Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300
Naomi Gal (translating)
Only two windows are open although quite a few people are waiting in line. 30 minutes into the shift they open another window.
The checking lasts for long moments, because at least in one of the windows there is a soldier who doesn’t concede and makes each and every one lay their finger on the biometric devise (fingerprint identification). The device slows down occasionally while transferring the required information to the screen and one has to press the finger time and again; often the soldier asks to use the other hand. The Palestinians are already making fun about it and when their turn arrives they ask: "Right or left?" The soldier answers to most "right" but sometimes says “left" when the screen remains indifferent to the right finger and doesn’t allow the owner of the hand to pass.
There are not many kids but suddenly something happens: parents protest the refusal of the soldier to let their little girl pass (she is really small - two and a half years old). I approach the soldier and say: look, little kids always pass. On Fridays they require permits (on Friday people pass with prayer permits, unlike the rest of the week) only from age seven and sometimes from age five.
The soldier says: just the opposite, it is forbidden to let children under 7 pass. He's courteous and smiling but convinced he's right.
I laugh: you just got confused, I promise you that children under the age of 7 are passing today, please ask your commander.
Fortunately for the family an officer just walked out from one of the rooms inside and I ask him to talk to the soldier. He indeed explains the procedure and the family passes. I did one good thing today! What Hagit called "small victories" in the magazine article about her in “Haaretz".
No special events the rest of the shift, but there is a constant stream of people and a comic ballet of fingers changing / racing on the biometric contraption.
0600 Reihan-Barta'a checkpoint
Passage is as usual without delays. At the sleeve we meet the Seamstresses and the Sha"hak workers.
On the road and at the car park, a few pickup trucks loaded with agriculture produce are waiting. According to the drivers, they've been waiting for hours, they worry that the vegetables might go bad in this heat.
One of the Seamstresses, a young dumb/deaf girl comes back from the terminal in tears, she was turned to the DCO because her finger prints did not match the one in the Biometric machine,. We suggest she should go back for another inspection while trying to reach Sharon the checkpoint manager, but he is not available. We've asked the person in charge to look into this matter and in a few minutes the young woman is called back. A relative waits for her and they drive to the DCO. At this point nobody is aware that the DCO is closed due to the Jewish Holyday of Shavuot. Why can't such problems be resolved at the checkpoint? rather than sending people back and forth causing them to loose time and money.
Only God and the Brigade commander have answers.
In Tul Karem the DCO is located right at the checkpoint.
07:10 Shaked-Tura checkpoint
By the end of the month school will be over all around the West Bank. Now is the exams season, pupils arrive without their school bags all they carry is a rolled booklet and they go over and memorizing the material. Most of the young pupils do not come at all. The driver Y. comes to pick up his one year old grand-daughter! We were surprised, he is 42 years old and looks like a teen-ager and already is a proud and happy grand father.
Passage inside the cabin is very slow. How not surprising. Again they write down names of those coming and going. Y. of the DCO is on site to help.
08:10- About 15 people wait on the Eastern side to cross over to the Seam Line zone.
While at one of the the checkpoints we met E., an olive grove owner located a few hundred meters from his home, on the other side of the checkpoint. For a year and a half now he does not receive a permit to get to his land. He left home a few days ago in the direction of Jerusalem and back to the Seam Line zone - total of 300 hundred Kilometers . He had spent his nights in various corners. This is how he handles his life, always under the threat of being caught and arrested.
4.30 We left Jerusalem at 3.15 but owing to traffic only arrived at Qalandiya at about 4.30. As usual the soldiers were playing hide and seek with the Palestinians sending them from one turnstile to another, both in the shed and at the windows. There were people in all three outside lines in the shed stretching almost to the end of it and never at any time while we were there was this area empty. Even when there were practically no people at the windows the outside turnstile was locked while the two women soldiers inside the booth sat chatting. After all why not keep them standing uncomfortably in the narrow fenced in area which reminds one of a cattle run rather than letting them into the area of the windows where they could at least move about.
