Hitches at checkpoints
Trans. Charles K.
We left the Shokat junction at 06:00 for the Tarqumiyya checkpoint but didn’t arrive until 06:45 because we had trouble with the car. Most of the laborers had already crossed but many were still there who could report on their numerous troubles and hardships.
The entrance to the checkpoint can be confusing: two plazas on the road to prevent accidents, bushes trimmed like in European parks, on its face an innocent border crossing.
We stayed until 07:20 and heard about many entry permits that had been confiscated, slander and mutual recriminations leading to confiscation of permits and other consequences. Since we don’t come here regularly they have no one to advocate on their behalf. We have to see how we can renew our visits there.
The Palestinians say the women inspectors treat them very badly, as do the checkpoint managers. The bathrooms have been closed. Laborers returned while we were there because it rained and work was cancelled.
Southern Hebron Hills
We continued to Hebron in heavy fog which made doing anything difficult so we drove to the school at a-Tawwani. We arrived exactly at 08:00 and met the children arriving on foot, in the rain. They told us the army arrived on time to escort them.
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: Suzanne O.
When we arrive the gate is open. The first people to leave ask, for the umpteenth time, why doesn't the gate is open earlier. Why is it that on Fridays the gate does not open at the same time as during the week?
At the entrance sleeve the queue is not crowded this time, the shouting is not loud and the amount of those leaving is lower than usual.
At the exit side the flow of those leaving is constant. It appears that all the checkpoints are functioning. One of those leaving (young) complains of the crowding in the examination room. According to him about 40 people are crowded like chickens in a cage (his expression) into a fairly small and unaired room, and asks: Why? Aren't we human beings?
It is raining. At the corner, by the exit turnstile, those wanting to return mill around. No-one opens it for them. They try to get someone's attention to see that they are here – no response.
We decide to go to the roadblock offices and try to speak to the commander. The guards are polite, get in touch with the person responsible for the shift and after a minute or two they get an order and a woman's voice orders – "Tell them to leave the fenced off area. They should wait outside". We are sent out into the rain. One of the sentries feels uncomfortable. He comes over and says that it will take the commander a while because he is busy. We are left to get wet in the rain, and when I ask for shelter, he offers a roof some way off which we can stand under.
The shift manager comes out to us at 6 a.m., Liora points out, politely, that we are not the enemy and there is no real reason not to allow us to shelter from the rain… When we ask why no one takes any notice of those wishing to return he answers – we can see them, we have cameras, and they know that. So why do they not open the gate for them? We are not prepared for two way traffic at the crossing. Why should they not open a side gate which we had seen going round the side of the building for those returning (who are not examined)? The answer – our work schedule is not your business.
To the question as to why the building does not open earlier on Fridays, the reply is that these are our orders.
We requested, and received, the telephone number of the person responsible for the functioning of the gate. We will make contact and ask for a meeting.
6:00 Reihan checkpoint
Many workers from the Seam Line zone are already waiting for transportation at the upper car park. They tell us that today's passage is swift but inside the terminal there are many people.
We go down the sleeve. All come out of the terminal puuting their belts bck on, smiling and reporting that:-"All is well".
6:30There are no longer that many people at the terminal and passage is very quick.
We are informed of a father whose two sons were caught in Israel as illegal aliens and he is punished. Despite his work permit inside Israel, ever since his boys were caught he is not permitted to cross over for work.
7:00 Shaked checkpoint
The gate on the side of the Seam Line zone is open but passage is not allowed yet. Soldiers are occupied with the gate leading to the West Bank, Tura, that couldn't open due to a problem with its lock.
Perhaps within all the renovations a new lock would be installed?
7:05At this time passage begins; First people and pupils from the Seam Line zone. School summer vacation has started. Teachers cross over to prepare report cards. The graduates go for exams. They go through the inspection cabin. There are rumors that from this spot , in the future, workers who are employed at the Shah"ak industrial area would cross over.
7:15The gate on the Tura side opens up. There is crowding by the carousel but people go through fast.
Translating Dvora K.
