Makkabim (Beit Sira), Mon 28.1.13, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
We drove to the checkpoint after learning on Machsom Watch’s Facebook page about problems there. The checkpoint’s manager insists on calling it a “crossing.”
The checkpoint has been privatized; it’s managed by Modi’in Ezrachi (as are Irtach and Eyal); the Ministry of Defense supervises the security company. There are armed guards at the checkpoint, through which Palestinians cross into Israel. Like other entry checkpoints to Israel in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, this has also been “improved” by a network of entry and exit lanes, inspections, revolving gates, a cafeteria and landscaping which sends the following message: We’re here to stay!
05:20 Nora and Varda arrive. The area is full of minibuses and buses. We manage to find a semi-protected parking spot with the approval of a security guard who shows up immediately to check us (and makes do with Varda’s ID card). A., the checkpoint manager, also comes over, greets us pleasantly and offers to show us the areas to which we’re permitted access.
We entered the sanctum sanctorum:
1. Final identification room, in which a computer identifies automatically the holder of the ID card placed on a surface outside the window, plus biometric identification. After the “OK” a person usually goes through quickly. Four booths are open. One of the employees warns someone in fluent and high-flown Hebrew that the computer has a problem reading his ID, and that he should renew it at the DCO, because it could be confiscated.
2. A room where people are physically inspected if necessary. The manager is proud that a separate room has been provided for this purpose so that people won’t be publicly humiliated.
3. A room where ID’s are taken and belongings go through a scanner – five booths are open. IDs are collected from a number of people and then returned, apparently all at the same time at the end of the inspection. That’s all we were permitted to see. We spoke to the manager in the plaza; he stressed the “Principles of Service” he established; he requires employees adhere to them. He says he checks from time to time, and that not more than five to ten minutes elapse from the time someone enters the facility until they exit. Once it took longer – between 30 and 40 minutes. The comparison to inspections at the airport comes up again and again; we try to explain to A. the real differences between the situations but it’s not clear we succeeded… The comparison has apparently been branded into the consciousness of all employees at these checkpoints/crossings; it’s very convincing and convenient for someone who wants to be convinced.
Anat arrived. We come out to talk in the plaza outside the facility, while A. continues to demonstrate good will (and in fact, compared to other checkpoint managers, he listens and responds politely while emphasizing that he’s aware that those going through to work are human beings…). Anat tells him that we came in response to complaints we’d received; at the same time an elderly man crossed complaining that the crossing hasn’t been easy recently, and that his ID had been taken this morning and he’d had to stand half an hour waiting to get it back. Anat mentioned the dangerous crossing on the main road; A. said that a pedestrian bridge is being discussed.
We spoke to Palestinians near the revolving gate at the exit. They told us that it takesfrom an hour to an hour and a half to go through. But, more important, said one Palestinian: “It’s insulting!!!” (the entire inspection process, he means)
The laborers flow through; the parking lot begins emptying. Workers returning from the night shift also arrive; I wasn’t able to see how they go through. One of the bus drivers explained that he transports all his passengers to Ma’aleh Horon (guess how much construction is going on there).
07:00 We left.