But then the soldiers found a new game. At first we did not see this because of the long line but suddenly our attention was brought to the fact that about 50 people coming home from work, etc. to Qalandiya were standing at the turnstile which is always open and was now locked. Phone call after phone call and it was opened. In the beginning we thought it was a temporary aberration but a while later we again noticed the same thing happening. This time we saw an even larger number waiting to continue their homeward journey. At the same time, although it was late, a crowd of people arrived from the area of the DCO inside the window area ….they managed to get through the turnstile inside the terminal but suddenly this was also closed and 4 members of their family were also stuck. So now we had two groups of people who were unable to come through on their way home.
We went to the booth where the woman soldier was now alone and called to her motioning that there were people waiting to come through but got no response. She started barking into the microphone but in such a way that no one could make out what she was saying, no one could make out what language she was speaking in and in fact no one could make out if it was a human language or not. We phoned the Moked and the DCO but still they waited. More phone calls and eventually the two turnstiles opened, the people streamed through and the family was united.
Practically the whole time that we were there only one window was open.
We left at 18.15.
Translator: Charles K.
06:20 Reihan checkpoint
The checkpoint opened at 5 AM. The seamstresses and Shahak workers crossed. 12-15 people waiting in the upper parking lot for transportation to their factory jobs. They’re sitting by the roadside opposite the taxi stand, on boulders, on the road or on the bare ground. There should be a shed and benches here, because it’s become a place where people usually wait.
Dozens of laborers waiting in the lower parking lot in front of the closed gate. A few minutes later they enter and go to the terminal. Others arrive, wait briefly. We’re told that the terminal is “packed” with people.
Two trucks loaded with agricultural produce wait to be inspected.
We walk through the corridor to the terminal. Only one inspection window is open. Once again the biometric inspection problem arises (palm and fingerprint scan) for the manual laborers. Their jobs are (literally) wearing, affecting their hands, which now don’t match the image in the data base. Once again they have to schlep to the DCO, which is far from their home, and lose a day of work in order to update the image until the next time.
People leaving the terminal ask us about what’s happening in Israel regarding the prohibition on selling apartments to Arabs (you don’t like Arabs), and fear that the quota of permits to work in Israel will also be reduced. One asks, half seriously, half jokingly, who’s our Prime Minister. Netanyahu or Lieberman? He can quote the latter’s brilliant statements about transfer, etc. “Everything’s been taken from us! Where will they dump us?”
A 42 year old man, married, no children, says his permit to work in Israel wasn’t renewed; the reason given was that he didn’t have children. He’s being punished for nature’s curse…says his companion.
Two others say that despite their valid permits they’re delayed from time to time for various clarifications, since there’s a red line under their names on the permit. They don’t know why. They’re waiting for a companion who’s been detained instead of continuing to work.
07:05 Laborers keep exiting. There’s lots of traffic, and except for the unlucky ones being detained is seems that people go through quickly.
07:20 Shaked checkpoint
The checkpoint has just opened but people aren’t being allowed to cross yet. A soldier stands at the gate, supervising.
A line of seven cars and a few dozen people has formed to cross to the seam zone: pupils, teachers, students and others waiting to cross. Exams have begun at the Open University in Jenin.
Twenty or more people are also waiting to cross from the other side (the West Bank). The DCO tells us, by phone, that a drill is currently underway. Now, exactly when pupils and teachers have to cross!
07:30 After we contact the DCO, the checkpoint opens to let people through. The entry to the seam zone, involving undergoing inspection in the building, is still slow. Very young pupils (kindergarten and elementary school) line up opposite the soldiers, open their bags and run to school.
Many complain that the checkpoint again opens late, at 7 instead of 6. They say an earlier opening would make it easier for laborers who rise early; the pupils and teachers arrive later. It would also reduce the stress of crossing.
08:10 The last person from the West Bank crosses to the seam zone. Now the drill can continue without interruption.
A , driving the DCO vehicle, arrives and leaves. So do we.
Translation: Ruth Fleishman
Once we made out the smell of urine at the north entrance, once our ears were deafened by the guard shouting from the tower: "Hay… you… Hay… You… stay away from the fence!", once our eyes noticed that the guard was waving his rifle at us as he was yelling: "Hay… Hay… No Pictures!", we knew at last that we had reached Qalandiya checkpoint.
