Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
A reasonable morning at the Na'alin and Beit Sira checkpoints
At approximately 05:40 we arrived at the Na'alin CP, which is also called Hashmonaim Passage. We crossed the CP in our vehicle and parked on the side of the road, a bit further on. We crossed the road and stood where people jump over the security fence, and come down by the dirt road in the direction of the CP. At this point the food stalls wait for them beyond the security fence. Below, on the road leading from Na'alin, there are more stalls.
The queue already winds like a snake from the CP building and reaches the yellow bar which blocks the passage of vehicles. The people who come down from the road above (near where we stand) join the end of the queue. From here is seems that the queue is orderly, and it advances at a reasonable pace.
While we were standing there we saw a man approaching the CP on foot. This usually makes the people working there jumpy. Now too we saw that immediately two persons approached him, but as far as we could make out from the distance they looked relaxed and didn't draw their weapons. And indeed a moment later they opened a side gate and let him go in. It seems the man in question is known to them, perhaps somebody who works there.
We chose a man whose clothing was conspicuous in order to time his crossing. We turned around and crossed the CP. At this CP the bar usually comes down after each vehicle and the inspector talk with the driver. Israeli Jews are not checked more than that. Vans and heavy vehicles as well as vehicles belonging to Israeli Arabs are checked on the side, in a special area, with the instrument with the straw. Today, for some reason, there is a longer queue than usual at the vehicles' CP. But there are three inspectors so that when the first one talks with the driver of the first vehicle in the queue, the two others go to the vehicles at the back, and then signal to her that they checked them and that it is possible to let more than one vehicle pass at each raising of the bar.
At the Israeli side there is, as usual, a great hustle and bustle. Around the square and at the parking lot there are many vehicles, especially busses and minibuses which transport the workers. The place teems with people. The toilets are open, ready for use. While we were waiting to see when our man would arrive, we talked with H.whom we know from previous times, and with other people. Our man arrived 20 minutes later. In the meantime somebody hands us the documents of a relative on whom an interdiction was imposed, for us to pass on to Sylvia. Another man asks about the required papers to lift the interdiction of a friend who is a merchant, and get instructions from us.
Beit Sira CP
On the way to the Beit Sira CP there is heavy fog in the Shilat area. We arrived a bit after 6 and parked along the road, in the direction of Modi'in, at the end of a long queue of cars which arrived to collect workers. As usual there are many transportation vehicles at the parking lot, especially vans, which come to collect the workers. On the way somebody turns to us and complains about the fact that this checkpoint is closed on Friday. Persons who work on Friday are forced to drive to the Na'alin CP.He and his friends arrive from Ketana, (near Har Adar and Ma'ale Ha'hamisha). The drive to Na'alin prolongs the way very much, they have to pass through many villages and according to them the road is faulty and there are many accidents on it.
Luckily we meet the manager of the checkpoint, Aharon. As regards Fridays he isn't the bearer of good tidings. Owing to the sparsity of people who pass there the decision is not to open the Maccabim CP on Friday, and no change is expected in this matter. On the contrary, there are intentions to completely cancel the pedestrians' passage at this CP, and to direct to Na'alin those wishing to cross on weekdays . He also said that there were plans to give another 7000 entry permits to Israel for all parts of the country, and in the future even 30,000 more permits. With this in view they will have to prepare the CPs to absorb the number of persons passing, both on the Israeli and on the Palestinian sides. All this depends of course on the decisions of the political echelon…
According to him the Crossings Authority puts much emphasis on the toilets. He was appointed by the director of the authority as responsible for this issue on all the privatized crossings. His aim is that it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes for a person to pass. According to him he checks this daily at the Maccabim passage and usually they meet the target. He showed us that at the CP there are toilets on the Palestinian side too, and they take care of the upkeep and the cleanliness there aswell. He is definitely bothered by the fact that there isn't enough parking space around the CP and people endanger themselves by walking among the vehicles. We saw him approaching people politely and asking them to wait on the sidewalks and no on the road, so that they wouldn't get hurt. According to him there is an intention to transfer the management of the vehicle CP at Maccabim from the army to the passages authority, but this will take some time. The issue is a CP with four lanes (of which 2 will be active all the time) on road 443 on the way to Jerusalem. This CP (and the Offer CP on the continuation of the road to Jerusalem) are among the most busy checkpoints, especially now when Road no. 1 (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv) is being repaired and many people prefer to drive on road no. 443.
He also told us about the improvements which are under way these days at the Tarkumia CP, in order to repair what is required there and to enable a speedy and comfortable crossing. He said that the situation there is already better than what our colleagues saw in the past, and the intention is to carry out more improvements.