Tura-Shaked 07:30- 08:30
In the area of the CP building and expansion go on. Pedestrians go quickly through the new sleeve in both directions.
The CP gate is locked and a number of cars are waiting nearby. It does not seem as if they intend to open it. The soldiers are sitting calmly in their positions. Those waiting do not know why. In one vehicle there are many students who must get to an examination today. We called the Brigade Menashe and we were answered quickly and courteously: "The lock on the gate is out of order, they cannot open it, someone is being sent to take care of it. The problem will soon be solved." We passed the information on to the people waiting; In the meantime, time is passing, and the worried students turn back and drive away. Another soldier arrives and he too tries to open the lock but does not succeed. It is a simple lock hanging on a chain, and questions come up: Why don't they explain what this is about to those waiting? Why don't they cut the chain? Where is the famous creativity of our empire?
Time passes and there does not seem to be any repair activity on the horizon. We called the brigade again, and again there was a quick and courteous response to the effect that they will arrive immediately.
At half past eight, we had to leave and so we did not see when the gate opened and we could not visit Reihan.
From a highly dependable source we learned that the gate was opened at long last at 09:40 (we do not know by what technological means.)
Translator: Charles K
I think the occupation’s bureaucracy has a life of its own. The occupation also manifests itself in language (‘the stopper’ – the term for the checkpoint’s inspection room), its hold extended by landscaping, a ridiculous effort to beautify it.
The checkpoints are manned by reservists, in addition to Border Police soldiers.
11:13 Tu B’Shvat is being celebrated late at the Eliyahu crossing: Palestinian workers are planting palm trees in concrete pits…
We drove through Jayyus. Drivers and people in the village report that Tuesday night a young man from the village was arrested and a second was told to come the following morning for interrogation. Both remained in jail.
12:06 Jayyus gate in the fence is open. We understand that children are off from school to celebrate International Women’s Day. They’re accompanying their adult family members working in the fields trapped in the seam zone. The heavy rains have left puddles and mud near the yellow iron bar blocking the road; the only way to reach the gate beyond the “security road” and remain dry is in a vehicle.
Four tractors and two wagons went through the checkpoint while we stood there.
A discussion started with one of the soldiers. When we said that it’s hard for the villagers to work their fields because they receive so few permits to the “seam zone,” he said that an elderly mother crossed this morning with seven children.
Two residents of Jayyus came from the “seam zone” as soon as we arrived. It turned out they had entered this morning through the Falamiya checkpoint, but when they wanted to return through the Jayyus gate, they weren’t allowed to do so. They were required to use the checkpoint through which they’d entered. They had no means of transportation and had to walk back to Falamiya. We gave them a ride to Jayyus.
The older of the two had been blacklisted. He was removed from the blacklist and received a permit for one week (!), which expires on 9.3.12, to look for work in Israel. We were sorry to hear that he, unfortunately, didn’t find a job during that week. We also learned that even though the checkpoint is open continuously from 05:30 until the evening, it’s not yet light at 05:30 at this time of year, and there’s no point coming to the checkpoint at that hour.
13:00 We left.
Cars loaded with saplings leave Habla. A horse cart loaded with scrap metal waits to enter the village. The dealer and cart are allowed to enter but one of the wings of the gate obstructs the horse. Nura moves it and immediately the soldiers call to her, “Lady, leave the gate alone.”
Another man, returning from his fields beyond the fence, tells us that 14 dunams (3.5 acres) were robbed from his family to erect the fence.
The high point of our shift: Moving a refrigerator from the village to the plant nursery next to the fence. It turns out that “a refrigerator is something that needs a special permit,” A., from the nursery, tells us, perhaps cynically. He’s familiar with the ins-and-outs of the bureaucracy of occupation, with those who design it and those who implement it. He tells us how, each time the soldiers are replaced, he experiences anew the checkpoint crossing saga, the scornful tones of those running it (“Open up, I’ve got two who are on their way out of here,” he quotes), while he waits patiently but determinedly for the permit to move the refrigerator to the nursery. At 13:56, A. receives the permit he’s been waiting for, but neither the highest rank present nor the MP’s are aware of it. A request that they contact the head of the DCO is met with: “I have other things to do besides calling Tedesa. At the same time that I have to provide security for myself and the others, I also have to call Tedesa?,” says the highest ranking person there. A minute later the refrigerator is respectfully transported to the plant nursery.