We weren't surprised by the slow pace in which the inspection of those entering its gates was conducted. We had gotten used to the scanning of the IDs and the typing in of ID numbers. Those too will be kept aside until the bad times begin and this information will come in handy.
There was an innovation at the actual passage: on the metal detector gates metal strips were hung, they projected pictures of small green and red people= passes or doesn't pass (the picture was taken secretly).
Atara/ Bir Zeit:
Fear and tremble possessed the soldiers at the sight of a civilian car parked by the side of the besieged post. "It's very dangerous to wanders about at night around here… don't come near the post… I'm the post commander and when you approach it makes my soldiers jump…"- all this was said explained to us through the canvas covered fences. We could make out the persons voice without seeing his face, he insisted on telling us over and over again that this spot wasn't a checkpoint: "it's a post!".
Then another voice came out of the "post", it reported on the radio that: "the three aunts are standing outside…". Only once a military vehicle arrived was the gate opened, then a group of reserve soldier came carefully outside: one or two steps outside the fence. A bearded man was bossing them around and told his colleagues not to talk to us, he hushed down a curious soldiers who wanted to understand who we were and why we came there.
Monday afternoon, 18.10.2010
15:30, Qalandiya: The CP was slightly more crowded than it has been for weeks. Unfortunately the crowding did not appear to be the result of more people coming to the CP but to inefficiency of the soldiers providing service. Three passageways were active almost all the time, but the soldier in the post in the northern shed kept tight control of the entrance turnstile, slowing down the flow of traffic.
A friend whom we met at the CP told us that the crowding on Monday morning had been unusually heavy and that workers trying to get to their jobs had been delayed at the CP for an hour to an hour and a half.
A man was waiting in Passageway 5, trying to get into the DCO offices. All his attempts to attract the attention of the soldiers in the "aquarium" were to no avail. We phoned the DCO from the northern shed and the man was admitted after a few minutes.
15:45: We entered the CP and got on line in Passageway 2. In front of us on line was a middle aged woman accompanied by a big boy. They managed to reach the examination area after a wait of 10 minutes. The soldiers in the aquarium refused them permission to enter Jerusalem because they had a problem with the 15 year-old boy's birth certificate. In the end, after an argument that lasted another 5 minutes, the two were allowed to continue on their way. Meanwhile a long line had formed behind us and the two soldiers on duty announced that they had closed the passageway, ordering all those waiting to go elsewhere. We phoned headquarters to complain, not so much for ourselves but for those behind us. Keinan intervened and after a few minutes the 2 soldiers went back to work and opened the gate. At the same time they turned on all sorts of electronic equipment that screeched and chirped so loudly that it hurt peoples' ears. However, after Natanya and I had gone through they stopped the punishment.
16:15: Leaving the pedestrian CP, we went to see what was happening at the vehicle section. There appears to be a change in examination procedures. Instead of checking drivers and vehicles in full view of people in the bus station, the examination is now taking place behind and between the checkposts in the vehicle lanes so that people can no longer see what is happening.
On our way back to the northern shed we observed that some of the biometric machines were not operating and that none of the Palestinians returning from work were using them.
16:40: There were 40 people waiting on line in the northern shed waiting to enter the CP. After several minutes one of the internal passageways was closed, exacerbating the problem of crowding. At this point there were many mothers with small children waiting on line in the shed as well as students. We phoned the humanitarian hotline and Keinan as well. Both promised to look into the matter but nothing positive happened.
17:10: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. The traffic was flowing at Lil/Jabba CP. Just beyond the CP a police car was parked on the road and a policeman was stopping Palestinian vehicles to check their papers.
15:30, Qalandiya: Traffic was flowing on the road to the CP and there were no lines inside. Two active passageways (3 and 4) served holders of blue (Israeli) ID cards, both men and women. There was no line at all in Passageway No. 1, for those with Palestinian IDs.
