Tarqumiya, Mon 6.9.10, Morning
We decided to pay an early visit to the terminal in order to ascertain the time it takes for workers to pass through the cages. En route to the terminal we passed several transit vans going in the opposite direction, presumably labourers on their way to work in Israel.
We arrived at 05.10 and were greeted at the gate by Dudu, the terminal's deputy manager, who went out of his way to welcome us and answer our every question. We crossed over, to the Palestinian side and observed the workers as they passed through the cages and the turnstiles. The area is filthy, abandoned cups, sheets of cardboard and other rubbish, the asbestos roof is cracked and in places absent altogether; there are coils of barbed wire at the height of an average man atop the narrow pathways through which the workers must pass. The men pass rapidly; some of them mumble that we should have come on Sunday, others say that the passage is swift because we are there and on other days there are problems. Dudu tells us that there are eight checking points, with biometric mechanisms in four ‘sleeves’ so that the checking seems indeed to go smoothly. We see one man waiting outside the cage, his handprint was not accepted (this is a frequent occurrence at all terminals, as any change in the hand -- even a scratch, dirt, sweat etc. -- renders the print unreadable) and he must wait until 8:00 a.m. to get a new reading issued by the army. The delay may cost him a day’s work.
Upon passing back to the Israeli side we were stopped by the clerk who demanded that our vehicle be examined. We underwent an exacting check, just like the Palestinian drivers who transport the workers, only faster. Women soldiers in gloves leisurely carry out the search with a mirror for investigating the undercarriage and sniffer dogs. The drivers complain that the whole process can take up to two hours. A reasonable shelter with benches is provided for them. The cars and vans lie waiting for checking, their doors hanging open and looking very forlorn.
Dudu who is chaperoning us tells us that some 4,000 people pass Tarquomiya each day, slightly more on Sundays and slightly less during Ramadan. He assiduously checks the numbers and tells us that today (at 6:00 am) some 2200 have passed through. He complains, as he did on our previous visit, that the Palestinians vandalize the toilets and steal the lavatory bowls and taps and this is why the toilets look as disastrous as they do, having been replaced, in his words, by pits. In the parking lot the goods trucks are already lining up; they can pass from 7:00 am.
Dudu is very proud of ‘his’ terminal which has a staff of some 120.