Hashmonaim (Ni'ilin), Makkabim (Beit Sira)
We arrived about 05:30. We drove through and parked by the roadside just beyond the checkpoint. We crossed the road and stood where people hop over the guard rail and descend the dirt path toward the checkpoint. Food stands await them beyond the guard rail and also down below, on the road from Ni’ilin. There were additional stands today on the path down. Next to them were small fires lit by the peddlers to keep warm. Two children ran around one of the stands, looking at us in amazement as we waved hello to them. The lines seem orderly today with no unusual congestion. We identified people to time how long it took them to go through.
We went through the vehicle checkpoint toward the pedestrian exit. It’s crowded with people and cars. We met H., our acquaintance. He hasn’t had work recently; today he’s going through to finally receive money a previous employer owes him. “Our” people took 20-25 minutes to cross.
Beit Sira checkpoint
We returned to the cars and drove toward the Beit Sira checkpoint. We parked along the road to Modi’in and went down. It was just past 06:30. Many cars along the road, some double parked, waiting for workers, and many workers waiting for their transportation. People address the usual complaints to us that this checkpoint isn’t open Friday and they’re forced to travel to Ni’ilin. It’s a long way on the Palestinian side, and the road is dangerous, and what takes five minutes on our side can take them up to an hour. Today they also complained that recently the checkpoint has been closing at 11:00, and whoever must go through later is required to travel to Ni’ilin. One man complained that the saleswoman in the kiosk is aggressive and unpleasant to customers.
We selected someone here also who’d come from the direction of Safa and Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta. We walked toward the exit. Many complained that today is very congested and it takes a long time to cross. We moved toward the exit turnstile but we weren’t able to see what was going on inside. Despite the complaints, it took “our” man 20 minutes to go through. That’s a long time for this checkpoint, but people at other checkpoints we’re familiar with would be happy to cross in that amount of time. We noticed that the bars of the exit turnstile are padded (cf. photo), which protects people when the turnstile stops abruptly (something we’ve seen more than once at other checkpoints). While we waited we talked to a young man who spoke English. He’s a teacher in a nearby village. Today is mulad, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and the school is closed so he’s going to work in Israel to earn a little more money.