Tarqumiya, Thu 12.6.08, Morning
When we arrived at the parking lot at 5:40, we saw over 100 workers waiting for their rides. At first we thought that there was a problem at the vehicle checkpoint, as we had seen in the past. We soon saw that the delay was only momentary.
We spoke with a bus driver who was waiting in the parking lot to pick up women and children who were crossing to visit family members in prison. We failed to understand why he was waiting there so early, as families are only allowed to cross after 7:00 A.M. He seemed quite bored and explained the visiting procedures at the prison and his problems with the military escort in great detail.
We walked to the exit area of the checkpoint. Everything seemed to be going smoothly and the workers exited quickly and had no complaints to report to us. The only thing that disturbed us was the loud woman’s voice over the loudspeaker.
Suddenly Motti, the security overseer appeared and asked us to leave the area and return to the parking lot as it was dangerous to stand there as there was no protection. Back in the parking lot he spoke to us politely and at some length. We asked about problems with the vehicle checkups and he explained that the checkpoint operators have arranged for Palestinian taxis to be available to transport the workers to the checkpoint and wait for their return while the contractors supply the transportation on the Israeli side. There is still a problem with the drivers from Jerusalem who spend the night with relatives on the Palestinian side and must pass inspection at Tarqumiya in the morning. The checkpoint operators added more inspectors to the three that were specified in the contract and also increased the number of vehicles inspected at one time from 13 to 15. Motti says the whole procedure takes about 15 minutes, which sounds reasonable.
According to Motti, some 3,000 people pass through Tarqumiya every day, down from the previous numbers. The reason is that previously many workers used forged papers, which is now impossible because of the computer system. Illegal workers now cross at the older checkpoints and across the border.
The checkpoint operators are satisfied with the situation today despite some complaints about the physical structure of the buildings. They feel that the work is now carried out in a far more professional manner by trained inspectors rather than untrained soldiers and with respect for the dignity of the workers who cross over daily. When we asked about the unpleasant woman’s voice, he explained that her microphone is broken and she cannot hear herself within her room so she does not realize how loudly she is speaking. We also asked about the dog inspection since on a previous visit the drivers complained that the dogs dirty the vehicles, leave a bad smell, and offend their religious sensibilities. Motti answered that the dogs do not enter the vehicles or even put their paws on the seats (which we had seen previously). He said they only smell the outside of the vehicles.
At the conclusion of our conversation, we walked to the vehicle inspection area. It was not full and there was no line-up of vehicles. The drivers had no complaints. (Some workers did say that it was too expensive for them to take a Palestinian taxi and then an Israeli vehicle).
We left at 6:30 feeling that things are working well at Tarqumiya.