07.10 am, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: the situation in the checkpoint this morning is extremely bad, the crossing takes a long time, and people have been waiting for hours. In the hall one can hear the noise of many people waiting outside.
Three inspection stations are open, but there are hardly any people in front of them, they are not allowed to pass, everyone is angry, on edge and hurrying.
We telephone the officer in command and he tells us that the crossing is not his responsibility, but the police’s – but the policeman is not in the area. In the meantime, our telephone calls don’t help.
08.00 am, Etzion DCL: about 30 people are waiting. The officer distributes queue numbers according to a list prepared by the Palestinians.
The weekly incident : a young-looking man approaches us and tells us that he cannot get an entry permit to go to a hospital, because he is on the GSS - denied list. It appears that the young man lost an eye in Hebron when he was 14 years old some years ago, due to a soldier’s fire, perhaps a rubber bullet. He sued the army and the case, which took years, resulted in the army being ordered to pay him damages. In the meantime, he often has to go for treatment to the eye hospital on the Mount of Olives, but he cannot get an entry permit. We ask Hannah for help. Is this a case of “An eye for an eye “ ?
08.30 am, Beit Ummar: the soldiers at the entrance prevent people from waiting as usual. The barrier at the entrance has been lowered.
09.00 am, Nabi Yunis: only a few people come for help today. This has been a short shift.
15:45, Qalandiya: Yesterday was Purim and there was closure on the territories. Only those with blue ID cards were allowed to cross the checkpoints. So the IDF apparently decided to work in a holiday mode even though the Palestinians were not celebrating and went to work and university as on a weekday. When they reached Qalandiya on their way back home they found that only two passageways were operating in the pedestrian CP, one of which was reserved for people without any bags or packages, because the x-ray machine was out of order. To reserve a passageway for people with no packages or bags appears to us to be a clear case of discrimination against women (who ever saw a woman without a bag?)!! And, actually, one passageway was practically empty while all the people huddled into the other one. As a result, a long line of about 40 people had formed in the northern shed. We waited more than 20 minutes just to get inside the CP. We phoned headquarters, which transferred us to the DCO Representative Amir, and explained to him what was happening. We suggested that he speak to the Passageway Unit and tell them to send the soldiers in the passageway with the broken machine to a passageway where the machine was not broken (if they didn't have enough soldiers to man a third passageway). We didn't really believe that this would help, but we tried. Fifteen minutes later we returned to see that Passageway 4 had been closed and Passageway 3 was operating instead (with an x-ray machine).
In the western part of the CP, for bus passengers, there was also a long line of people waiting in the entrance shed. Conditions had not improved by 5 PM when we left Qalandiya.
We returned to Jerusalem via Lil/Jabba and Hizmeh CPs. Traffic was flowing in both.
Translator: Charles K.
A’anin checkpoint – 14:55
The checkpoint opened a few mintues before 15:00; 14 men, 7 women and one boy crossed – those are all the agricultural permits that were received. One of the women approached, told us her husband was ill and can’t work. Since the land is registered in his name, their son can’t get a crossing permit; she’s the only one allowed through to work the land.
One of those going through tries unsuccessfully to transport two sacks of sawdust to spread around the trees in a grove in the village. He says that last week they let him take the sawdust through, but now the female MP refuses. Calls to the DCO didn’t help.
Shaked checkpoint – 15:30
We spoke with M., who’d contacted Netta this morning, who updated us that the children returning at noon from schools in the West Bank went through the checkpoint with no problems, and weren’t required to be inspected inside the building. One resident also told us that there’s a meeting going on now at the DCO with the local council head, regarding children going through the checkpoint (remember, there’s a new order to make the children go through the inspection building, rather than just looking into their bags at the checkpoint itself). Heavy traffic at the checkpoint, cars cross in 5-6 minutes, and pedestrians also go through quickly.
Reihan checkpoint – 16:15
Farther along the fenced corridor women and children have been waiting (about 45 minutes) for a car to come out from being checked in the closed area. Laborers begin returning to the West Bank from Israel and from the seam zone. They go through continuously, but there’s nevertheless a significant delay because those returning from Jenin to the seam zone have to stand at the same one window. We’re told that in the morning the checkpoint was closed for a time because a curfew order was given. The result was congestion and disorder, but it turned out there was a mistake regarding the date, the curfew was to be in effect only from tomorrow, until Monday (Purim).
