Sansana (Meitar Crossing), Tarqumiya, Sun 14.7.13, Morning
We arrived at the checkpoint shortly after 03:00; there were already a few dozen men waiting for it to open at 04:00. More kept coming, young, old and even some limping, all of them tired and pretty jumpy. The checkpoint opened at 03:45; the line was orderly, for now. One older man said that it takes 30 minutes to go through, but another thought it took between an hour and an hour and a half. Only a few returned so far, one because there was something wrong with his magnetic card and another who’d gone to get the ID of an elderly acquaintance who’d forgot it in the car. People must have held their place on line, like they once did at Kupat Holim. (“I’m in front of you…”). As far as we were able to see, only two inspection stations were operating within, one biometric and the other for questioning, and inspecting belongings (it wasn’t clear).
By 04:45 the line to enter the fenced corridors leading to the inspection area was about 250 meters long. We decided, at Yael’s initiative, to time how long it took to go through. We went to the end of the line, chose a tall man in a striped shirt and asked him, with M’s help, to call us when he gets through to his employer waiting on the other side. Meanwhile we accompanied him on line for 35 minutes until he reached the entrance to the fenced corridors which were now terribly crowded, people pushing and shouting, climbing over the canopy and the bars – it was simply hell! At 05:50 “our man” called; he’d gone through: 50 minutes net, without counting the time it took to come from home and to get to work in Israel while fasting and in the extreme heat. During the hours of congestion from 04:45 to 05:45 more people came back, including seven laborers who were too late to catch their bus (05:30) and lost a day of work.
We left the place – which was shockingly filthy, no bathrooms, only their rubble. Water facilities are used as benches, the ground is broken and uneven, the canopy’s sides are open to the elements and it shelters only a small segment of the endless line. There’s absolutely no reason for things to be like that, it’s simply a management failure and disrespect for people. “We’re animals!” exclaimed one of those waiting, but it’s the animals that create this situation!
Meitar checkpoint, a little after 06:30, is almost empty except for the relatives of prisoners waiting for “their” gate to open at 07:00, which it did. The place isn’t clean but it’s clearly run better than Tarqumiyya.
We decided that the next time we go to Tarqumiyya we’ll also have people on the Israeli side to see what happens inside the crossing. And: we’ll ask Chana Barg to try and contact the relevant officials so they improve the checkpoint’s operation.
The photos were taken in the dark under fluorescent lighting but show the congestion and the crowded conditions of people trapped between the barred fences.