Al Jib (Givat Zeev)
We’re detained and hung out to dry at the checkpoint…
Unlike other days at the Jib checkpoint, today Palestinians crossed without any problems, quickly and efficiently. But we weren’t on the list nor had we coordinate in advance with the DCL. So they made us wait until arrangements were made and we were “stuck” – we couldn’t return to Jib nor go through to our car parked at the nearby gas station. When phone calls to the DCL didn’t help we called the energetic Chana Barg for assistance, and only after more than two hours had elapsed were we finally permitted to cross back to the Promised Land…
Recently long-time members from Jerusalem received distress calls from the people going through the Jib checkpoint. They complained of waiting on line for hours, of great congestion and of women reluctant to cross with the men under such conditions. They asked for our help. Rony Perlman and an additional colleague went there and also heard from the coffee seller, and asked us to try to come as well. So we decided we’d drive this morning to Jib to see what’s happening, and depending on what’s going on decide whether to remain or to continue to the Qalandiya checkpoint, which we usually visit.
We arrived at about 05:15 and parked, following Rony’s instructions, at the nearby gas station, located on the road to Giv’at Ze’ev. We walked toward Jib and the checkpoint. Not many people were there and people coming toward us in a light flow from the checkpoint wished us a good morning. We reached two long lanes divided by fences. We began walking on the side where people were coming toward us, but then the soldiers called to us in Arabic from the nearby position and explained that people heading toward Jib must use the other lane. Even though we replied and thanked them in Hebrew, nothing was mentioned about Israelis being forbidden to go through the checkpoint to Jib. So we kept walking to the end of the lane. There we met the coffee seller and spoke with him. He said it was very bad last week and the beginning of this week. The crossing went slowly, the lines were long and a big problem for everyone, particularly the women, who didn’t want to be crowded with the men. But yesterday it was fine. The women working in the sewing factory were allowed to cross in vehicles. This morning everything also looked fine.
We saw, in fact, there were few people (compared to what we’re familiar with at Qalandiya) and no delays. Some people approached us and said it had been bad on previous days, and thanked us for coming. We stood there a few minutes and when we saw things were fine we decided there’s no point to remain, and we should continue to Qalandiya. We joined the line of people walking along the lane between the fences. At the end of the lane, before the structure in which the soldiers sit, is a revolving gate. It was open, people going through, showing their permit to the soldier behind the window and proceeding to the door. The soldier presses a button that opens the door. There’s a metal detector inside, but no scanner. People place their belongings on a side table, go through the metal detector and exit through another door toward an additional fenced lane, and then out. There’s also a station with a device that identifies thumbprints, but as far as we could see it wasn’t in use.
We entered, passed through the metal detector and confidently approached the soldier to show our documents. There was only one soldier in the booth. But then he said we can’t go through. We tried to explain that we’d arrived only a few minutes earlier and our car is parked at the gas station, but to no avail. He must obtain authorization from the DCL and instructions from the checkpoint commander before we may cross. Meanwhile we must wait outside so he can continue letting Palestinians go through.
So we went out. We were now between the revolving gate and the building through which people cross the checkpoint. At this stage we couldn’t imagine that we’d be delayed here for hours! We telephoned the operations room, to the number we had from Qalandiya, the soldier who answered said he’d take care of giving instructions to let us through and we expected it to happen any minute. After a few minutes a vehicle even came from the checkpoint with a Border Police officer who appeared to be senior (later we discovered he was the checkpoint commander) who was later joined by another Border Police person. He spoke with us in a friendly tone and explained that only people on the list can cross here. We told him who we were and that we’d come because we’d heard there were problems, but that we saw the crossing is operating without difficulty and we want to continue to Qalandiya. They confirmed that the problem of the women had been solved and that now “there’s coordination” and they can go through in their transportation (we understood only later in the morning how important are the magic words, “there’s coordination,” and we suspected, in retrospect, that they had wanted to teach the poor seamstresses a lesson because they hadn’t “coordinated”). They left after the conversation and we naively assumed that the desired authorization would arrive any moment.
Meanwhile we waited outside and saw how the checkpoint operates. Most people have permits and they display them to the soldier in the booth. Sometimes someone arrives with no permit, only an ID, but he already knows where his name appears on the lists and he instructs the soldier: “Page- -, Number -- .” People from Nabi Samwil also cross here; they’re on a separate list. They tell the soldier, “Nabi Samwil, Number -- .” The atmosphere appears calm. We saw numerous people coming with coffee and a cigarette, setting down the coffee and calmly taking out their permit or ID. Afterwards, when it grew later and more people had arrived, they started closing the revolving gate and allowing through only five at a time. But there was never a long line or congestion. Many thanked us for coming and talked about how difficult it had been in previous days. But things had already begun to improve yesterday and it seemed that relative quiet had returned (in comparison, of course, to the terrible lines at Qalandiya and Bethlehem…). They joked with us that they’re going through with no problem while we’re being detained.
After four phone calls to the DCL and having waited almost an hour, we turned for help to Chana Barg. She also began telephoning various people, all of them senior, but to no avail. Towards 08:00 the Border Police personnel who’d come earlier reappeared, and it turned out that the one who’d talked to us was the commander. He’s waiting for the operations room of the DCL to authorize the operations room of the Border Police to authorize him to let us through. He was pleasant and asked whether we’d like water, or to sit. We said no, we want to leave! It doesn’t make sense that he’s unable to use his discretion when he can see for himself just how dangerous we are. We made clear we usually go through the Qalandiya checkpoint and our colleagues also come to the Jib checkpoint, and we didn’t know it was necessary to coordinate in advance. We’ll do so in the future, but now it’s time to end this story. He said we wouldn’t have been granted permission if we’d submitted an advance request! After a few more minutes he took our IDs (to shorten the process, he said!) and a few minutes later returned and ordered the soldiers to let us cross. The whole business took more than two hours!
Of course, we didn’t get to Qalandiya (had we known it would take so long we would have asked to reenter Jib and taken a Palestinian taxi to Qalandiya, and then Palestinian and Israeli public transportation back to our car. It would have been faster…). We came away with a very unpleasant feeling. True, we never felt threatened, we weren’t treated rudely, we weren’t hurrying to our job, we weren’t afraid of losing a day’s pay nor were we subjected to other unpleasant “experiences” which Palestinians undergo when they’re repeatedly delayed in the morning. But we nevertheless felt at first hand the arbitrariness and insensitivity of the occupation. We’re able also to allow ourselves to “make a scene,” which the Palestinians, of course, are afraid to do. We didn’t, in order to avoid forcing them to deal with us instead of taking care of people hurrying to cross to work. What we felt at firsthand was only the tiniest example of the occupation’s oppressiveness.