Makkabim (Beit Sira), Mon 21.1.08, Morning

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Natanya G, Tzipie E, Chana S (reporting)
We arrived at the checkpoint coming up to 05:00, parked by the side of the road, and encountered there a group of workers who had come off one of the trucks and, while waiting, had warmed themselves around a campfire and prepared themselves coffee, which they offered us. They said that while the commander is present, the soldiers behave courteously, but immediately when he leaves the shout and inflict humiliations.

A few complained that, even though they had permits to be in Israel for 24 hours, they are not allowed to pass before 05:00. One of the workers related that they leave home at 03:00 and return at 21:00.
Some taxis arrived to take workers to Petach Tikvah or Netanya. The price of such a ride (both ways) is 60 shekels, and their day’s pay is 147. We asked the worker to repeat the figures because they did not seem possible. Later we met a plumber who, according to him, earns 220 shekels for a day’s work in Modi'in area, and feels lucky compared with the workers who have to travel as far as Netanya or Petach Tikvah.. The men come from some ten villages in the area, some on foot, others sharing a taxi. The price of a seat in a shared taxi is three shekels, while a special costs 30.

Maybe a 100 waiting by the checkpoint. Luckily for them it wasn’t raining, because the roofed over walkway is not sufficient for this many people and, when they crowd together under its shelter, the soldiers shout at them. Two soldiers stood on the raised concrete and checked permits, after the men had gone through a body search which we could not see from where we were standing. A third soldier checked their bags in which they carry food for the day.

All the transients had permits for passage and stay in Israel that were valid for three months, some of them for 12 hours a day, others for 24. Renewal of the permits is at Beit El DCO. The one who passed the checkpoint smiled at us happily and waved a greeting. They had never been passed so quickly like today and were sure that the reason for it was our presence, and they asked us to come regularly. They explained their economic difficulties at home, the problems of getting permits to build or to access their lands. For other problems, Natanya gave them phone numbers for Physicians for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the taxis filled up and drove off. In addition, a few employers arrived to collect their workers (mostly those lucky enough to have found work in Modi'in). One of the people indicated the bagel seller standing there, but not selling anything – because no one has money to waste.

At 06:20 the last worker passed and the checking procedure was over.