Sabah al kheir, mami… (good morning, sweetie…)

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Neta Golan and Shuli Bar (report and photos)

Barta’a checkpoint 5:45

Lately Palestinians have been complaining about harsh crowding here at the early morning hours, we got here at quarter to six a.m. We were surprised to find the shed leading through the turnstiles into the terminal nearly empty. At the same time, the entrance ‘sleeveinfo-icon’ into the terminal was full. But within 10 minutes it emptied into the terminal and then the shed filled out again. Passage was halted, entrance ‘sleeve’ emptied again. Thus it continued until about 6:30.

The atmosphere was calm, no signs of stress and pressure, and people mainly chatted. Although opening time has been moved to 4 a.m., most people begin to arrive only at 4:30, and the critical mass of workers arrives between 5 and 6 a.m. After 7:30 the merchants arrive, and then passage is rather fluid.

Thoughts 1: Until the shed at Barta’a checkpoint was built, the waiting line stood in the open air at all seasons. Then a half-open shed was erected, which did not help anyone when it rained. When the metal shed was put up, with partitions that create narrow waiting lines – it looked to us like cattle corrals, and we complained about it with all the dramatic associations. Is this upgrade a necessary evil? It might not solve the conflict, but certainly makes things easier.

Thoughts 2: In the years when Palestinians crossed over through the breaches in the fence at all hours of the day and night, a really good time for both sides of the conflict began. Next to the breaches we saw people happy to work for their livelihood, even go to the beach when they wished. But the actual passage through the breaches was and looked entirely surreal. A daily farce. Then the latest terrorist attacks came, and the top brass and politicians chickened out. Afraid they would be held responsible. The breaches – which were good for everyone (including smugglers, thieves and criminals) were closed and to make things sure, sleepy, idle guards were placed there at all hours. Soon these too will disappear. Work permits are not issued more easily and to more people, and cheap labor streamed into Israel-proper somehow continues.

And now we heard about new breaches so chances are that the surreal picture of reality will be repeated, not at all surreal.

As a dessert: someone this morning greeted Neta with ‘Sabah al kheir, mami… (good morning, sweetie)"  and we both had a good laugh all the way to the Tayibe-Roumana checkpoint.

Tayibe-Roumana Agricultural Checkpoint 6:30 a.m.

Three persons and a tractor crossed over to their olive tree groves in the small seam zone situated below the Arab town of Umm Al Fahm. We had a moving meeting with tractor-owner Mahmid, whom we hadn’t seen for a long time.

Here too, the stars are the fence guards sitting there day and night behind camouflage sheets, doing nothing. The terrorist attacks that keep happening inside Israel have nothing to do with them, nor with the closed breaches in the fence.

According to local Palestinians, the boys who put up barriers on the way to the checkpoint and probably charged the breach-crossers passage money are now sitting in jail. We do not know why.

Anin agricultural checkpoint 6:50 a.m.

About 70 people from Anin village crossed over to the seam zone. They say they are headed to the tree groves, but obviously not all of them. One of the older fellows asked us to arrange with the army that the opening days of the checkpoint be changed from Monday and Wednesday, to Monday and Thursday – Monday and Wednesday are too close together and it’s not good for whoever stays overnight inside Israel…