16:40 – No one entered the terminal for ten minutes, and the flow of returning laborers increases.
16:55 – A second window opens; the line and congestion is eliminated.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
· Children crossed the Shaked-Tura checkpoint after waiting for half an hour.
· An incident at the Reihan-Barta'a checkpoint
06:40 A'anin Checkpoint
The last of the farmers has crossed from their village in the West Bank to the seamline zone. About 80 people crossed this morning and we are told that 81 new permits have been issued about two weeks ago. One person tells us that his wife has not been issued a permit, even during the olive harvest, and another tells us that his 50-year-old uncle has not been issued a permit.
At 06:50 everyone has crossed. The Bedouin children who live at the village beneath the checkpoint are waiting for a ride to school at Um-A-Reihan.
07:00 Shaked-Tura Checkpoint
Young children are waiting with their fathers to cross on their way to school. Yesterday they did not attend school because they were told they had to be checked in the inspection facility. Today they are waiting again. (See report from March 16th, 2011). Today the soldiers are standing next to the shed outside the checkpoint, which is not their usual spot. They return to the checkpoint but don't open the gate. A., a representative from the Liaison and Coordination Administration, is also there and it appears they have not yet decided what to do.
At 07:15 there are about 25 people waiting next to the turnstile on the Tura side, but no one has crossed yet. The first car comes up to be checked on the seamline zone side. About 30 children are waiting and a commotion begins at 07:30 on the Tura side. The soldiers are still waiting. Finally the children enter the checkpoint, and as usual they line up to be checked and a soldier inspects their schoolbags. After a few minutes all the children have crossed. A few fathers are still standing on the other side talking about the problems that the checkpoint creates for them and for their children. At 07:40 people also cross from the West Bank to the seamline zone.
At 07:50 a few people are still waiting by the turnstile, and the checkpoint returns to its usual routine.
At 08:10 we drove past the Reihan Checkpoint. A few cars are parked, waiting to be checked. Tenders loaded with merchandise are waiting on the other side. The gates to road 596 are locked as usual. About a dozencars are parked on the southern side on the road leadingtoKafin and Tul Karem, and two are parked on the north side, leading to Zibda. .
08:20 Dotan checkpoint
There is a line of six carscoming from Jenin. One car is checked at random. Three buses with children are going towards Jenin. It is wonderful weather for a school trip. We also drove to Hermesh Checkpoint. The gate on the road leading to Tulkaremwas open and unmanned.
08:50 Reihan - Barta'a Checkpoint
On our way to the checkpoint, we received a phone call and were told that there were a lot of people waiting at the checkpoint and people were held up. The Palestinian parking lot was filled to capacity and there were about 200 angry people waiting. We learned that the terminal had been closed about 40 minutes agoand it was not clear when it would reopen. People thought that perhaps a closure had been declared. We were told that there was an incident in the terminal. There were also 10 pickup trucks with agricultural goods waiting to cross to the seamline zone.
At 09:15 a security officer announced that everyone was to go to the vehicle entrance gate. Immediately people congregated there and the people from the Liaison and Coordination Administration attempted to keep order. Everyone was angry and in a hurry. Some gave up and returned to the lower gate to the terminal where they thought they would get in faster. One woman was waiting with the men and was allowed to go in, and a dozen men were also allowed in with her.
At 09:40the gate to the terminal opened. The woman in the booth instructed people to enter five at a time.
By 10:00 everyonehad entered the terminal. We saw that people were already ascending the sleeve towards the seamline zone, but we didn't know when everyone went through.
We left the checkpoint and returned through Barta'a. Despite the fact that a lot of workers did not arrive, the marketplace was busy. In the evening a man phoned Ruthi and reported that there was still trouble at the terminal. He had to wait about 20 minutes to get into the terminal and it took about 40 minutes to get through.
We arrived at Qalandiya a bit earlier than usual because, due to other obligations, we planned to leave early as well. We expected to see the CP empty before 3 PM, but boy were we wrong. All four passageways were full of people many of whom told us that they had been waiting for hours. Nothing was moving. We saw quite a few people giving up their places at the head of the lines in despair and angrily leaving the CP. We started to phone headquarters and the Humanitarian Hotline. Soldiers who answered our calls explained, again and again, that the unit manning the CP had been replaced by new soldiers and that it would take some time for them to learn their new job. This was not much consolation to the hundreds waiting at the CP after finishing their day's work or studies, nor to those anxiously waiting to get through the CP in order to get to their jobs in Jerusalem. We finished our shift at Qalandiya at 4 PM without seeing any improvement in the situation. Just as when we arrived, all the lines were full and another long line extended across the northern shed. Several people developed the theory that conditions at Qalandiya represented collective punishment for the murder of the Fogel family in the Itamar Settlement on Friday night, a theory that was rejected when others told us that the situation at Qalandiya has been this way since Friday morning with no improvement in sight.
