but does not interfere with the flow of traffic.
In the village itself the children are on their way to school. They have not heard on the Israeli radio that no schools are open on the West Bank so that the children are free to throw stones.
The yellow barrier still bars the crossing.
The roadblock is not staffed.
On the way up to Bracha – a soldier.
Heavy traffic of lorries exiting.
Translation: Suzanne O.
6:00 a.m. Some of the labourers have already left and await transport. The roadblock should open at 4:30 a.m., but actually opened later. In order to leave at six o'clock they need to get into the queue at three o'clock. The queue is very long and, very often, they return home because they are too late. The number of people at the roadblock has increased lately: 1700 construction labourers are sent to Upper Modi'in daily (Kiriat Sefer), and in addition a large number of labourers are spread out throughout Israel. We got to the beginning of the queue but could not see the end; we were told that the queue reaches the village of Ni'lin.
People complained at the conditions: there are no toilets for the thousands of labourers arriving there daily, and there is nowhere to wait for transport.
The crossing opens at 5 o'clock, most of the labourers have already left. The complaints are the same, they have to wait a long time and the checks are slow.
Coaches were in the car park for the families of prisoners. We chatted to one family who could speak some English. They told us they have 4 sons, 3 of whom were in Israeli prisons. At the moment they have a son who is held in Nafcha.
For an hour and a half, during the busiest time, the 'Azzun' Atma checkpoint was closed because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
About 90 people wait in a longer line than usual at this hour. The checkpoint commander immediately wants to move us back, but only symbolically. He must demonstrate who’s in charge, and continues doing so later.
The line begins about a meter behind the checkpoint gate; only two at a time are permitted to advance and stand ready to continue toward the inspection point. But, like all lines, it slowly moves closer to the gate, which is an obvious indicator of how far they can go, unlike the imaginary line farther from the gate at which they were supposed to stand because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:20. Nobody goes through! The soldiers close the gate. That’s it! It’s time to teach the Palestinians a lesson.
The Palestinians stubbornly remain standing at the gate. The truth is that it’s very difficult to push back a line of nearly 100 people. And meanwhile more join the motionless line.
The checkpoint commander arrives a few minutes later (he’d been hunting people who were sneaking through holes in the fence – there were more than a few). Now, as at the Habla checkpoint last week, the army begins “educating” the Palestinians. We telephoned the DCO – they said they’d take care of it.
Meanwhile, the soldiers leave the (closed) gate and wander around the checkpoint, chatting. The tension rises among those waiting behind the fence; a few soldiers return to argue with the Palestinians but the situation doesn’t change and nothing happens.
Another call to the DCO doesn’t bring any result. We’re told, “the Palestinians aren’t obeying the soldiers.”
Nevertheless, army personnel arrive, mutter to us “It’ll be ok…”, wander around the checkpoint and… leave, and nothing happens.
Children arrive on their way to school, wait to cross to 'Azzun 'Atma from the “Israeli” side. After a while the soldier with the key to the vehicle gate is located and the children go through.
The checkpoint commander went hunting again, returning with a man who’d gone through a hole in the fence because he had to get to work. His ID was confiscated; he was sent back to the 'Azzun' Atma side.
07:05 The gate opens, two people cross, the gate closes again, two more cross and again the gate closes. At 07:10 the gate closes and doesn’t reopen. We phone A., the DCO commander, who promises to take care of it.
A boy comes riding a bicycle. The soldier who’s supposed to open the gate isn’t there and it takes a while until he appears to let the boy cross to school.
07:30 We contacted Chana B. All this time, the soldiers are wandering around the checkpoint, joking, having a good time, while a mass of people beyond the gate are anxious not to lose a day of work. But no one cares.
07:50 People are getting angry, yelling at the soldiers – the situation is pretty frightening.
08:00 Reinforcements arrive; the soldiers go to the line and try to restore order. Now they open the gate and begin letting people through four at a time, closing the gate after them until their inspection is complete.
A., from the DCO, called us twice to find out what was going on. The first time was after he’d been told that everything was alright, but it wasn’t. The second time there had, in fact, been a change, and people began crossing.
08:25 Habla checkpoint. The gate is still open (it’s supposed to close at 08:15); some cars, a cart and people are still going through, until no one remains and the soldiers close the crossing.
08:40 Eliyahu gate. Everything as usual; no line of people crossing on foot.
We gave a man documents to sign for submission to the court so he could be removed from the Shabak’s blacklist. Then we went home exhausted, sad and angry.
13:30-14:05 Habla agricultural gate
Few people crossing. No particular complaints this time. We seriously question how late in the afternoon the gate opens: 17:30-18:15!! That’s very late and dark during the winter; why only for three-quarters of an hour; why not earlier? We understand that most people return between 16:00 to 17:00.
14:10 Eliyahu gate
Not crowded. Two Palestinian vehicles being inspected off to the side.
More soldiers than usual on both sides of the checkpoint. They’re very busy, stop many cars, make people put their hands up for inspection. It turns out the unit was called because of a stabbing incident a short time earlier at the Za’tara junction (a Palestinian tried to stab a settler). The suspects, who hadn’t yet been located, were found while we were there. The checkpoint commander informed us so that we’d take care. The line of cars heading toward Nablus was very long (much longer than usual), which we attributed to the response to the incident at the Za’tara junction. Because of the long line we decided to see what was going on at Beit Furiq. We drove there, but found no soldiers; vehicles came through from the direction of Nablus.
