Translator: Charles K.
We reached the checkpoint at 09:00; it was fairly empty. A few people arrived every few minutes and crossed quickly. Only one outer gate was open. After about ten minutes a line, not very long, had formed there. A man who’d come through the checkpoint said that two weeks ago only people going to pray had received crossing permits; no work permits were given.
The place was dirty, as usual. In the background we could hear loud announcements over the loudspeakers, jarring and difficult to understand. At 09:15 about 25 people had crowded at the entrance. We tried asking the female soldier seated in the booth why they didn’t open an additional entrance but didn’t receive an answer. We telephoned the DCO and asked them to open an additional lane. We were told they’d take care of it. A few minutes later an additional lane opened.
At 09:30 a line of about 25 people had again formed at the entrance but they went through quickly.
Itamar decided to try going through from the revolving gates to the inspection station – despite passing quickly through the surprisingly narrow passageway of the forward revolving gate he was stuck within for half an hour before getting past the inspection, describing the way things were run as “unfocused.” Marina crossed after him a little more quickly.
The newcomers who accompanied us reminded us how evil and surreal it all is. We, the “veterans,” arrived and “happily” exclaimed, “Wow, great – it’s not crowded today…” As if this was a site visit by organizational consultants satisfied at the efficient operation of the checkpoint… The others, still fresh, were shocked.
When we went through the vehicle checkpoint on the way back the female soldier didn’t ask this time, “Are you Jewish?” Miracles happen.
03:55 We arrive before the gates open
Annaline notices new work on a sewer and a security fence. Solid structures intended to last a long time.
04:02 The gate opened on time, more or less. The women’s gate opened at the same time and closed at 04:09 after all the women on the separate line had entered. Women who arrived late had to join the regular line.
The ecumenicals reportthat there are again holes in the corridor fences, on both sides, at two places. We heard again, from one of the guards, the story of how they repair the fence and the Palestinians come with professional tools and make holes to go through. The new holes will be repaired soon…
On our way to the exit Israel guards approach us requesting we notify them when we arrive, before we go to the separation fence on the Palestinian side. That’s a new request. They say the army has the fence under observation to prevent it from being breached and it disturbs them when we move around the area…
At the exit gate, the flow of people exiting is interrupted from time to time. Occasionally the gate stops turning for about thirty seconds. When it’s open about thirty people per minute go through. And as expected when the corridor fences have been breached – people report an uproar on the line, say that two Palestinian Authority ambulances were called to collect persons who’d been trampled. One man tells us he fell down and would have been trampled to death had not his two friends pulled him free.
A man comes out, extremely upset, saying that one of the staff accused him of talking on a cell phone (is that forbidden?), and when he said he hadn’t – he was removed from the line and made to stand off to the side and threatened he’d be handcuffed if he didn’t behave properly (an example, says Annaline, of the saying in Proverbs 30:22, “when a servant shall reign…”). He told us he had to stand there 45 minutes until he was allowed to continue along his Via Dolorosa to the exit.
05:20 We left.
On her way home, Annaline stopped at the Eyal checkpoint and counted six Afikim company buses waiting to take Palestinians to various destinations (some minivans also). Why aren’t there similar buses at the Efrayim gate?
Regarding health insurance for Palestinian workers in Israel: they pay Bituach Leumi, which in Israel provides accident insurance and makes them eligible for health insurance in a Palestinian HMO. When the Palestinian Authority has no money – they can’t obtain medications, even though they’re insured…
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.”
Translator: Charles K.
Even though the checkpoint had operated in an organized, efficient and convenient manner during the past few weeks, today everything was back to normal. This morning was the worst we’ve seen in a long time. The revolving gates hadn’t yet opened when we arrived before 06:00. Hundreds of people jammed the entrances to the three revolving gates; they began shouting, even climbing the gates. The humanitarian gate, which should have opened at 06:00, didn’t open until 06:20. Dozens of people had come early, hoping it would open on time. They all had permits for hospital appointments or medical treatment at locations past the checkpoint. I called the DCO twice to find out what the problem was, and each time the soldier who answered told me to call back in ten minutes. The police officer, the soldier and the security guard in charge of the humanitarian gate didn’t show up until 06:20, and it finally opened. The revolving gates also opened, but only about four people made it to the lines at each of the five inspection booths. Hundreds of people were still outside; the biting cold and the rain only made it worse for everyone.
We heard from the ecumenical representative and the staff that the situation at Qalandiya has been unbearable since Sunday. We asked the police officer in charge why, in contrast to recent weeks, things suddenly changed and the checkpoint no longer operated smoothly. His reply: “Situations change…” (??!!). There was still a line to the revolving gates at 07:30, but it was shorter. Qalandiya’s reputation as one of the worst checkpoints is, in fact, justified. People don’t know from one day to the next or one week to the next what to expect when they arrive at the entrance. They can’t plan their day, their routine. It’s all random.
The gate opened at 04:00 exactly.
Again there is a hole in the fence of the entry corridor to the installation – the old story. Organized interest groups make a hole in the corridor fences, and when they’re repaired and the metal used for the fences made thicker – they bring more sophistical tools to break through. When people can enter from the side, the congestion within the lanes becomes unbearable. Remember, in one of the previous times the fence was broken through there was a riot, people were injured and at least one man died (at the time, the Palestinians told us that two had died).
The Ecumenicals report that the women’s gate opened for exactly four minutes. Women arriving at 04:05 had to go to the main line. People outside on the Israeli side reported at 04:20 that everything was going smoothly and quickly. The Ecumenicals count (using manual counters) how many people enter the facility in half an hour. By 04:30 they’d counted 1118 people! They say that on Friday (1.3.13) the main gate didn’t open at all. No one knows why.