We noticed a man waiting in Passageway 5, the passageway for the DCO offices. No one was paying him any attention and time was running out (as the offices close at 4 PM). We called both headquarters and the DCO asking them to open the passageway, but nothing happened. The man was trying to get a permit to bury a dead relative. After waiting almost half an hour, a soldier arrived, checked his papers and made a phone call (to his superiors?), then he took him to the DCO offices.
16:00: A young woman pushing an empty wheelchair, accompanied by a civilian security guard (who opened the "humanitarian gates" for her), arrived and got in line in Passageway 4. As Natanya and I wondered how she would get through the passageway and tried to figure out how we could be of help, the computer crashed so that any strategy we thought of would be useless. And then Natanya thought to phone Keinan (who had been very helpful last week). He arrived in no time flat and escorted the girl with the wheelchair through the CP via external gates.
16:30: The computer was up again. At 16:40 we two also managed to reach the Jerusalem side of the CP. There we met three young women from abroad, members of several women's organizations. They had tried to cross through the CP with their passports and had been ushered into the examination room for questioning. One of them, a woman from Japan, had spent a long time in the interrogation room as she had no Israeli visa in her passport (she had requested that her passport not be stamped when she entered the country). Apparently, the procedure is to check entry of foreign visitors against files of the Interior Ministry (so that in principle it is possible to cross a CP without a visa in your passport).
16:50: In the Western passageway, for people leaving Jerusalem and entering the West Bank, only 2 of the 4 biometric machines were operating. The laborers returning from their day's work had no problem and passed through quickly.
17:30: No lines in the internal passageways and almost no one in the northern shed aside from several laborers waiting for a ride home. We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. En route we passed through Lil/Jabba and Hizmeh CPs. There were no lines in either and traffic was flowing.
Guest: Lindsay, a student from Britain
"An American citizen lost her eye last week at the Qalandiyah checkpoint after being struck by a tear gas grenade"
A person we know and who had witnessed the incident told us that on Monday, after word had spread regarding the event on the flotilla, a demonstration on the square in front of the checkpoint had started. One of the protesters headed towards the checkpoint fence and hung the flag of Palestine on it. This act served as a signal to those sitting in front of Big Brother's camera, observing the plasma screens: BP soldiers burst out of the checkpoint and ripped the flag off. The boys at the refugee camp started throwing stones at the armed forces, who responded by throwing tear gas: "they had special rifles", our friend told us, "that can shoot several bullets at once". Grenades of this type had been prohibited for use at short distance ever since the death of Basem Abu-Rahma after being hit in the chest by them, during a Bilin demonstration on February 2009.
The BP spokesmen claim that: "The unit had acted according to regulations, and the grenade had hit the wall and from there it turned towards the protesters". But as our friend showed us, the distance between the shooters and the demonstrators didn't exceed 15 meters. The regulations prohibit the use of this deadly weapon at a distance that doesn't exceed tens of meters, and there is no site at the checkpoint with such a range.
On top of it, as someone who is familiar with the site and the area where it all took place, and based on the photo published in the newspaper (see the link above), the wall (in contrast to what was stated by the BP) is nowhere near the place it all happened.
The young woman who was injured and had lost one of her eyes - fell down on the dirty ground while bleeding, she was picked by those who had surrounded her and was taken away from the site in a vehicle.
- - - - - - - - - -
After trying to figure out the reason why on occasion the ID numbers of people with blue identity cards- citizens (like us) or residents from Jerusalem and most of the Palestinians who are permitted passage, we had come up only with the assumption that the system/ sovereign/occupier, like an octopus spreading his arms all around, the Israeli authority spreads it's many arms onto the bodies, pockets and freedom of the Palestinians, even those among them with special privileges. As though the permit and restriction regime, which like a ball and chain constrains their bodies and souls, isn't enough, while passing though Qalandiya checkpoint the soldiers find and capture people who have unpaid fines and own the country money: municipal rate, income tax and traffic fines etc...
And top of that, while they are stuck between the two turnstiles, some of them are requested to enter the inner room, and that person is left secluded by walls that conceal him from the public, from those who are waiting their turn or those who had already passed and quickly disappeared in the twisting rout. The way to the captain's office from that room isn't long.
