Beit Iba, Jit, Thu 27.3.08, Afternoon
The pedestrian passage from Nablus was very difficult today. The number of people waiting in line when we arrived was long and doubled and even tripled an hour later. Tarik the Matak representative on duty who was there from the morning, left just when things began to build up to their maximum. This meant that from the time he left, which was at about 15:20pm until Captain Iman from the Matak arrived at 16:42pm, the situation had reached its peak and had begun to decline. We had called the Humanitarian Hot line, Naomi L. (MW woman who is often helpful in making phone calls) and Captain Iman many times before help actually came. At 15:40there were about 200 in the "humanitarian line" and about 400 to 500 in the young men's line. The entire length of the shed was filled. It is impossible to take an accurate count because the young men do not stand in a single line but in many lines that must merge at some point in order to enter the 2 turnstiles that lead to the checking booths.
At the entrance to the turnstile the crowd is about 10 people wide all trying to vie for that precious but elusive spot which will lead to the exit. Captain Iman was able to move things along at a faster pace once he arrived at the CP. The fact that there is only place for two entrances and only 2 MPs checking in the booths meant that the wait on line was anywhere from an hour to an hour and forty minutes. There is no longer an area where bags are checked separately. The bags are checked at the MP's booth along with IDs. In the hour from 15:00 to 16:00 only 102 young men passed through the CP. This means it took an average of a minute to check each person. When you think how quickly it takes for Israeli's to be checked entering a mall it is obvious that something is not right. A man entering the checking area leaves his bags, phone, etc. on a shelf and gives the ID to the MP. He then steps through the metal detector doorway. If it buzzes he goes back and has to figure out what is causing the buzz. Sometimes the man has to go back 4 or 5 times—removing cell phone, belt, shoes…. There is only one thing wrong, we noticed that the buzzing mechanism buzzes at random intervals regardless if someone is passing through the door way or not! Is this due to a fault in the mechanism?, is this meant to confuse both the MP and the Palestinian? Is this meant to drag out the checking time…what is this?
Another serious problem is that one of the MPs has to stop her work of checking those on line from Nablus whenever the commanding officer brings her an ID he wants checked from either the side line or the line of pedestrians going into Nablus.
One young man we timed took from 14:55 to 16:24 to pass through the CP. At 15:16 I noticed a young man get out of a taxi that was being checked at the vehicle checking line from Nablus. He was in the taxi with his grandfather. He was told that he cannot go through the vehicle line but must go to the end of the young men's line. This was after he had already waited in the taxi for the half hour the taxi waited in line. At 17:02 I happened to see him because he was with the commanding officer. He had left the CP a few minutes before but then realized he had left his notebook at the CP and needed to go back to look for it. This meant that he was at this CP more then 2 hours. And remember this is a CP that is not between Palestine and Israel. This is not at an airport or boarder crossing. This is from one Palestinian city to another.
There was a detainee in the detainment area when we arrived at 14:45. He was there from 12:00. He was released at 15:40. Near the end of the shift 5 detainees were brought to the area because they had tried to avoid the CP. They were kept for about an hour.
The side line meant for humanitarian purposes had anywhere from 60 to 200 people in line. At 15:18 I timed the person who was the last one in line. It took 36 minutes before he reached the front of the line (15:54). At 15:38 I timed the last man in line and he passed through at 16:22 . As a result of this congestion at the side line, at 15:33 more urgent cases started to form a line to the side of the "side" line—for example, a man in his 70's with a large hearing aid, a retarded young man with his father, a woman with young children, a young man with back problems. Depending on the judgment of the soldier, they were sent back to the end of the line or not. Of the examples above, only the retarded man and his father were allowed through. The rest were sent back. In fact, one man in his 60's was even told to go to the back of the young man's line as punishment for trying to side track the "humanitarian line."
Because the wait in all the lines was so long, people looked for alternatives. Some young women climbed into a full minibus and stood until the minibus made it to the CP. However, the soldier at the CP forced the women back in line saying it was illegal to stand in a minibus. A crippled person managed to get a ride on a donkey wagon. A young mother got her 3 children into a wagon pushed by a porter in order to get through the CP. A young man tried to go through by simply accompanying a porter who is familiar to the soldiers, but that didn't work. The soldier let the porter go through but not the man with him. It seems that the fact that someone has to wait anywhere from 40 minutes to almost 2 hours to be checked, and this isn't the only CP on the route, does not seem to bother the soldiers or MPs on duty, nor the Matak, nor those answering the phones of the Humanitarian Hot line. Somewhere along the line we seem to have taken something which was intended to be a "security" measure into the realm of purposeful punishment. Does no one see the ramifications of such senseless waiting hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year? What such a disturbance in one's daily routine can do to the fibers of an individual's life and to those of his society?
A few of many examples which may show how security justification is dubious :
A soldier checking a porter with a wagon filled with piles of jeans wanted to check the entire stock because she said she couldn't possibly know what might lie underneath. She eventually gave up.
And what about the trucks filled with merchandise? Is every particle turned over? The soldiers don't have the means to do it.
A young man was carrying a computer and placed it on the counter near the checking booth. He was told to go back and forth through the buzzing metal detector removing keys, belt, shoes, etc. However, his computer wasn't checked at all.
A young woman on the sideline had some large presents wrapped in cheerful Christmas wrapping. The soldier took her to the side to look at the packages. He held them, shook them, and asked her if they were a "tick-tock". The woman didn't understand. He then said, "A bomb? (In English)". He laughed at the joke and let her go.
The vehicle traffic varied from 3 to 9 vehicles on line to Nablus with a short period around 15:15 when there was no line. The longest line was when we left at 17:25. At 14:43 the 6th in line went through the CP at 15:00 (17 minutes). At 16:49 the 6 th on line got to the CP at 17:16 and it took another 3 minutes to check the vehicle (27 minutes total). Checking each vehicle took anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. The vehicle traffic from Nablus varied from 1 to 10 vehicles in line. The longest lines were from 15:15 – 16:45 and the shortest was when we left at 17:25. The last vehicle in a 6 vehicle line, a bus, at 14:43 took 14 minutes to get to the CP and another 12 minutes to be check. The last vehicle of an 8 vehicle line at 15:04 took until 15:40pm to pass through. Checking each vehicle was anywhere from a minute to 12 minutes. A number of vehicles were told to turn around because they did not have the correct permit.
There was a truck on the south side of the CP when we arrived. He had a permit from Beit El which the soldiers said was not valid. He was carrying cleaning materials.
We passed through Jit at 14:30 and at 17:43. It was not manned. On the illegal settlement house just south of Kedumim there was a huge sign saying, "The building of Israel continues".