When in 2001 a small group of women began to see long crowded waiting lines stretching towards a temporary checkpoint, they could not understand this sight. They approached and saw with their own eyes – men and women of different ages trying to cross from one side of Jerusalem to the other. Since then, from a single temporary checkpoint, entire areas have been filled with checkpoints that restrict the Palestinians traveling from their homes to work, studies, schools and hospitals. At times they block them completely, directing them to exhausting alternate routes throughout their everyday lives.
In 2009, during Obama’s term in office, many of the checkpoints surrounding the larger and smaller Palestinian towns were removed. Agricultural checkpoints, exit checkpoints for workers entering Israel, and temporary (‘flying’) checkpoints remained.
Recently, my MachsomWatch friends in the northern region have witnessed a sight that we believed had become a bygone! Harsh scenes of Palestinian workers crowding, crushing each other while waiting for the checkpoint to open. The next day, this harsh scene was repeated and was even more shocking.
I am sorry to compare, but for me such scenes are reminiscent of transporting cattle in trucks, filled-to-bursting. Barta’a Checkpoint – the time is 3:30 am. The checkpoint opens at 5 am. The workers will stand this way for an hour and a half to guard their place in line, no one will pass them. From there they begin their long journey to a day of work in construction, farming, and other kinds of labor which ‘we’ have taken leave of years ago. They build our homes. Grow the vegetables we consume. Construct a new town. Continue to build the country.
We are told that the terrorist attacks of the past two weeks are the reason this phenomenon has reappeared. MachsomWatch has reported quite a few times on the numerous breaches in the Separation Fence (these reports are present on our website). The workers, some of whom did cross these breaches, can no longer cross there and are forced to siphon into the checkpoint. We also know that some of the workers who hold work permits to enter Israel preferred the breaches, in order to avoid the humiliation and crowding at the checkpoints – which demand a long and tedious track to even arrive at them.
We knew. Everyone knew. And turned a blind eye.
This is not the time or place to discuss how workers should enter Israel to work, for our opinion is well-known – this should be made as easy for them as possible. But the look at the photos shows that the existing method does not answer the needs, and oftentimes causes physical injuries to those who wait for the checkpoint to open, not to mention the ever-growing hostility towards Israel.
This is an opportunity to sound our voice against the fact that the present governing coalition is not manage the conflict. One could say it is naïve on our part, or blind – to think that this conflict could wait for more adequate times to discuss and attempt solutions. The elephant in the room keeps growing and the room gets smaller by the minute. And we continue to close our eyes. The static situation constantly ignites the decades-old hostility, further intensifies it. Palestinian youngsters, devoid of any employment and a future grow up in refugee camps and enclaves without any kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Until one day a young man gets up, feels he has nothing more to lose, and with abysmal hatred at heart – ventures forth on a suicide mission.
We look at the photos of the young men, our sons, murdered, their families forever grieving – we try to think why is it that our leaders have not tried to find an end to this bloodshed over the years, and not necessarily by violent force?
These words are no justification for criminal terrorist acts, but the time is up, for without a just and equal sharing of this land, no peace or security will ever reign in this beloved place.