We were a little anxious as we set out - friends had called to warn us that we were in for a difficult day (battles, stone throwing, tension, who knows?). We listened to the radio all the way to the CP, hoping to hear some information on what was going on. But all was quiet (after the morning's disturbances), and the CP looked quite abandoned. I always thought that things were terrible when the CP was full to overflowing, but it turns out that empty CP's portend no good either. There is simply nothing good about a CheckPoint.
15:20: Atarot CP: There is no CP anymore! All the cement blocks and attendant paraphernalia (spike strips/tire shredders) have been removed and the traffic is flowing. It seems that the CP has been moved to Highway 443. We had no time to visit today, will do so next week.
15:30: Qalandiya CP: The CP was almost deserted. A handful of Palestinian workers were sitting in the northern shed, waiting for a lift home. The coffee vendor was not around, so we asked the sweets vendor about the day's events. He said that he had arrived at 2 PM, that all had been quiet and the CP deserted. While we were talking to Suleiman, a man aged 45-50 whom we have often seen at Qalandiya, someone who passes the CP on a daily basis, came over to speak with us. His name is Nasser.
Short Story: Where is Nasser?
Nasser is a Palestinian man who holds a permit to enter Jerusalem to conduct his business. His job is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to many institutional clients in Jerusalem - hospitals, yeshivas, etc. Yesterday he arrived at Qalandiya on his was to Hadassah Hospital to prepare a list of products for shipment.
Nasser told us that he had come with a group of friends and gotten in line at the carousel at the CP entrance. The soldier in the post controlling the entrance allowed all those ahead of Nasser in line to enter the CP but locked the carousel when it was Nasser's turn. Then the soldier announced that the adjacent carousel was open, so all those behind Nasser rushed out to join the new line. At this point, the soldier told Nasser that he had a job for him to do. He told Nasser that he must tell all those sitting in the shed to leave. Nasser refused to obey the order (he doesn't work for the IDF) and the soldier replied that until he did as he was told he would not be allowed to enter the CP. Each time that Nasser stood in line and reached the carousel, the soldier locked him out.
Natanya and I started to phone everyone we could think of to solve the problem. Headquarters promised to help. The DCO offices didn't answer. We asked Headquarters to put us in touch with the DCO representative, which they did, but the representative was not at the CP. He promised to speak with the soldier by phone. After a while, we approached the fence and tried to talk to the soldier in the post. He wouldn't open the window so that our conversation was conducted in pantomime. But we managed to understand that there was no problem, that Nasser could enter the CP. We told Nasser and got in line behind him at the carousel. As promised, the carousel turned and Nasser (and we as well) went into the CP. As he passed, the PA system announced that Passageway No. 4 was open. As 8 people were waiting on line in Passageway No. 2, Nasser went straight to No. 4. As we waited in the internal passageway, I noticed that the soldier at the entrance was talking on the phone. So was the soldier in the "aquarium" in Passageway 4. After waiting for several minutes, I suddenly thought that perhaps the two soldiers were talking with each other: were they setting a trap for Nasser? I suggested to Nasser that he should get in line and present his papers at No.2 in order to avoid any further problems, but Nasser was not suspicious and the minute the carousel opened he went in to No. 4. As he presented his papers to the soldier in the window, the soldier ordered him to enter the "examination room." Nasser disappeared from view and we didn't see him again.
Natanya and Lindsay crossed to the Jerusalem side of the CP while I waited on the Palestinian side, but Nasser never appeared. Later on I went through Passageway 4 and asked the soldier if Nasser was still inside. As expected, the soldier told me it was none of my business and turned his back on me.
We were at Qalandiya CP until 5 PM. We still don't know what happened to Nasser and we don't have his phone number either.
Back at the CP:
While Natanya and Lindsay waited to enter the CP at the northern entrance, the (same) soldier in the post moved them back and forth from one carousel to another, yelling at them.
Another little CP curiosity: We know from experience that the magnetometer in Passageway 4 is very sensitive, particularly to women's buckles, and so Passageway 4 is usually reserved for men only. However, when I went through this Passageway yesterday, after placing all my belongings in the X-ray machine, I discovered to my consternation that I had forgotten my car keys in my pocket. I had no alternative but to go through the magnetometer with the keys in my hand - but the machine did not chirp. I went through again twice, keys in hand, to put trays in position at the mouth of the machine - no chirping! What happened?
