Barta’a Checkpoint: The Hijab (women’s head cover) is against Men’s Photos

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Gili Kugler and Neta Golan (report)

Two simple suggestions to reduce crowding in morning hours at Barta’a Checkpoint: Open the checkpoint half an hour and add a third belt for object inspection

6 a.m. Barta’a-Reihan Checkoint, seam zone side

The access road to the checkpoint is nearly blocked because of so many transport vehicles of employers and other drivers. Buses, minibuses, yellow Palestinian cabs, Israeli cabs and other cars are all waiting for passengers from the West Bank to arrive through this checkpoint. One of the passersby stops us and complains of crowding on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, and that crossing takes about an hour. He asks to open the checkpoint earlier, 4 a.m. instead of 4:30. At the waiting shed this is prayer hour. Many people squad on their prayer rugs and the shed looks like the prayer hall in a mosque.

We come down to the terminal in a long sleeveinfo-icon (a roofed and fenced-in track) against the stream of people coming up from the checkpoint. No one goes down to the West Bank at this time. Some greet us with a ‘good morning’ and many stop by the Hermesh colonist’s refreshments stand for coffee and pastry. In order not to miss their transport they come to the checkpoint early and lucky they have enough time for coffee. The stream of people continues. We stand at the opening of the terminal and do not see crowding by the inspection post. Again, someone tells us that crossing the checkpoint takes an hour with intense crowding. An elderly man finishes fixing his belt and corrects the former, saying the crossing takes about 35-40 minutes. The crowding and delay are caused by the inspection of bags carried by people crossing. He suggests that a third inspection belt be added, so the problem will be solved. He says that crossing the checkpoint right now is a real trial. We must add that on their way to work, people carry small nearly uniform nylon bags with food or small lunch pails.

At the terminal’s opening Nur, a new Palestinian acquaintance of ours approaches us – she is a resident of Jenin and works at a Harish restaurant. This morning, too, her dress is up to date but her face is covered. For us she takes the cover off her beautiful face. At work her face is bare, but in Jenin, not only at the checkpoint, she covers it. She says “men are garbage”, photographing women without their permission and posting their pictures on the net. Only one other woman crossed while we were there. The seamstresses who work in Barta’a cross earlier.

6:45 a.m. – we get back to the car park. The workers now make up a lesser stream. The top car park is still filled, but many vehicles have already left.

6:55 a.m. – Toura-Shaked Checkpoint

The soldiers are already there. They open exactly at 7 a.m. Crossers are few and the crossing rather slow. Some wait for a car to go by and pick them up, others walk. Among the crossers are two women, seamstresses who work in the mattress plant Swiss System at the Shahak industrial zone, inside the seam zone.

A resident of Toura Al Sharqiya, working as a maintenance man at Shaked colony, explains that his direct employer is the colony council, but he is paid by the Shomron Regional Council. His family owns about 100 olive trees. He and his children also have farmers’ permits. He asks for the checkpoint to be opened earlier, at 6:30.

7:30 am. – several high school students arrive at the checkpoint on their way to the school in Toura Al Gharbiya nearby. Most of them are girls, wearing a black hijab and uniform striped dress.

We leave for home.

While we were at the checkpoint, a large truck passed it, loaded with concrete blocs that looked like elements of which the Separation Fence is made up. There was also a car crossing, bearing the sign assigning it to the “Erection of the Security Barrier”, followed by a truck with a huge crane. Where is all of this going? On our vigil on January 11, we were told that the fence near the Tayibe-Roumana is being replaced by a wall. Perhaps something similar is happening here.

At Megiddo Junction was a police barrier. Pierre, our driver, explained that cars carrying Palestinian workers are stopped for a permit inspection.