Translator: Charles K.
It’s 3:20 AM.
When we arrived we saw dozens of people in a long, crowded line. Cars continue dropping people off and after about twenty minutes the line was a kilometer long. Yael thinks she hasn’t seen a line this long since she began coming here.
At 03:45 the gates opened. People under the canopy quickly went through the fenced corridor – almost running – toward the inspection stations at the other end through which they exited to their work day. But those on line at the entrance to the area under the canopy wait at a door only as wide as that of any ordinary apartment, too narrow to admit all those trying to push through, quickly igniting tensions and anger as a result. “Look – that’s how it is every Sunday,” a few people said.
Many waited a long time; all wanted to cross in time to catch the transports leaving at 05:00, some of which take people to work in the Tel Aviv area…and then the gates close, everything stops and it’s only 03:49. During the subsequent hour only two of the three inspection stations are open, extremely congested, so the gates shut every minute and a relatively long time elapses until they reopen again. The line of people grows longer rather than shorter. A laborer near us says “even four wouldn’t be enough; at this rate, we’ll be here till 6 AM.”
04:08 The shoving and yelling continue. A local man comes over, “Report how tough it is to cross here, how many people have to wait such a long time, how anxious they are. Please, take pictures so people can see and believe what goes on here!!”
An additional inspection station opened at 5; it made no difference at all.
Those who were sent back
Twenty-two people were sent back, most because their employers had cancelled their applications to employ them, without informing them, of course (many have cellphones so contacting them isn’t a problem). Here’s one story: A nice guy from Bethlehem (!) who speaks fluently – Ahmad Mahmoud Abu Farah – works in construction. He says the contractor working for his employer simply doesn’t need him any longer, so he left instructions at the checkpoint not to let him through. His crossing permit is valid for a few more months (we took his information, hoping we can help). “Why didn’t he call and tell me not to come? He has my number…”
Another, who returned at 05:10 because he missed his ride which left at 05:00. And a third, a construction worker whose fingerprints weren’t recognized by the scanner. The chemicals he uses at work eat away the ridges.
On the way back we were stopped on the Israeli side of the checkpoint. A., our driver, was asked for identification, we were removed from the car, a dog was brought to inspect it, A. had to go through the scanner. We, on the other hand, were “kosher;” we didn’t arouse suspicion. So we decided to join A. – an Israeli citizen like ourselves – to be scanned and have our belongings inspected.