Three military vehicles drove toward us in the town, going in the direction of Nablus.
16:05 Za’tara junction
Two soldiers stationed at the bus stop (two settlers were there also). One soldier in the observation tower and two more at the junction – one on each side. Cars went through without delays.
16:15 A military jeep and some soldiers stood at the entrance to Kifl Hars.
A fairly strong military presence today, compared to what we’d seen during previous visits two weeks and one month ago.
16:30 Azzun Atma
Only two soldiers on guard. The MP sits inside, inspecting documents. About 20 people on the line; it moves quickly.
We want to repeat that it’s important to ask Palestinians crossing through Habla whether the gate doesn’t open too late on winter afternoons (17:30-18:15), and whether it’s not already too dark. Because when we left occupied country before 17:30 the sun had already set to its west…
Translator: Charles K.
We drove to the checkpoint after learning on Machsom Watch’s Facebook page about problems there. The checkpoint’s manager insists on calling it a “crossing.”
The checkpoint has been privatized; it’s managed by Modi’in Ezrachi (as are Irtach and Eyal); the Ministry of Defense supervises the security company. There are armed guards at the checkpoint, through which Palestinians cross into Israel. Like other entry checkpoints to Israel in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, this has also been “improved” by a network of entry and exit lanes, inspections, revolving gates, a cafeteria and landscaping which sends the following message: We’re here to stay!
05:20 Nora and Varda arrive. The area is full of minibuses and buses. We manage to find a semi-protected parking spot with the approval of a security guard who shows up immediately to check us (and makes do with Varda’s ID card). A., the checkpoint manager, also comes over, greets us pleasantly and offers to show us the areas to which we’re permitted access.
We entered the sanctum sanctorum:
1. Final identification room, in which a computer identifies automatically the holder of the ID card placed on a surface outside the window, plus biometric identification. After the “OK” a person usually goes through quickly. Four booths are open. One of the employees warns someone in fluent and high-flown Hebrew that the computer has a problem reading his ID, and that he should renew it at the DCO, because it could be confiscated.
2. A room where people are physically inspected if necessary. The manager is proud that a separate room has been provided for this purpose so that people won’t be publicly humiliated.
3. A room where ID’s are taken and belongings go through a scanner – five booths are open. IDs are collected from a number of people and then returned, apparently all at the same time at the end of the inspection. That’s all we were permitted to see. We spoke to the manager in the plaza; he stressed the “Principles of Service” he established; he requires employees adhere to them. He says he checks from time to time, and that not more than five to ten minutes elapse from the time someone enters the facility until they exit. Once it took longer – between 30 and 40 minutes. The comparison to inspections at the airport comes up again and again; we try to explain to A. the real differences between the situations but it’s not clear we succeeded… The comparison has apparently been branded into the consciousness of all employees at these checkpoints/crossings; it’s very convincing and convenient for someone who wants to be convinced.
Anat arrived. We come out to talk in the plaza outside the facility, while A. continues to demonstrate good will (and in fact, compared to other checkpoint managers, he listens and responds politely while emphasizing that he’s aware that those going through to work are human beings…). Anat tells him that we came in response to complaints we’d received; at the same time an elderly man crossed complaining that the crossing hasn’t been easy recently, and that his ID had been taken this morning and he’d had to stand half an hour waiting to get it back. Anat mentioned the dangerous crossing on the main road; A. said that a pedestrian bridge is being discussed.
We spoke to Palestinians near the revolving gate at the exit. They told us that it takesfrom an hour to an hour and a half to go through. But, more important, said one Palestinian: “It’s insulting!!!” (the entire inspection process, he means)
The laborers flow through; the parking lot begins emptying. Workers returning from the night shift also arrive; I wasn’t able to see how they go through. One of the bus drivers explained that he transports all his passengers to Ma’aleh Horon (guess how much construction is going on there).
07:00 We left.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
07:25-08:00 – Shaked-Tura Checkpoint
The checkpoint is open wide and there is traffic flowing in both directions. Crossing is relatively quick. A man from Tura approaches us; he has a permit to cross and he crosses the checkpoint daily with his herd of goats. The new checkpoint attendant, a military policewoman whose name we don't know, has not allowed him to bring his herd of goats across because she claims it is not listed in his permit. He asks if we can help. He has already appealed to the Liaison and Coordination Administration, without results. We have the man's personal details.
08:10-08:50 – Reihan Barta'a Checkpoint
There are still many taxis waiting in the upper parking lot – a sign that a lot of people are still held up in the terminal. People coming out tell us that there are, indeed, a lot of people in the terminal. We meet Ron, the checkpoint commander, and his assistant, near the turnstile below. They explain that they are doing their best under the circumstances, which are beyond their control. Ron invites the members of our organization to tour the checkpoint and see all the renovations that have been introduced, particularly in the vehicle crossing. "Today it takes no more than 10 minutes for vehicles to cross," he claims. When we exited we saw vehicles which had waited more than that, and others joining the line. As for the people waiting inside, he explained, "I's Saturday and there are more people than usual, so it takes longer."
When we exit the sleeve we meet a person who has relatives in Australia and a visa to visit there, but he has to arrange papers for other members of his family here who would like to be reunited with the family. He needs to get to the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv. He has put in a request to the Liaison and Coordination Administration and was refused. In other words, he can get to Australia, but not to Tel Aviv! We have the man's personal details.