We tried to help those waiting to enter the DCO offices in Passageway 5. We met a male nurse who works in Augusta Victoria Hospital. He was on his way to work when the soldiers in Passageway 4 confiscated his permit to enter Israel. The man told us that he has been working in various hospitals in Jerusalem for the past 10 years without any problem. Two weeks ago he was suddenly detained in one of the passageways and taken for a meeting with a member of the Security Services (Israel's FBI), a man who called himself "Abu Youssef", who played a cat and mouse game with him, asking again and again "What do you want Abu Youssef to do for you?". The man told "Abu Youssef" that he didn't want anything, he just wanted to work and earn a living to feed his family. "Abu Youssef" told him that there was no problem and, for a period of two weeks, all was as before – until Monday, March 14. When we tried to find out what had happened, a soldier from the DCO told us that the man had been designated a security risk by the Security Services and could not enter Jerusalem. And how will he get to work, and how will be feed his children? That's his problem
When we spoke with one another on Monday morning we more or less agreed that there was very little to accomplish at the checkpoints. Although they are still dirty and repulsive, and the behavior of the soldiers often leaves a lot to be desired (to say the least), the checkpoints do seem to function somehow and our presence does not usually add (or detract).
And then we arrived at Qalandiya at 3:30 PM and, as if in a recurrent nightmare, we saw all three passageways packed with people waiting to go to Jerusalem and the turnstiles operating in a miserly manner, opening only to let people through one by one. Those on line complained to us that they had been waiting for hours already (one said he had been waiting for 2 hours and another said 3), that they were sick and tired of such treatment, and how could anyone treat human beings in such a manner? Natanya and I made endless phone calls to Headquarters and to the Humanitarian Hotline, but nothing seemed to make a difference. However, by about 4:15, it looked as though some progress was being made. And then the western-most terminal, for bus passengers with blue ID cards, was closed and another 100 people came running to the CP and filled the passageways up again. The line continued out into the northern shed and got longer and longer. Why was the bus passageway closed? No one seemed to know, not even the bus driver whom we asked. But several people told us that conditions on Monday were far better than they had been on Sunday, and that today's lines were much shorter than the ones they had seen yesterday.
In one of the lines we met a man from Givat Mikhmash who held a permit to enter Israel. He was trying to deliver produce to a shop keeper in Givat Ze'ev (an Israeli settlement near Jerusalem). He told us that his permit was no good for Bethlehem or Zeitim Passage, but he had managed to get through Qalandiya several times in the past. But not yesterday – the soldiers in the aquarium refused to let him through. We called to the DCO representative, Taha, but that was no help either. Taha told him that he had just been lucky to date and that he needed another permit. Ali, who is well into his fifties if not older, was angry and waved his two valid permits in our faces, asking rhetorically how many permits a person needed.
In the DCO passageway we met Ma'amoun, a young man who didn't know how he could get his mother, who is suffering from cancer, to Augusta Victoria Hospital where she was invited for treatment while he is denied entrance to Jerusalem as a security risk. The Civil Rights Hotline told us to send him to Physicians for Human Rights which we did this morning.
We left Qalandiya at 5:15 PM and joined a long line of vehicles on the road through A-Ram to Lil/Jabba CP and from there to Hizmeh CP. There was nothing much to report.
14.50 Haris. We got the signature of a Palestinian on a power of attorney so as to get an entry permit into Israel. We went through Kifl Haris, Jinsafut and to Al Funduq
15.25 A rolling checkpoint at the entrance to the settlement of Yitzhar.
15.30 We visited the shop at Deir Sharaf. We were told that the road from Nablus to Tulkarm had been closed for 4 hours at Deir Sharaf/Haviot CP. The settlers of Gilad farm had rioted and the Palestinians……were in closure.
