'Anin, Jalama, Reihan, Shaked, Thu 5.3.09, Afternoon
Neta G. Bracha B (reporting and translating)
14:00: Jalameh Checkpoint
We drove Aya, a sick child who is undergoing dialysis, and her mother from Rambam Hospital to Jalameh and utilized the opportunity to stop there and observe. Since Jalameh is located near the green line it serves as a crossing for Israeli Arabs and Pedestrians, and as a point for transferring cargo from Israeli trucks to Palestinian ones and vise versa. Private vehicles are not allowed to cross. Israeli Arabs park their cars in the lot and passengers must transfer to Palestinian vehicles on the West Bank side. The checkpoint is operated by civilians. It was previously operated by the “Mikud” Company, and is now operated by the “Modi’in Ezrachi” Company. The terminal has two lanes, but only one of the two is being used for people going in both directions.
On the fence outside the entrance to the terminal is the most ironic of the many signs we see on this shift: a picture of a pistol with a diagonal line across it, signifying: No Weapons Allowed Here! There are only a few people in the terminal.
When we approached the turnstyle at the entrance to the terminal a member of the staff wearing a blue uniform approached us, showed us his I.D., and introduced himself as R. the shift manager. He and asked us politely what we wanted. We identified ourselves as members of Machsom Watch and he was pleasant and answered our questions. He also told us that we were not allowed to photograph anywhere within the area of the checkpoint.
Several hundred Palestinians pass through the checkpoint each day. It is open from 05:00 to 19:30. Palestinians can enter Israel until 14:00. Israeli Arabs can go from Israel to the West Bank from 08:30 until 14:00. Busloads of Palestinians visiting family members who are detained in Israeli prisons arrive at the checkpoint, and the passengers enter Israel and continue their way on Israeli busses. At 2:20 three such busses arrive returning people to the checkpoint where they enter the West Bank and transfer to Palestinian busses. We left for A’anin.
15:00 A’aninBecause of the recent difficulties in obtaining agricultural permits, there are fewer people passing through A’anin checkpoint. There are 5 soldiers on duty checking the dozen or so pedestrians and three tractors are passing through. Two soldiers approached us and we explained to them about Machsom Watch and exchanged opinions with us about the situation in the area. The ground near the gate is still littered with piles of old broken plastic chairs and debris (even a couch) that people were not allowed to take across. Two pieces of earth moving equipment are busy paving a road along the fence. 15:40 – Shaked-Tura CheckpointA group of 8 girls and young women pass through and eagerly speak to us, happily showing off their English. A car pulls up and they all pile in: 5 in the back seat and the other two in front and drive off in the direction of the seamline zone. Another car arrives from the seamline zone and the passengers get out. The car is checked faster than the passengers and pulls over to wait for them. We left for Reihan-Barta’a.
16:00 Reihan-Barta’a Checkpoint
Palestinians who approach us all complain bitterly about the terrible situation in Tibeh in the morning. “People are dying there!” they exclaim. We are rather alarmed at this, since the same words are repeated over and over by everyone. We are not sure what this means and whether this is an exaggerated statement or if anyone had, heaven forbid, actually been killed in the crush of thousands of people trying to get through. We hear the same complaints about Tibeh again and again from many people while we stand in the sleeve outside the turnstyle. Meanwhile things are not running smoothly at Reihan either.
A line of close to 50 people soon forms outside the entrance to the terminal. They wait and wait. The light is still red, the turnstyle does not move, there is only one window operating. People continue to arrive and the line grows longer and longer. At 16:55 Neta calls S. and asks him to open another window. After 5 minutes one opens and there are still close to 50 people outside, but the line begins to move.
We wonder why the staff could not take the initiative to make sure that there were two windows operating on Thursday afternoon when the checkpoint is busy with many people who have been away all week are coming home. But attempts at showing efficiency are evident.
The entire area near the entrance to the terminal is plastered with signs: Please keep the area clean. Smoking is forbidden inside the terminal. Use of cellular phones is forbidden. And (for us?) a new sign has been posted: a camera with a diagonal line across reads: Taking pictures is forbidden.
A young man tells me, “You’ve got to do something about the rooms in Tibeh.” I sit down on the ground next to him and ask him quietly what happens in the rooms. He explains: “There’s a machine there. You stand and raise your arms up to the sky and it goes around and around you.” “It scans you?” “Yes.”We see that the line is moving and decide to leave at 17:15. Instead of all the signs we saw today, I imagine another. It reads: “No Checkpoints Allowed Here!”