'Anin, Reihan, Shaked, Thu 9.7.09, Afternoon

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Neta G., Bracha B.A. (Reporting)
– We arrived at A’anin at opening time, but the gate was locked and there were no soldiers present.  Several pedestrians and one man with a tractor were waiting in the makeshift shelter that has been placed next to the gate – a large section of concrete pipe with used electrical equipment attached.

At 3:10 the soldiers had still not arrived to open the gate and Neta called to see what was going on.  She was told to call back if they did not come soon, and at 3:12 a Hummer pulled up and a soldier got out and unlocked the gate.  The soldiers unlocked the other two gatesinfo-icon and began checking people through at 3:16.  We were reminded of the Palestinian whose work permit had been revoked as “punishment” for failing to arrive at A’anin on time to return to the West Bank and had come back through Reihan, and the soldier who had smugly justified the punishment by saying: “What would you do if I showed up here at 3:05 instead of 3:00?”

While we were waiting one of the young men approached us and asked how he could get a permit to enter Israel and look for work.  He explained that such permits were granted for three days every six months.  We were surprised since we have never heard of such a permit.  He also asked why people were not given permits to harvest almonds in their orchards in the seamline zone.

By 3:25 all the pedestrians and several tractors with bags of sawdust, as well as some bags of used clothing we had brought had passed through the gate.  We left at 3:30.

– The checkpoint is very quiet.  One or two vehicles passed through in both directions, and three women came through in the direction of the seamline zone and waited to be picked up.

Reihan Barta’a
– The lower parking lot is full of cars and there are a lot of yellow taxis, which are the only ones permitted to travel any distance within the West Bank.  Since private drivers are not permitted to carry passengers for pay by the Palestinian police, the local drivers are limited to short jaunts to the neighboring villages.  We drive back through the checkpoint and go to the upper entrance to observe.

A Palestinian approached us and again complained of problems obtaining a work permit: he has a permit to work in Israel but has not been given a permit to work his land in the seamline zone.  His question ends with the usual “Ma osim?”  (What’s to be done?)  We give the usual answer: we’ll try, but can’t promise anything.

From 4:30 until 5:00 the number of workers arriving increased , but only one inspection point was open.  Soon there were over 30 people standing in front of the turnstile.  Soon there are calls of “Od chalon, allo!”  (Hey, open another window!)  Neta tries to call S., the checkpoint manager, and ask them to open another window.  Within a few minutes there are close to 60 people in front of the turnstile, and all are shouting and angry.  Another window finally opens at 5:00 – either as a result of Neta’s phone call or in response to the shouting crowd outside.

By 5:10 everyone is inside, including three women who arrived with a child and two men with bicycles who waited for someone to open the gate for them.  I “marked” one man who had been standing at the end of the line and noted that it took him 15 minutes just to get to the turnstile and get into the terminal. 

Despite the fact that this happens every day at this hour, the checkpoint staff seems unwilling to take the initiative and open a second (or third) window and avoid a backup.   On the way out a Palestinian recognizes Neta and stops us.

“Why don’t you come and visit?”

“We can’t.”
“Only Israeli Arabs are allowed to visit the West Bank.  We’re not allowed.”
“When will you be allowed?”
“When there’s peace, Insh’Allah.”
We left at 5:15.