'Anin, Barta'a-Reihan, Tura-Shaked, Wed 6.11.13, Afternoon
13:50 Tura/Shaked checkpoint
We cross the seamline zone to reach the checkpoint.
It’s open from 07:00 to 10:00 and from 12:00 to 18:00. Most of those crossing in the afternoon are laborers returning from work in the settlements and the Shahak industrial zone in the seam zone.
At this hour few cross in the opposite direction, from the West Bank to the seamline zone.
A large taxi arrives from the West Bank. The passengers get out before it goes through, their documents are inspected and they cross on foot. The taxi and driver are inspected, go through the checkpoint and pick up the waiting passengers. The soldiers allowed a handicapped person to remain in the taxi during its inspection. It turns out the Jenin municipality runs a taxi service between the West Bank and the seam zone. The taxis are also permitted through the Barta’a-Reihan checkpoint.
14:15 More taxis arrive; many laborers get out, returning home to the West Bank. All greet us with broad smiles.
14:20 We leave.
14:30 Reihan/Barta’a checkpoint
Many laborers, both men and women, return at this time from their jobs in the seam zone and in Israel. Those who were required to leave in the morning through the Irtach/Sha’ar Efrayim checkpoint, near Tulkarm, are also allowed to return through this one. Many cars park in the lot on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint and by the roadsides. They must be waiting for those returning from work.
Minibuses transport Israeli (Jewish) pupils who live in the two settlements beyond the fence in the West Bank and go to school in Israel. They wait at the pickup station at the checkpoint for their rides to the settlements (unlike the situation in the central West Bank, where there are many settlements and it’s impossible to determine where each arriving Israeli lives, only settlers are permitted through this checkpoint; “ordinary” Israelis are not allowed to cross here).
All Palestinians must go through a long, winding, fenced corridor called a “sleeve,” which we (Machsom Watch women) are allowed to enter. The sleeve is fenced on the sides and the top; it leads to the terminal. At the end of the sleeve those entering and exiting the terminal are separated; at this hour, despite the dozens of people crossing, there’s no congestion or lines. Those returning from the seam zone (most are coming from east Barta’a) must have their permit stamped, but a machine does it and the process goes very quickly. Laborers who left this morning for Israel via Irtach aren’t required to have their permit stamped. There’s a drinking fountain with cold water and a bench at the end of the sleeve on which to rest.
As other reports on this checkpoint have noted, the same large group of women working in the sewing shops in east Barta’a crosses here on a regular basis, and at this hour they’re transported back to the checkpoint. All of them are attractive and well-groomed; they greet us happily (they include me in their greetings thanks to Chana).
15:00 We leave the checkpoint.
15:15 A’anin checkpoint
The checkpoint is still closed. The olive harvest continues. The checkpoint is supposed to open from 15:30 to 16:30. Palestinians are already waiting. A young man who speaks Hebrew well has taken the initiative to organize the line and holds in his hand the IDs of those waiting.
15:20 A car with an Israeli license plate arrives, then a military vehicle on the security road from the checkpoint. The soldiers open the locked gate and allow the two vehicles through.
15:25 The soldiers arrive, open the checkpoint’s three gates. Many Palestinians, including women and young men, are waiting, and also a tractor. When the man who organized the line goes through he gives the job to someone else, and so on. The line moves quickly; five people enter at a time.
15:40 An armored “Black Maria” arrives; three soldiers escorting three Palestinians follow on foot. Later we learn the Palestinians were caught working in the groves of Mei Ami, a locality in Israel, and are considered to have been in Israel illegally. They join three Palestinians who had been detained earlier. They’re not yet being allowed through. We’re far away, can’t see and certainly can’t hear what exactly is going on. One of the detainees, an older man, gets up now and tries to convince the soldiers to release him.
15:50 More laborers/olive pickers arrive. A farmer arrives from the grove next to the checkpoint with a female donkey and a young donkey madly in love with it. The Palestinian unloads some sacks of olives and returns to the grove for more. He waits for a tractor to arrive with more olive pickers.
People continue to arrive and go through the checkpoint, some without difficulty and others who are sent to have their documents more carefully inspected.
16:05 Some of the detainees are released. We can’t see whether their documents were returned, but three are still detained. They’ll probably be released at 16:30, when the checkpoint closes.
16:20 We leave.
I feel we’re participants in a play all of whose actors know their parts and roles and can’t change a thing. On our way home we drive toward a kitschy sunset which only makes us feel worse, even though, on the face of it, everything was “OK.”