Barta`a checkpoint: Switzerland is here

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Neta Golan and Shuli Bar (photos and report)

Switzerland is here

Barta’a Checkpoint at 5:50 a.m. – morning passage already overfilled

The lower car-park (on the West Bank side) from where the terminal is entered, hundreds of people stand in four fairly straight lines, leading to man-wide tracks inside the transit shed, from where they will continue towards the four turnstiles. From there they run freely into the terminal. Order is exemplary! People speak quietly. As they do in Switzerland…

Since 4:30 a.m. until 6 a.m. – this is the time it takes for a person to get from the entrance to the exit of the checkpoint. They were on their way from home for a half-hour or more, and then they walked from the parking quite a ways – so their morning begins around 3:30 a.m.

The waiting lines are very long and stretch from far away in the car-park until the waiting shed. A few years ago, every morning chaos reigned. Palestinian ushers armed with clubs (!) and wearing black uniforms were there, and nervous young men would climb the fences over the heads of the men waiting. The authorities would lock the checkpoint for people to calm down. Our good friend Eyad would come here early and voluntarily care to calm people down. He no longer does.

So what happened? Have people here become Swiss?

On the sides stand men who do not wish to crowd in line and can afford to wait for the line to thin out. They chain smoke. Drink coffee. One of those on the side is in a hurry (comes from a village near Jenin), is head of a construction team at Harish, and if he misses his contractor’s transport he will have to pay for a taxi and be significantly late. So why are you standing aside? We wondered. After crossing the line for the first time and reaching the inspecting guard, he remembered that he forgot his phone in the car. He turned back, crossed the line in the opposite direction, ran to his car, ran back and crossed the line for the second time with his phone in hand. Happens to the best of us…

But here, man plans and god is amused: The security guard told him to get out of line and come back only at 8 a.m. Why? “Here you don’t cross twice during the same hour!” said the guard. Order and precision. Swiss-like.

Only 27-year-olds and older cross this checkpoint. “Under this age it’s youngsters who carry out terrorist attacks”, the Palestinian explains. Two women stand at the entrance to the transit shed, at the head of the track meant just for them. They are waiting for a miracle. The men ignore them and the sign saying this is a track for women only, and conquer the track for themselves.

Two women wait for a miracle. The track for women only is taken

Anin Checkpoint at 6:50

This checkpoint was supposed to be opened between 6:45 and 7 a.m. No one can swear which. So one gets here at 6:15, 6:30 to be sure. Today over 100 men, boys, 3 women and two girls were waiting for the opening of the gate, all waiting from 6:20 until 8 a.m. An hour and a half. Among them were also residents of Tayibe and Roumana, distant villages. Their agricultural checkpoint, no. 154, below Umm Al Fahm, is closed until further notice because part of the separation wall is being built. Of concrete.

At 8, bearly everyone who had come passed. We think two people were turned back. At 8:20, after the checkpoint was already locked and the soldiers looked like they were leaving, a group of men from Anin arrived and crossed. They were tired of waiting and began to drive to the distant Barta’a Checkpoint, but got a call mid-way telling them to come back, and they did. An old acquaintance explained: All week we go to Barta’a checkpoint and cross there. It is far away and costs us 50 NIS each way. Twice a week we are allowed to cross here. For nothing. But they drive us crazy until they get here.

What we saw here today (as we have at other vigils lately) was that soldiers (apparently Military Police) scold those waiting and order them to “behave”. Get back, they order. Irja la wara. All this while the gate is still locked and those who are supposed to open it have not even arrived yet.

Later the DCO officer told us that this morning’s tardiness was expected, and that the Palestinians were notified. They did not hear about it…


Anin checkpoint at 8:15, People come out heavyhearted after having waited for an hour and a half for the checkpoint to open