Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)

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Miriam Shayish, Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting). Translator: Charles K.

Ni’ilin checkpoint

We arrived at about 05:25; it’s known as “Macabbim Crossing.”  We drove through and parked by the roadside, slightly beyond it.  We crossed the road and stood next to the place where people jump over the safety barrier and descend the dirt path toward the checkpoint.  Food stands await them there, on the other side of the safety barrier. There are also stands down below on the road from Ni’ilin.


Usually there’s a long line, snaking from the checkpoint building, and often extending to the yellow bar below which blocks vehicle entry.  Beside it are the food and notions stands (whose twins are located above, beside the main road to the checkpoint).  Today we saw a large group of people at the entrance to the checkpoint but not the long, winding line.  We wondered whether the rainy weather and/or the attack in Tel Aviv over the weekend, and the search for the shooter that was still ongoing dissuaded people from coming today.  We met groups of people going back up to the road.  They say there was balagan (a mess) at the checkpoint – shoving and crowding – they’ve given up and are returning home.


We also saw G. from Beit Sira today; he works in Modi’in Elite. He operates a large backhoe.  He’d told us he leaves it in Modi’in Elite during the week and takes it home on the weekend, and then he must enter Sunday through the Ni’ilin checkpoint.  It goes through and is inspected at the vehicle crossing (driven by a guy with an Israeli ID), and G. goes through the pedestrian checkpoint.  Today he waited in the backhoe until an Israeli wearing a yarmulke arrived (his employer?) to take it through the checkpoint.


We picked out someone whose clothing we would recognize and returned to the car to turn around and go through the checkpoint.  This time, since the person inspecting saw us turning around and arriving from the other side of the checkpoint, she asked who we were and also checked the trunk.  After crossing we parked down the road, past the plaza. Just before the plaza where gas tankers park one behind the other.  We saw them last time also.  When we returned after 06:00 they weren’t there.  Perhaps they’re allowed to cross only after 06:00.


The place bustled with people and vehicles.  We were told there were problems in the crossing today.  People were admitted very slowly, there was pushing and it took a long time (45 minutes, we were told, which is longer than usual here).  When we stood at the exit we saw a rapid flow of people coming through.  At one point we saw that the man we’d picked out had already exited and was at the parking lot.  It was 25 minutes after we’d seen him going down to the checkpoint, which means it took him less than that to go through.  When we spoke to him and his friends they said it took them half an hour, then corrected themselves and said 40 minutes…


We tried to find out whether there was any special problem today by asking the checkpoint manager.  When we walked toward the vehicle checkpoint two armed men immediately came toward us.  We identified ourselves and said we wanted to speak to the person in charge.  We were asked to wait at the edge of the checkpoint area.  He arrived and said he wasn’t aware of problems today at the checkpoint.  He said they keep track of what goes on and there weren’t any particular problems.  There are fewer people today, perhaps because of the weather.  We thanked him and wondered what had really happened.  We thought that perhaps the rain that had fallen before we arrived caused people not to form an organized line outside but to try to crowd into the checkpoint building to get out of the rain.  Perhaps they restricted entry as a result and people shoved each other.


On our way to the car we saw G.’s backhoe driving off.  We met a man with a girl in a wheelchairand a woman with a babyinfo-icon in a stroller who sat on the side near the plaza and waited for a ride to Sheba hospital.  We wished them well and drove to the Beit Sira checkpoint.


Beit Sira checkpoint

We arrived about 06:30. We parked by the roadside, facing Modi’in, at the end of a long line of cars coming to pick up laborers. There were many transport vehicles in the parking lot, as usual, mostly vans coming to pick up workers. We were told the crossing was fine.  We left after a brief stay.