Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed
Routine crossing of children and adults. No long lines.
Three border policemen descend to the road behind the checkpoint and improvise a checking point for vehicles. Their presence is masterful and proclaims power. We observed the checking of one vehicle which concluded with appropriation of the driver's ID, followed by whispering on the walkie-talkie, and continuing delay until the policeman was satisfied, whereupon he walked with demonstrative slowness to return the ID to the driver.
When we arrived the first and third lanes were operating. The third lane was strictly restricted to pupils and entrance to the DCO -- no adults were allowed to cross there -- but even so, at this morning hour, the line grew.
But then, this lane was also closed, and the children had to join the single remaining line. The line extended from the space in front of the turnstile, and spilled over into the winding path in front of the turnstiles. New arrivals tried their luck in the second lane but to no avail. Since there's no connection between the opening of the turnstile and the red/green light above it, it was impossible to tell whether the position is open or closed. No one bothered to inform those waiting -- a humiliating and insulting situation which feeds the anger of those allowed to cross. And we cringe.
Without any announcement, the second position was suddenly opened for 10 minutes, significantly reducing the line, until it was closed again and the line lengthened once more.
A blind woman on her way to hospital struggled to cope with the turnstiles, and other women tried to help her. When she reached the checking point, something in her papers failed to satisfy the soldier and she was turned back. At this point people waiting in line asked us to help her exit the checkpoint. We accompanied her and, with the help of a young Palestinian who was also helping others, we learned that her permit had expired 2 days ago.
We called Hanna Barag, and sat down to wait with the woman in the waiting area (surrounded by the sharp stench of urine). Meanwhile a man with a cart arrives, tries to buzz his entrance through the gate, but to no avail -- there's no one sitting in the "aquarium" to respond.
Hanna informs us that the computers at the health centre in Beth-El have crashed. We decided to enter the DCO offices with the woman to try and persuade them to let this blind woman cross. We encountered a female soldier who dealt with the case pleasantly and politely. The woman did not have a summons from the hospital -- she said the soldiers at the DCO had taken it. After some time it turned out that she did not have an appointment for today, and she was sent home.
Was she confused about the date? Did she fail to understand that she was at the Olive Terminal instead of the Ezyon DCO to which she officially belongs? Was she trying to reach the hospital by a shorter route? In addition to the miseries of blindness and loneliness, she must bear the additional burden of an occupation which deprives her of the right to reach her destination by a shorter and free route.