Barta'a-Reihan, Tura-Shaked, Ya'bed-Dotan
We are late: the checkpoint opened at the normal time of 07:00, and It seems that most of the workers have already passed through, as did the school-children, but there were still a few people crossing from the West-Bank, going to work. Our acquaintance is making his rounds, taking people from the checkpoint to Bart’a in his beat-up Subaru.
The pace at which people pass through is reasonable, and there is no queue at the turnstile. Everyone who approaches enters and after a few minutes crosses the checkpoint and is already on our side. We are told that at the Barta’a terminal there is heavy pressure because the inspection machines are not working. Many workers had to return home because their employers have given up waiting for them.
The equipment breakdown in the checkpoint has been mended and everything is working. One of the drivers complains that lately the checkpoint closes to traffic at 10 pm and not at midnight, which used to be the custom. We speak to R., the deputy manager of the checkpoint, who confirms that there had been a breakdown and it’s indeed mended. He is not bothered to hear that people have lost a day’s work because of this. Everything is fine. Regarding the earlier closing time of the checkpoint, he tells us there is no point in keeping it open during hours when there is no traffic. In case of an emergency there is always someone to open it. If a Palestinian ambulance is needed for a sick person to get to the village, Barta’a’s ambulance can be used, or another vehicle, according to the need.
R. is very proud of the renovation that has been done at the lower parking lot. On the day that the work started we were told that it would take a day to complete. That was three weeks ago...
What was I expecting to see in the renovated parking space? Removal of the bus parking area, which has never served even one bus, because they never go there. The result is that drivers park their cars near the center of the lot, to avoid being blocked when they return. Even worse, one row of cars has often blocked another and sometimes even more. This parking lot is so packed that sometimes many drivers don’t even try to enter, because it is so difficult to get out again. And so I dreamed about a renovated parking lot: each parking space marked with white lines, and spaces between each row of cars, so that it would be easy to enter and leave. OK, so I dreamed...
R.'s response to my proposal is: “It wouldn’t suit the Palestinians, because they wouldn’t keep order.” However, he is very proud of the layer of asphalt that has been laid in the area where the pavement, which marked the buses’ parking-spaces, has been removed. Similarly, the area behind the shed to the end of the plot has been covered with asphalt.
The prayer area, which used to be enclosed and covered with carpets, has been removed, and H.'s small lunchroom is no longer there as well. R. tells us that H.’s issues (he also cleans the checkpoint) are on the way to being resolved.
In addition, there is another change: across the road, a site has been opened for trucks waiting to be inspected. It seems that not all the truck drivers have internalized this fact, and they still stand at the roadside.
We dare to enter the yard in our car, right to the end, and the only way we can go back is in reverse. It doesn’t seem to us that the renovation has improved the lives of its users, and quite a few of them still park on the hill to the south.
The checkpoint is busy. We count twelve cars on the east side and cars are arriving from the west too. Instructions are shouted from the watchtower to the soldiers below :“Now from the east, now from the west”. One soldier receives an order to approach us. Wow! What a telling-off we receive, both from the soldier and also a settler from Mavo Dotan who comes to help him. We are rewarded with epithets such as traitors, destroyers of Israel, and even Nazis, no less. Also, “go back to Europe, that’s where you should live”. It would be useless to try and argue with them.
Seeing that the soldier claims that our car is too close to the cross-roads, and threatens to call the police, we act as if we are terribly scared, and we distance ourselves from fire and brimstone which has been directed at us. We also hear that stones have been thrown at the man from Mavo-Dotan, and the soldier tells us that a lot of firearms have been discovered at the checkpoint. However, we don’t see that cars are being inspected except for the checking of documents.