Eyal, Tue 5.5.09, Morning
We received information from Miki as
well as from the local Palestinians that the crossing opens only at
4:30. When we arrive four soldiers who are standing opposite the
turnstile discover that it is stuck - apparently because of the overcrowded
We observed the change in shifts –
a jeep drives through the gate into the Palestinian area, drops off
8 armed soldiers wearing helmets and flak jackets, and the soldiers
go back out to the area of the checkpoint and disappear. The jeep
drives back through and the gate is locked again.
The soldiers argue with us about our
location. We are, of course, standing in a “closed military
zone” without a permit. They promised to call the police.
In response to one Palestinian’s complaint, a soldier says, “What
can I do? That’s the way it is and that’s the way it always
will be.” The people in line are angry and upset. They
ask why we don’t help. They leave their village at 1:00, and
wait at the checkpoint from 3:00. They arrive at work exhausted.
As usual excitement erupts at the sight
of the camera. A soldier stiffly points to it and orders us to
put it down. A soldier comes up and says, “Show me your camera.”
When I tell him that I am not under his orders, he answers that he was
only making a request. “How can I give you an order?” and
smiles. He’s only a kid.
The turnstile opens but because of the
crowded conditions the rate that people are able to pass through is
slow, and getting through the turnstile is a feat in itself. Four
people stand in each section of the turnstile and exit each quarter
turn. 64 people pass through. The soldiers observe from
the side, occasionally smiling in boredom. After 5 minutes of
this the soldiers open a gate at the side of the turnstile. The
sudden increase in the flow of people makes the soldiers nervous.
One draws his weapon and aims it in the direction of the crowd pointing
upward at a 60-degree angle for several seconds, and after a minute
in which three soldiers push people aside, the gate is closed again.
Some people manage to get their belongings
through and they are there waiting for them next to the turnstile when
they come out, but apparently this is extremely dangerous. The
soldiers forbid it (Apparently this disrupts the usual order of things).
A police van arrives and they chat with
the soldiers and suddenly we are moved to the other side of the fence
after they took our ID cards.
The policemen were Natanel Alush, number
1010347 and Rami Hajaj, number 1002468.
A volunteer announces to us that we are
in a “closed military zone” according to the sign (see photograph)
that says this is a military area. This is the first gate before
the entrance to the checkpoint parking lot. The policeman, Alush,
lets us know that there is a law stating that we are forbidden to be
within 50 meters of the checkpoint (???) but could not give reference
of who made the law. He did tell me that I was disturbing him
with my questions while he sat in the van with the door open, smoking
a cigarettes and looking at us as we passively observed the command
standing behind the gate.
They also noted that it would be a shame
for us to be arrested for such nonsense.
We wonder out loud how it happened that
the army succeeded in drafting these three policemen and who would side
with the law.
We need not add that at the same time
Israeli cars (employers?) and Palestinian and Israeli civilians park,
walk, talk, and mill about the “closed military zone.”
The Humanitarian hotline answers our
call for the first and last time at 6:15. T. asks me to call back
in 10 minutes. After three attempts we gave up calling.
The Palestinians sitting outside tell
us that because there is no way of knowing when they will enter Israel,
they don’t set any meeting time with their boss. When they come
out they call him and they then waste another half hour or an hour waiting
for him to come pick them up.
We see two women coming out, one is elderly.
God only knows how she succeeded in getting through. The men tell
us that it is very difficult (even against the laws of Islam) for women
to be pushed together in a crowd with the men while waiting in line,
and many of the women simply give up and go back.
The policemen leave after 15 minutes
and we observe the checkpoint again.
The number of people who entered at designated
7:00 – 77 people in 3 minutes
7:08 – 52 people in three minutes.
7:14: 45 people in 2 minutes.
7:17 – 47 people in one minute.
7:21 – 103 people in 2 minutes.
7:30 – 100 people in 2 minutes.
7:35 – 88 people in 2 minutes.
The man selling coffee says that he was
arrested yesterday from 7:00 to 3:00 apparently because he entered the
checkpoint. I didn’t quite understand since the conversation
took place by shouting because we were standing in a place where it
was not easy to see us. We prefer to stay there. We shouted
the telephone of Machsom Watch to him.
The line and people entering is now even
more held up (ironically this enables more people to enter periodically.)
Most look tired or desperate or both. Perhaps they will not succeed
in getting to work at all today. Some give up and decide to go
About 100 women arrive at the checkpoint.
Ishmael sends regards to Bumah.
We left at 7:45.