16.05 Anabta. The passage was in order
16.25 Irtah/Sha’ar Ephrayim. ABOUT 100 PEOPLE ON THEIR WAY TO WORK WERE CROWDED AT THE LOCKED GATE. One of us asked in a loud voice from those who are "sitting above” to open and we remarked that there was a long line of people waiting. How surprising that coincidentally the gate opened and many people went through in a hurry to get home. We did not photograph the pressure there. There was a sign saying that this was a ‘ security area” and it was forbidden to do so. It is better to remain silent about what happens at Sha’ar Ephrayim.
Translator: Charles K.
04:00-04:50, before daybreak, Irtah/Efrayim crossingThe revolving gates through which the laborers enter opened at 04:00. The line was very crowded; people went in quickly. They came out the other end of the inspection process at a rate that varied. The first ones came through very quickly, then it took 8-10 minutes per person. Only two booths were open at first, then three. Only after 04:15 were three more booths gradually opened. Not more than 30-35 women came through. Most were older women, with a few younger ones. Around 04:40 the line in the winding entry lane to the inspection area was very sparse. People moved forward in small groups, separated by large gaps. We could hear the voices of the children selling coffee coming from the distant canopies under which people who must not have been in a great hurry were crowded. The public prayer was held a little before five. People we spoke with said that today was easy and the crossing was rapid.
Changes: All the vehicles picking up laborers going to Israel have been forbidden to approach the lot in which they gather to wait. As a result, they have a long walk, which will be a problem when it’s raining. The large sign in front of the inspection area, with the picture of the anemone and the slogan, “The hope of us all,” is gone. On the other hand, all the gates and lanes with double or triple fencing in that area have been numbered. And large yellow signs have been posted announcing that it’s a security area in which photography is prohibited. They’re everywhere, including where people gather after coming out of inspections.
Since we saw the flow of people had greatly diminished we decided to drive on to the Eyal crossing.
Eyal crossing – 05:10 – 06:00
There was the usual crowd of people and vehicles when we arrived at the area distant from the fenced lane through which people come out after leaving the inspection area. Signs prohibiting photography have been posted everywhere here also. Loud voices from the inspection building. We approached the revolving gate through which people come out after having previously come through the revolving gate at the end of the inspection corridor, which is farther away. One of us walked along the paved path on the other side of the fenced lane to look into the corridor through which people come out after the physical inspection, where the document inspection booths are located. After a few minutes a security man arrived and politely explained that we’re not allowed to proceed on this path beyond the final revolving exit gate. We asked whom we could contact to find out why, and appeal to. The facility manager, he said. Meanwhile, one of those coming through the revolving gate told us that a man who, because of the cold, tried to pray in the corridor inside had his ID taken. A few minutes later a person arrived who introduced himself as the facility manager and explained that the issue is one of security – his concern and responsibility for the safety of everyone in this area, including us. He pointed to a side gate in the fenced lane and said that we could go through it and use the intercom to ask whether and when we could enter, if at all. While talking with him about the fact that the facility can’t be observed from the outside – for example, by us – he said that the operation was completely transparent. He offered to show us the rear portion – that is, the lane through which people move on their way to the inspection facility. He didn’t agree to take us inside to see the inspection facility itself. He said that security issues were involved that had to remain secret.
Here’s what we saw (our comments appear in double parentheses):
We could see from a distance a large shed crowded with people. The manager said that coffee and food is sold there. He called it “their market.” From there a straight path ((as opposed to the winding path at Irtah)), covered along its entire length, runs to the revolving gate at the entrance. An observation tower overlooks all of this, and the loud voice of ne of the security personnel can be heard telling people to more along and go through quickly. At this hour people stood in scattered groups and it was clear that the pressure had abated. When we commented on the tone of the announcements and referred to complaints we’d heard, he said that the workers undergo training, but don’t always follow instructions. The manager pointed out changes that had been made – covering the path, more booths for ID inspection and more facility staff. He was willing to tell us that the facility contained body scanners, similar to those he said were found at many airports in the USA, which cause no health problems ((these are full-body scanners)). He says people go through very quickly now, and most have crossed before 06:00. He noted that a large kiosk had been set up in the area where people wait for their rides, as well as a canopy shelter from the rain and for prayer. We referred to the drainage problems under the canopy, which we’d heard about from previous shifts. They also installed six toilets. He noted that it was very hard to keep them clean, because of the users’ behavior. He also referred to the successful cooperation with the Palestinian police in maintaining order “on their side.” There’s another lane, parallel to the entry lane, through which people return home at the end of the day, which he said goes even faster. It’s open from 04:00 until 18:00. In response to our question he pointed to a canopy that had been erected next to a traffic circle in an area we’re usually not allowed access to, for families waiting for Red Cross buses to take them to visit prisoners in Israeli jails ((usually to Ketziot)). He said that now more than 4000 people go through here every day. He claimed that Israel authorized entry for an additional 4700; he expects most of them to come through Eyal and plans to expand the existing inspection facility and lanes. He spoke about the importance of preventing terrorists from entering Israel, about his commitment to making the crossing fast and efficient, and that he views his job as a mission.