14:00 The checkpoint closed, and we left.
Translator: Charles K.
06:10 A’anin agricultural checkpoint
People still complain about delays in getting their long-term crossing permits renewed. The reason for the delay isn’t clear, nor is it clear why they continue to get the run-around when they try to renew their permits, when they’ll eventually be renewed anyway. The business of permits creates a great deal of bitterness, also among family members who receive them only in certain seasons for a restricted period of time, and in very limited numbers.
People cross as they always do; there’s nothing new. The soldiers are used to it; the machinery of occupation operates flawlessly.
06:40 The checkpoint closes.
07:00 Tura-Shaked checkpoint
People are held up in the inspection building a little longer than usual, perhaps because of the computer. The crossing flows in both directions. The young schoolchildren arrive at the checkpoint on foot, not with their usual ride. A few of the little girls stick their tongues out at us provocatively as they pass by. All of them dutifully open their schoolbags for the soldiers, as they’re supposed to, and then continue on their way.
08:00 New Barta’a checkpoint
About 15 cars wait at the middle checkpoint for their inspection to be completed. Loaded pickups and trucks wait at the checkpoint or on the road. A small group of taxi drivers chat with one another while they wait for people returning to the West Bank after working the night shift, hoping to earn a few shekels. They’re at home here with despair, but they no longer bother to tell us about the hardships – though they occasionally joke about them bitterly. The road to Yabed is still blocked by an iron bar. The local council is trying to convince the authorities to open it.
We go over to the fenced corridor to wait for people exiting the terminal to the seam zone. Everything’s going particularly slowly today, people are stuck inside the terminal and we hear their voices. When they exit, holding their belts in their hands, they complain about being delayed for a long time on their way to work. People who’d already gone through await them farther up the road, to continue together. The checkpoint manager is aware of the delay; he tells us on the phone that there’s been a hitch, “nothing can be done about it.”
During the 45 minutes we were there, about 70 people crossed to the seam zone – most of them laborers. Very few crossed to the West Bank.
09:15 We left.
A Palestinian ambulance was transferring the body of a man of 25 from Gaza that traveled to Jordan with his mother for medical treatment, so that he could be buried in his home town. The mother sat by the driver, silent and morning, only tiling her head as though engaging in a conversation without sound.
With the help of his resourcefulness and pliers a cab driver lowered the thorns of the spike chain, the size of car wheels, and then carefully drove over it in "forbidden" direction. The inventor gained the respect of those witnessing and especially was spared the waiting in the cramped traffic jams that had become wider and packed because of the last "improvements" (=punishments) preformed on local traffic.
A lot to do about nothing:
While the traffic police hassled the ones driving up the road and enriched the state's treasury with a wholesale amount of tickets, the checkpoint commander crossed the road towards us and started hassling us with a request that soon became a demand until finally turning into a threat- to leave his "military zone" or else- he will call the police. The checkpoint commander made good on his threat, the police car changed sides, the officer took the IDs, checked his computer, read out our details to god know who and opened and "opened a complaint" as he called it. But the officer didn't quite understand what we did wrong. After all he had witnessed the soldier interrupting us and not the other way around, he didn't mind us taking pictures of him and of what was going on, but as he said "once a complaint is opened" he couldn't let us go just like that, there were forms that needed to be filled. Filled with what? He looked around an observed that we didn't wear high visibility vests when we got out of the car. But the one who had crossed the inter-urban road was the checkpoint commander and not us, and this too was unacceptable. Wanting to get off his high horse, he called for a patrol vehicle that arrived only after 25 minutes later. The patrolling officer that was called for didn't understand why he was asked to come over: "right, there is nothing wrong with what you're doing here. Someone has to tell the regimental commander to update the soldiers regarding their behavior", the policemen suggested.