Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
04:45 We arrive at Macabbim checkpoint. It’s still closed to people crossing on foot. A few cars go through in each direction. It’s dark and freezing cold. From a distance we can see a long line of Palestinians waiting for the gate to open. There are many transport vehicles in the parking lot.
04:50 A military vehicle arrives and drives along the security road. More and more people run across the highway while cars speed along in both directions. It’s very frightening. Everyone’s waiting for the pedestrian bridge to be erected over the highway.
The Palestinians come from Beit Likiya, Tzafa, Beit Sira.
05:00 The checkpoint opens to people on foot. Two fenced corridors open, two booths at each. The laborers insert their magnetic cards into a scanner and place their hand on the fingerprint reader.
Aharon, the manager of the checkpoint, comes over to talk to us. He’s an employee of the Ministry of Defense. He tells us that 1700-2000 people come through daily; guard rails were installed between the sidewalk and the road. The aim is to enable people to live their lives; their interaction with the Palestinians is positive. He says there’s been a great improvement here since the army stopped running the checkpoint.
They asked us not to photograph within the checkpoint area – a military zone.
05:40 A police car arrives, a policeman jumps out. He’s worried about our safety. Don’t stand here, don’t photograph, not next to the soldiers, any minute there could be shooting. We thank him for his concern and tell him we feel perfectly safe. He refuses to relax.
Some of the Palestinians use the time while waiting for their rides to pray or to buy coffee at the kiosk.
05:45 We leave for the Hashmona’im checkpoint.
06:00 Hashmona’im checkpoint. The parking lot is larger than at Macabbim. More than twenty transport vehicles are waiting. A group of Palestinians sits crowded around a bonfire, warming themselves. One tells us that the crossing usually goes pretty quickly, but when the security staff decides to inspect Palestinians (chosen randomly) they wait until twenty people are sent to the room with the scanner, and only then are they checked. This causes an annoying delay. Everyone says they’re worried about the radiation from the scanner. We tell them it’s no more dangerous than talking on a cellphone.
Mark, the security officer, joins us. He tries to convince us that the Ministry of Defense has established clear procedures, but he won’t tell us what they are. He says the crossing opens at 04:00 and closes at 19:00.
3600-3700 people cross daily. Conditions here have greatly improved, compared to how they were when the army ran the checkpoint. Three inspection stations are open, two machines at each. The flow of people exiting never ends; there are no delays.
07:00 We leave.