Bethlehem, Thu 6.5.10, Morning
“Muhmad travels to his work and trade”
We decided that we would track the “expedition” that a Palestinian worker has to embark on in order to get to his daily work.
We left Jerusalem at two a.m. and travelled through Halhul, the “Glass” junction, Hebron, and Dura, to Awad, and from there to the village of Al-Kusor. Everything around us was dark, and only occasionally a gleam of light escaped from a house, where no doubt a worker was also preparing to leave for work. It was difficult to find our way in the dark, and we were glad when we found here and there a passenger van waiting for workers, and we could ask for help to find our way.
Eventually, at 03.50 we arrived at Muhmad’s house, but not before we stopped in alarm when we encountered two border-police jeeps parked on the edge of the little village. We heard from our hosts that such “friendly” visits are an everyday occurrence, and every family in the village is happy if the nightly visit is spared them. Of course, most of the village’s inhabitants were, will be or are at this moment on the “denied” list of the General Security Service [the list of people who are denied travel and work permits, “for reasons of security” ].
Why ? Why?
Muhmad and his friend were already waiting for us. Although they were in a hurry to get to work, the arrival of guests obliged them to offer us coffee and cake. Their twins, about a year old, woke-up from the unusual disturbance in the small hours of the morning, and we enjoyed playing with the sweet children for several long minutes. There are three older children in the family, one of whom is ill with Leukemia. This child came to greet us; he was bald, without eyebrows, and frighteningly thin. “We take him the the hospital in Hebron”, the parents told us, “but they can’t help him”. How sad !
Muhmad took us up to the roof and we realized how hard it is to live so close to the Separation Barrier, and especially to the settlement of Negohot, which was illuminated at this hour with bright lights. The village was only connected to the electricity grid three months ago – “thank God for small mercies”. Land belonging to the village was confiscated, and their “dear” neighbours harass the villages unceasingly.
We got on our way at 04.10, and today our hosts benefited from a welcome lift in our car, which saved them the 50 shekels taxi-fare which they have to pay each day out of the 150 shekels they receive for a day’s work. Recently, a road was
opened which enables them to travel on a shorter route to the Al Fawwar junction and from there on Route No 60 to the Bethlehem checkpoint
We arrived at the checkpoint at 05.30. Those amongst us who in the next world find themselves in Hell can visit the checkpoint and obtain a preview of what awaits us there. Hundreds of workers, who were hurrying to work, were standing squeezed together in a frightening way, awaiting that “happy” moment when they could at last enter the checkpoint site, only to repeat the experience in the queue for the body search. It took our friends an hour and a quarter until we met them again on the Israeli side of the checkpoint.
We started to telephone, but only the Humanitarian Center answered. The answer was very polite and friendly - but useless. Only at about 06.15 were we answered by the Civilian Administration officer Ahmad Abu Rukon. In the beginning, he tried to explain to us that “everything is flowing smoothly”. However, we convinced him that today of all days this answer was unacceptable, because we had seen what was happening with our own eyes : “Not from the mouth of a seraph and not from the mouth of an angel” - not from the mouth of a Palestinian (“they always lie . . .”) and even not from ‘”the Christians”.
We drove to the Israeli side of the checkpoint. A minute after we entered the building a man from the security company appeared and tried to expel us, “politely” but purposefully. We refused, also politely, and stood our ground even after continued requests that we should leave. Eventually he gave-up, and good that he did. Our guest wasn’t able to calm-down after seeing the size of the weapon that he had in his hand – it was very frightening !
The inspection stations remained nearly inactive. Both the female and the male soldiers were sitting comfortably, some of them in a half-sitting/half-lying posture, and were waiting for employment. From a distance could be heard the shouts which emanated from the queue for the body-search. It can be assumed that the soldiers in their protected and sound-proofed positions didn’t hear a thing. And if they did hear ? !
The Civil Administration officer promised to come and meet us, and he arrived a few minutes after the telephone conversation. He explained that something technical (a camera or other instrument) had failed today, and tomorrow everything would be improved. His explanation didn’t satisfy us because we had been in the checkpoint several times recently and each time the situation was the same as we experienced today.
It should be mentioned that the officer, Abu Rukun, behaved repectfully towards us. Very many of the Palestinians passing through emphasized to us his positive attitude towards them and his real desire to help. But apparently that is not enough – the situation is unbearable. The responsibility for running the checkpoint is in the hands of the Israeli police. Unless they were playing hide-and-seek we didn’t see a single policeman there up to the time we left.
At 07.10 we left with our friends. They were employed as building workers at Har-Homa. There was a massive presence of border policemen there, searching for unauthorized Palestinians [i.e. those without work or travel documents]. All the builders were Palestinians who are building for the settlers on land that has been plundered from them. “Only in the land of Israel . . . ”, as the well-known song goes!
Another day of The Occupation!