Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
We arrived at approximately 05:40. We drove through the checkpoint and parked by the roadside just beyond. We crossed the road and stood where people jump over the guard rail and descend a dirt path toward the checkpoint. Food stands await beyond the guard rail. There are also stands down below on the road from Ni’ilin.
Many people gather at the entrance to the checkpoint building and other sit waiting off to the side. The usual serpentine line from the entrance to the building toward Ni’ilin isn’t there today. We inferred the line had broken down just prior to our arrival. Older people and others who don’t want to shove wait off to the side until the congestion eases.
We picked out a man to time his crossing and returned to the cars. We drove through the checkpoint and parked on the Israeli side where there’s the usual tumult. Many vehicles around the plaza and in the parking lot, mostly buses and minibuses transporting workers. There are many people. The bathrooms are open. What appears to be a TV crew from abroad has arrived. While we waited for “our” guy, Shlomi, the checkpoint’s security coordinator, approached us. He said the Palestinians who keep order on the line to the entrance didn’t come today, which is why the line broke down. He said they’ve begun planning to enlarge the checkpoint. Additional inspection stations, which is the bottleneck. They’ll also renovate the bathrooms. There’s a problem of thefts from the bathrooms – pipes, faucets and even sinks and toilets. “Our” guy arrived in 16 minutes. We said goodbye to the security coordinator and left. On the way we spoke to people excited about Ramadan, getting ready. It will begin tonight or tomorrow.
We returned to the cars and drove to the Beit Sira checkpoint (Macabbim). We parked on the road, facing Modi’in, and walked down. It was just past 06:00. People say hello, that everything’s alright. We met Aharon, the checkpoint manager, outside. He told us that money to expand the checkpoints was approved by the previous defense minister, and he believes it won’t be withdrawn. They’ve started planning for construction. He hopes he’ll also have money to enlarge the parking area, which is very congested. The tentative plan to close this checkpoint has been cancelled, but it’s still closed on Friday. We told Aharon that people complained about that fact. They told us the trip to Ni’ilin costs NIS 40 on Friday, more than they pay all week to reach Macabbim.
Aharon shows us a story on Ynet that the new defense minister eased the rules for Ramadan. We told him people want the checkpoint staff to ease up during Ramadan. He told us that staff had received training in advance of the holiday. He instructed one staffer to prepare a presentation about the holiday and its customs, and told everyone how to behave.
We parted, wished him “Ramadan Karim,” and went to await “our” guy. He arrived in ten minutes, which is a relatively long time for this checkpoint. People say it’s a little crowded today. We left.