On the other side, the entrance to Israel, the flow of people exiting dwindled almost to nothing at approximately 05:00. And then a flow of people suddenly burst out and mobbed the revolving gate. The adjoining gate remained locked. Leora noted, correctly, that since we’ve been coming here that gate has never been opened for people coming out, even though the facility manager told us that when there’s pressure on the revolving gates, this gate is also opened. Leora waves at the security cameras, points to the locked gate – and, amazingly – it opens! Because she waved? Perhaps we sometimes actually do some good.
At 04:40, while we were still at the entry gate to the facility, we marked the time on a slip of paper we gave to a man standing next to the revolving gate. He came through at 05:15. Is that fast. And he even told us, proudly, that he went through the lane for the elderly… A man standing next to the revolving gate to Israel said he’d arrived with a young colleague for whom he’s been waiting an hour. His colleague came over to us about the same time the first man exited and said that he’d spent more than an hour inside! This was confirmed by the friend who was waiting for him outside. How could more than one thousand people enter the facility during the first half hour the gate was open, and exit only half an hour later? How many people can fit in at one time?
Another man asked us for help. He held a handwritten letter with an illegible signature and with no official stamps, written on the back of a photocopy of a document. The letter says the skin on the man’s fingers is worn; that’s the reason his fingerprints are unclear. The person reading the letter is requested to allow him to cross solely on the basis of his documents. He complains that, despite the letter, he’s detained every morning; that he went more than once to the relevant offices which gave him the letter he’s holding – can we help? We gave him the phone number of Kav LaOved’s representative, who speaks Arabic. Maybe they’ll be able to solve his problem…
We left at 05:30, since we saw that the difficult routine forced upon the Palestinians seemed to be proceeding in the usual manner.
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.
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.
Translation: Naomi Gal
An exhausting and infuriating shift: ‘Anin Checkpoint was opened belatedly. At Reihan-Barta’a Checkpoint there was a constant crowded queue.
14:50 'Anin Checkpoint
About 20 people and four tractors are already waiting. Three people are praying on the side.
15:00 the checkpoint is closed, there are no soldiers. We called the DCO; they said they would notify the territorial brigade and they will send the soldiers. After a while we called again, they told us that the territorial brigadeinsured that soldiers will arrive soon. We called the bregade, they said they are up to date, there was a stone throwing incident nearbyand the soldiers are on their way to the checkpoint. Meanwhile more people arrive at the checkpoint.
15:30 the soldiers arrived, half an hour late, and opened the gates of the checkpoint.
One man told us that he has a special permit to cross at Shaked –Turah Checkpoint, when the ‘Anin Checkpoint is closed (this agricultural checkpoint opens only twice a week). Despite the distance - an hour and a half drive and 150 shekels for the fuel, still it is important for him to properly tend the 120 dunams (about 30 acres) of olives he owns.
16:00 everybody had crossed, including a family with a veiled mother and two toddlers. Everyone, including several children who were there, waited quietly and patiently. This is hard to grasp.
A rather older reserve soldier says that they arrived late to the checkpoint because children in Araka threw stones at the fence.
16:10 Shaked – Turah Checkpoint
There are all kinds of traffic lights and signs inside the checkpoint but no traffic. One woman crosses into the Seam Zone.
16:25 Riehan – Barta’a Checkpoint (seam zone side)
A woman-Instructor from Givat Haviva (a Jewish-Arab center for culture and education activities), leads a group of students from abroad, and asks us to tell them about MachsomWatch .
16:40 two windows are open at the terminal and there is no queue. This only lasts a few moments. One window closes because of a problem and immediately a line is formed. Every now and then they open the second carousel for workers who return from work in Israel and they pass quickly and with no checking. The passage of owners of work permits in the Seam Zone is slow. Most of the time there is a queue of about 50 people in front of the carousel at the entrance to the terminal. The people are tired and angry. We address one of the guards, he says that there is a hitch and “there must be a line.” We call CH, the head of the Checkpoint. He'd check what goes on.
The line is still in place.
One man tells us that yesterday morning they fired tear gas at the people at Irtach Checkpoint. He does not know why. His eyes were hurt. (In the morning they cross to Israel from Irtach Checkpoint [centeral west bank] and in the afternoon they have to return home from Reihan Checkpoint [north-west west bank.)
17:30 once there is hardly any queue we leave and go up to the parking lot. Facing us workers and families continue to arrive, going down to the terminal. We fear that a queue is forming yet again, but we do not go back to check.
Translator: Charles K.
06:00 Azzun Atma– A man approached us when we arrived. The police don’t allow him to work in Israel; he’s able only to reach his lands. It’s been eight months. We referred him to Sylvia.
The checkpoint “under development” is partially blocked by two concrete barriers. When we entered an MP tried to make us leave. After an argument he agreed we could stand beneath the guard.
About 70 people on line. A woman stands to the side. She tried to go through the fence; now she’s waiting for her ID.
07:00 Habla– Few people on line, as well as a tractor and wagon.
07:35 A bus arrives with children. The driver enters to be inspected, returns to the vehicle, drives through the gate, opens the luggage compartments. Then a female soldier boards to check within.
08:00 Arab al Ramadin– We learn a school was established in the village for the little children who were afraid to go through the Habla checkpoint.
We met Himam, the principal. She lives in Qalqiliya, speaks English fluently. She described the humiliations the teachers undergo on their way to the village. Sometimes they’re forced to undress completely.
The school has 23 children in three classes – first, second and third grade. It’s “constructed” of tents made of heavy plastic sheeting.