17:00: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. There was no one at Lil/Jabba CP aside from three bored soldiers, no Palestinian cars. At Hizmeh, traffic was light and flowing freely.
9.00 - 11.30
In the last months the civil administration has been giving permits to those going to the prayers on the Temple Mount on Fridays. These are given to a certain amount of people from the West Bank, to men and women over 50 and their children under 12, This depending on the fact that they are not a "security refused." And even then only to a certain number from each village or town for that certain Friday. This is the Israeli decision. This we learned from the Palestinians and scrutiny of their permits.
The permits also contain that which is forbidden and includes all the punishments, humiliations, etc. . This we learned while standing in line. 100s of people standing cramped and crowded together most of them older people with green IDs. They and the children are well dressed. The dehumanization of the Palestinians can be seen at first glance. The waiting area of the terminal is filthy. The dust and the smell of urine added to the proclamations from the loudspeakers. The words which are impossible to make out but one can hear the abusive and threatening tone aimed at those in line. As if a line of criminals are being addressed. And as it soon turned out these were orders and commands and remarks which mocked those who stood in line. The amount of time spent in line was about two hours until one got out.
The permits to pass to the prayers are given to men and women over 50 and their children under 12 who are only allowed through accompanied by their parents but not to grandchildren accompanied by grandparents and as one woman in line said to me," Not children of children and not daughters of daughters."
The Palestinians come from Beit Suriq, Beit Iksa, Betunie and A-ram.
A member of the town council takes the IDs to the DCO at Qalandiya . On the permit is written "DCO Shomron envelops Aram" There is no need for the magnetic card.
Permission to enter Jerusalem 5.00 - 19.00 on the date
The passage to all the residents of these places is only at Qalandiya.
There were few people who had blue IDs in the line. There were also permits to visit families, for medical reasons or for work or trade purposes. Everyone was bitter and said "Like sheep." The association which the villagers have. In a short argument they said there was no need to write or photograph as the whole world knows what is happening. Everything has been documents and written about again and again and the Arab world is the most to blame.
A woman about 70 crying came back after having spent 2 hours in line. She did not have a permit and hopes that her wrinkles would help her to get through. Another woman was already crying before she got to the woman soldier as she was scared that they would not let her tiny grandchildren through. Another woman with tears in her eyes said that she had a permit to visit her daughters in Jerusalem, the second time in two years. The men in the family are prevented and so only she can visit her daughters in their homes. A young woman with a permit cried because of her sick child and the intentional extra suffering at the checkpoint.
Today the humanitarian gate was not opened.
The behaviour of the women soldiers behind the armoured glass was abusive and disgraceful. They shouted at everyone who came opposite them. They spoke Hebrew and shouted if someone did not understand, again and again they called the women idiots and frightened the children and the old people with commands through the microphone. Those coming to the window must press their IDs against the glass,push in the permit through the slot under the window. Here and there men and women were asked to identify themselves with their hands, biometric. All in this order and woe to he who has not the experience and does not understand,. A child may not go through before his aprents and one boy nearly cried because he did not understand the woman soldier screamed at him and this time ...in English!
Most of the time I heard in Arabic,,,: Hello Sir or Madam where are you going? Are you stupid or deaf?'"
When our turn came, after two hours of joining the queue they noted our ID numbers in the computer. My name and details were already known. ( I had not known that these had been put into the computer until I read the report of Tamar F. What will come of this who knows...but anyhow ...like the Palestinians.
I remarked to the woman soldier how she shouted and mocked the Palestinians. If the armoured glass had not been between us she and her friends would probably have attacked me. The reply was "They, the Palestinians are not people, they are stupid and idiots. Because of them we have to be here 12 hours a day. They should thank us that we allow them to live in Israel. It is not our problem that they do not understand Hebrew. They should learn." We received our punishment and they locked the last turnstile so that we had to wait to get out. And this way they also punished the Palestinians behind us.