Makkabim (Beit Sira), Tue 5.2.08, Morning

Observers: 
Netania G, Chana S (reporting)
Feb-5-2008
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Morning
A group of men sitting around a campfire when we parked by the side of the road. They passed the checkpoint at 04:30. Even though the checkpoint opened officially at 05:00, the officer in charge used his judgement and ordered holders of permits to stay in Israel for 24 hours to pass first.
A few taxis were already waiting. A driver (Palestinian Israeli) told us that the price of the ride was between 10-30 shekels (e.g., to Modiin or to Rehovot).
As we approached the checkpoint, one of the workers complained to us that there was only one soldier checking permits. Immediately afterwards we saw that there were two soldiers at the checkpoint checking passes. Many greeted us enthusiastically, saying that our presence speeds up the transit process. They would be happy if we came more often.

The conditions at this checkpoint are inhuman, even though there is a long cover intended for individuals who come to be checked (lift coats, show shoes), straight after the check they are again out of the cover, and all – perhaps a 100 each time – are exposed to cold and rain. We are told that conditions are particularly harsh on Mondays when a lot of workers come from Hebron.
We chatted with two residents of Hebron who stay most of the week at a nearby village from which they go to work. One told us that he hadn’t cultivated his land for five years because of harassment. Netania suggested that they call Rabbis for Human Rights.

Something positive: a soldier transferred someone’s bicycle from one side of the checkpoint to the other, because the man couldn’t get them through the crowd of people.
Later we saw the bicycle owner crossing the checkpoint, at the end when there were few people. Does this mean that Palestinians can ride bikes on Route 443, even for short distances?

It was difficult to estimate the transit time at the checkpoint. Seems to take an hour. Many arrive before 04:00, then have to wait a full hour for the checkpoint to open. On the other hand, those who arrive before "closing hour" pass in a matter of minutes.

The last left at roughly 07:00.
[L]