Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
05:30 Ni’ilin checkpoint. This is the busiest time. The parking lot is completely filled; people hurry toward the vehicles leaving for another day of work. The bathrooms, which had been locked last time because of a leak, are open and appear to be working properly. One man responds to our “Good morning” saying things are ok today while another says they aren’t, the inspections are slower and more thorough. Someone else tells us he wasn’t allowed through today and that work permits are being confiscated. We move to the exit of the inspection lane (we’re not allowed to go through the lane itself). About 20-30 people are standing there, which is unusual. They said some people had their permits confiscated, they don’t know why, and others aren’t entering for fear theirs will also be taken. We gave some of them Sylvia’s contact information so they can find out why they were banned today. We walk up to the road, to the vehicle lane, hoping to meet someone who’ll explain what’s going on. We run into the shift manager who doesn’t know anything and has no explanation. He says the soldier from the Ramallah DCL is on site today; perhaps he knows something. We ask to call him over and he approaches us. He’s friendly, says he represents the Palestinians in the area, that his job is to solve problems for Palestinians coming to the checkpoint, humanitarian issues, etc. It becomes apparent that his “solutions” also involve inspecting their permits and confiscating them when necessary. He says that he confiscated four permits today because they didn’t match. We used the opportunity to get an explanation about commercial permits whose holders may enter only at 07:00, because of the congestion, and which are used, like the permits for work-related appointments, to enter Israel in order to work. He says that a violation of the conditions of the work permit leads to the employer being fined NIS 60 by the employment office.
06:30 Makkabim checkpoint. Workers pass on their way to their buses, call out to us “things are terrible here today, many inspections.” We’re unable to find out more because they’re already on the bus, hurrying to work.
There is a very long line of trucks at the vehicle checkpoint into Israel. An officer stops us as we’re going through, tells us we’re not allowed to, then changes his mind, explains that one lane closed because of a problem with the spiked barrier and that’s the reason for the congestion. No line at the entrance to inspection for people on foot and they seem to be going through at a reasonable rate.