We thanked him. We left depressed. True, some of what’s being done there makes it easier for those coming through this checkpoint to work (under conditions in which they’re individually and collectively exploited and discriminated against by both their employers and by the state of Israel). The system upgrades provide evidence of their permanence, their persistence, their normalization, the fact that they’ve become an unquestioned component of an increasingly elaborate system of occupation which has already become a permanent colonial establishment whose employees see their roles as fulfilling a national mission, the mission of the Israeli in the uncivilizedcolony of Palestine.
Translator: Charles K.
We arrived at the Qalandiya checkpoint at 06:20. The line stretched to the parking lot, and the noise and shouting reached to the skies. We entered and saw the waiting room full of hundreds, if not thousands of people pushing, yelling and angry that the gates are locked.
We called the DCO and the officer at the crossing explained that “the computers are down.” That doesn’t matter to the laborers, of course; they’re trying to reach their rides and workplace before 7 AM. They’ll lose a day of work. Many of those we spoke to said they’ve been there since 4 or 5 AM.
Many gave up and left, no-one bothering to tell them what was happening and why it was closed…
We’re talking about people who sleep barely 3-4 hours a night. They arrive here in the middle of the night in order to cross on time.
At 06:50the checkpoint opened and everyone who was still there began to go through.
The humanitarian gate was operating the whole time. The DCO officer made sure of it, and it works better without the police.
We moved to where residents of Jerusalemcross. A seven-minute minibus ride. We entered; here, too, people weren’t being allowed through because the female soldier decided she didn’t like one of the pupils and told him to go back. He refused, and the line got held up for half an hour. The checkpoint was guarded by the same crazy soldier that Ivonne ran into. He yelled and cursed at us, at Arabs, and was, continually and disturbingly, definitely insulting and provocative. No one was there to get rid of him or put him in his place. The female soldier allowed people through one by one, not in threes, and when we came in prevented us from crossing – on instructions from the crazy soldier, I assume. We left because we didn’t want to cause any more delays for people who had already waited on line for 40 minutes.
We called the Qalandiya commander, Ahsan. I reported what was happening and he promised to investigate immediately. We called again ten minutes later and he told us that it was being taken care of. Let’s hope it was.
The situation this morning was very bleak, and indicated once again how explosive and unresolved are conditions at the checkpoints.
07.20 Shaked CP
A woman soldier (Military police) and four male soldiers. The inspection of the cars is very pedantic. The driver of one of the Transits takes down a rug in order to get to the spare wheel. A manual screening instrument is brought over, and every corner of the car is inspected.
There is very little traffic.
8.05 -- we left.
08.15 Reihan CP
In the upper parking lot many vans are waiting. On the road at the entrance post a Subaru with all five doors open is waiting and it is being inspected inside and out and from the bottom with the help of a mirror. A man and a child are sitting in the playground that Arik Sharon has built and developed for their comfort.
A CP security person talks to someone over his shoulder while he searches us with his eyes. When they finished inspecting the Subaru they announced, 'we'll take it up for an x-ray.' Suspecting that our observing them was likely to do more damage, we left the place and went over to observe the inside of the terminal The traffic in the sleeve is thin. They say that inside it is crowded, that there is a very long queue at the entrance. Others say that today things are all right. Looking into the terminal we discover that only one window is in operation; and only one of the turnstiles is working. The corridor behind the active window is full and crowded. From time to time some people arrive and they ask to leave in the direction of the West Bank. Then the pressure increases. A telephone call to Sharon helped! Within a few minutes an additional window is opened and the corridors are emptied. When we left, the car that was taken to be x-rayed was gone. Maybe they took it for a CT. Who knows what they have found? About ten Transits were waiting - for passengers?