Makkabim(Kharbata)Checkpoint 26. 1. 2011, AM

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Ruth O. and Ilana D. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Makkabim (Kharbata) Checkpoint
From 5:00 till 8:00 AM
We hadn’t been in the morning hours to the Maccabim CP since all the extra security changes had been made on Road 443, not necessarily for the better.
We glimpsed on the way at the Givat Zeev CP, which was deserted. At the Bitunia CP we only saw an army jeep with its headlights shining into our eyes.
We parked beyond the CP where a parking lot for the transporters coming to collect their workers had been constructed. Many Palestinians had already crossed to beat the ‘rush hour’ and while waiting for their transportation were praying and resting. They directed us to the other end of the CP. We walked back past the car checkpoint where the soldiers ignored us. A Palestinian was sweeping the area of the passage for Israeli cars. We joined a group of pedestrians into the ‘sleeveinfo-icon’ and beyond through turnstiles with a green light into the waiting area where two lines (one for people with ‘luggage’) formed to enter the checking area. We decided to wait and watch the procedures. It was freezing cold, the inner area did have a roof, but it was very draughty. A man was pleased to see us and said: “If they see you they will speed up procedures.” We didn’t know we had been spotted until we heard via the loudspeaker that a man who had lit up a cigarette near us was told to stop smoking. The cameras are everywhere. There is a long row of illustrated “don’ts”, like:  no weapons, no photographing, no smoking, no lighting of fires (we remembered the coffee which was always made on the premises to warm up and shorten the wait) etc. etc.
Inside the turnstiles the men have to take off their coats, belts, work-boots, caps and wool head covers on the cold dirty floor. Then they pass through a metal detector and wait for their belongings to pass through a screening machine and then to have their Id’s checked. Some, usually the older men, simply show their papers and continue, the younger ones have to insert them into a box and wait for them to be returned.
Suddenly all men were told to move back through the turnstiles. All checking stopped and the line outside grew immediately to a couple of hundred men all the way to the highway. “Attiya” was called; he is a Palestinian who is employed by the civil security firm. He took hold of an electric drill, which had caused the panic and the alarm and scrutinized it before putting it again through the screening device. When it appeared harmless the men were allowed back in, but the queue became longer and more impatient.
A man explained to us that he likes to come early and be past the CP by 6:10 AM to be sure to make it to his transporter before 7:00 AM. He said that since the organization is in the hands of a civilian company the procedure is faster, it may still occasionally take two hours, but never four, like in the past. All men are eager to cross before 7:00 AM, otherwise they might miss a day’s work. One told us that he works in Haifa and only gets there around 10:00AM and yesterday crossed the CP on his way home only at 8:30 PM, but he has to return the way he came as is explicitly stated in the instructions on the wall. Among certainly more than a thousand men we only saw two women, who immediately passed all the men and were let in first.
As it was getting close to 7:00 AM the men were becoming irritated and angry and some accused us of the slow flow of the line which now and then for no obvious reason was stopped, causing again the lengthening of the line outside where no roof is installed; fortunately it didn’t rain. But no more new people arrived and the line was already very short when the head of the security clad in a light blue pressed shirt, who certainly sits in a heated room, appeared and told us that since he is responsible for the security at the CP he cannot allow us to remain and asked us to leave. We had wanted to go through the CP behind the workers, but he said that this security installation is meant only for non-Israelis and that we are not allowed to pass through. He is called Michael and we informed him that we would report on his demand to watch procedures from beyond the CP and his refusal to let us pass through.
When we got to our car we were warmly greeted by the many men who had made it through and were waiting to be picked up – a true slave market. Many waiting cars were parked along the road to Modi’in.
On the way back we didn’t spot any Palestinian vehicles on Road 443 and as we neared the new Bitunia CP we could hardly see the huge infrastructure works being carried out to accommodate the future major terminal because the line of trucks waiting to go through blocked our view to the right. Construction is done at the former Ramot CP, possibly to “beautify” the closureinfo-icon of Beit Iksa.