Makkabim (Beit Sira), Ni'lin (Qiryat Sefer), Tue 19.11.13, Morning
Maccabim checkpoint (Beit Sira)
05:15 Very sparse traffic at the checkpoint. The line isn’t long yet; people cross relatively quickly.
05:45 Traffic increases. Now there’s a long line outside (cf. photos).
Inside it’s very congested, primarily because the inspectors seem to be taking IDs randomly – at least, that’s what it looks like to us – and those whose IDs have been taken wait between the two revolving gates to have them returned. That takes from 5 to 15 minutes. H., a Palestinian, reported it took him half an hour. The checkpoint’s layout leads to congestion, particularly in the left-hand fenced corridor. The inspectors yell – yallah, where do you think you’re going, come back here. Maybe they should be sent to a course on interpersonal communication? A “please” or two could change the atmosphere slightly.
The Palestinians ask us to bring the media. They say Channel 10 had come to them two months ago, following which everything went quickly and efficiently for a while.
There’s still a long line outside.
06:15 Hashmona’im checkpoint (Na’alin)
The parking lot is filled with Palestinians waiting for transportation. They look satisfied, report the crossing goes quickly and there are no problems. We approach the Israeli side of the checkpoint and peek in. Everything looks quiet, things are moving quickly, and we decide to return home.
One of the Palestinians seated near the coffee shack reprimands us for doing a poor job. He says it’s not enough to observe from the fence, everything isn’t ok, they don’t allow people to bring cooking oil and tools with them, and calls as a witness an old Palestinian seated next to him who doesn’t speak Hebrew.
Now we’re curious; we enter the inspection facility. Unlike Maccabim, here we can access only the Israeli side. The facility is new; it’s only been operating for two months. Everything’s spacious, well-lit, quiet. The inspection booths are transparent; we see both the inspectors and the Palestinians. There’s no congestion; few laborers pass through the stations. Maybe the hour is already late.
A security guard appears, introduces himself as Ido. He’s pleasant, polite and says he reads our reports! We have many questions for him; he decides to bring us to the checkpoint manager’s office – Motti. Motti is a big surprise. Welcoming, polite. Answers all our questions willingly, offers us coffee. Motti had previously been in charge of the Meitar and Metzudot checkpoint, he knows Chana and Michal and respects our work.
Here’s what he told us:
1. A bridge will be built over the road at the Maccabim checkpoint so people will be able to cross safely.
2. Additional fenced corridors will be opened at the Na’alin (Hashmona’im) checkpoint and some of the Maccabim traffic will be sent there; that will ease the congestion. The Palestinians will be able to choose through which checkpoint to leave and enter (documents aren’t inspected when people return to Palestinian Authority territory). Some prefer Maccabim even though it’s less convenient because it’s nearer their villages.
3. The checkpoint opens at 04:00 but only few go through at that hour. The pressure only starts at 06:00 when more people want to cross.
4. It’s forbidden to bring commercial quantities of oil and very large tools. There’s no problem with the rest. There’s a special line for people with equipment, to shorten the waiting time for others.
5. IDs are inspected to discover traces of explosives. Those inspections are indispensible.
One member of the staff – a soldier – attends a checkpoint course. We asked him whether they’re also taught human relations. He said they teach everything.
I’d like to be a fly there on the wall.