Crowding and chaos at Barta’a checkpoint
06:50 – 07:20 Tura Shaked Checkpoint
A cold, rainy winter day. We arrived at the same time as the soldiers, ten minutes before the checkpoint was due to open, and saw that it indeed opened exactly on time. Comparatively few people are crossing through today, and all passed without delay. No one was left to wait before the gates.
07:30 – 08:30 Barta'a Riehan Checkpoint
Already from the upper parking lot we observe that not all seems normal: all the taxis are still awaiting their passengers, there aren’t groups of laborers waiting for their shared rides to work. On the other hand, we note the presence of a container being used as a waiting area, offering protection from the weather.
We proceeded down the sleeve toward the crossing and, not as usual, very few people approach us from the other direction. They relate that things are very chaotic today because they are photographing everyone three times, with their arms lifted, and checking everything including cell phones; this accounts for the very slow crossing today.
These stories were repeated to us the entire time we stood by the checkpoint doors. The first people crossed within half an hour, but as time passed and there was a backup at the examination stage, a huge crowd built up in the waiting areas and by the time we left the crossing time had grown to an hour and a half!
When we enquired with a checkpoint worker what happened today, he answered, “all is as usual, like every Saturday.” We disputed his assessment but didn’t receive a response. Initially three booths were open, but over time that was reduced to one. Indeed, the “jam” wasn’t at the booths, and most of the time they appeared deserted. When we arrived we decided to track one gentleman who entered from the West Bank side to cross through toward Israel but after an hour he still hadn’t emerged and we left.
Well, what is Palestinians’ time worth? Who cares?