Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
We reached the checkpoint at 06:00. The parking lot was filled with vehicles and Palestinian workers, as usual on our morning shifts.
We left the car and walked toward the checkpoint. On the way we saw an employee of Ramim, the company running the checkpoint, carrying a sub-machine gun. This is the first time we’ve seen someone armed at the checkpoint. We continued, and ran into the shift supervisor. We asked why someone was armed. He said there is always armed staff at the checkpoint. On the way back to our car we saw the same armed employee at an observation post in the inspection area.
The shift supervisor pointed out the pedestrian bridge over Highway 443 for Palestinians coming from the village of Sira. No longer must they risk their lives running across the road. The bridge was funded by the Ministry of Transport and will be finished soon.
The vehicle crossing is manned by soldiers. We went through with no problems; they wished us “Good morning.”
A few workers crossed Highway 443. There was no line at the revolving gates to the inspection booths.
We arrived at 06:30. There were still Palestinians and cars in the parking lot.
We approached a group of Palestinians, asked them about the checkpoint. They said a sign had been posted at the body scanner to ease their fears, but they don’t believe it and are still worried about their health. They complained of the length of the inspection. They said they’d crossed faster when the army ran the checkpoint. One person asked why they send him home if he has forgotten his Israeli work permit even though they have all his information in the computer. Another complained about confiscation of personal property like a finjan or olive oil.
We moved to the vehicle crossing and spoke briefly to the shift supervisor. He explained again that the probe could handle four vehicles together which is why the staff waits until they have four vehicles before turning it on. We watched and recorded how long it took. The first car stopped for inspection at 06:52, the probe was inserted at 06:53, three more cars stopped. The device was turned on at 07:01; the probes were removed from the cars at 07:04. People re-entered their cars at 07:08 and drove off at 07:09. The entire inspection took about 15 minutes.