Hasmonaim, Makabim checkpoints - at dawn. for work
We held a vigil at checkpoints that we had not visited for a long time. A few weeks ago, Karmela Menashe spoke about harassment of Palestinian drivers and workers at the Hashmonaim and Makabim Checkpoints. We didn’t think we could really see things like that taking place since we stand on a certain day outside the checkpoints themselves, but we wanted to check whether we should come once in a while to show our presence and speak with people. We want to know what happens during the crossing and inside the villages from which the workers arrive. Our conclusion is that once a month a shift should be on vigil at this area, creating ties with people who might report events or special problems to us.
5:45 Hashmonaim Checkpoint
We came here by road 446 leading from the Shilat-Mod’in junction to Modi’in Ilit and the West Bank. It is still totally dark. In the opposite direction (into Israel) the road is packed. Ronit says the morning rush hour will go on until the Shilat junction and all morning. First the workers and trucks go through, then the colonists working inside Israel. Passage is for pedestrians with permits, and for cars with Israeli license plates.
The checkpoint is located at the foot of a rocky hill and the workers coming from villages around Modi’
In Ilit and north-east of it cross the road on foot. There is no pedestrian bridge, but the road is not as busy as 443 around Makabim Checkpoint, where a pedestrian bridge has been constructed. (We pressured the authorities, too). Before going down is a stand selling food for a work day and morning coffee. The lower level, too, has a lit-up market. I took a video of the descent towards the entrance to the checkpoint. At the same time, the lower level of the entrance to the checkpoint has workers coming from the Ni’ilin area.
The number of workers crossing here is amazing. It resembles the ones crossing the large Jerusalem Checkpoints. According to estimates, one day here sees over 6500 pedestrians. The checkpoint opens at 4:30 a.m. and closes at 19:00. Judging by the size of their bags they go home every day.
We drove to the Israeli side of the checkpoint. The car-park transporting workers who have gone through is filled to bursting. We cannot cross on foot because except for the road itself, this is Area A, out of bounds for Israelis. The checkpoint lies over a vast area and the structures look new. We were told there are three entry turnstiles. A civilian company runs it. We saw many women guards there who may have been checkpoint soldiers in the army. At the exit is a prayer shed, as well as a stand selling Israeli cellular cards. There were no problems in the crossing while we were there.
Beyond the exit from the checkpoint, many workers stand at sunrise in several spots, waiting for someone to hire them for work. They pay between 2500 and 2700 NIS a month for the permit to cross over into Israel. It is not clear to us whether the worker may willingly go over to another contractor, or whether again the contractors receive many permits and pass workers among themselves, and have the extra pay for the extra worker, while he remains tied to a single contractor. We tried to face a driver or two with the information that drivers were beaten up by checkpoint guards, but were not told anything about it.
We met young and older workers from Ramallah. They are disappointed that there is not enough work. They come here and go back home, and continue to pay for their permits. We also met a person who came with a ‘merchant’ permit from Gaza, rented a house around here, and tries to work in the center of the country. For the meantime, unsuccessfully. We promised all of them that soon there will be a lot of work… in the colonies.
7:15 Makabim Checkpoimt
Workers cross here from Beit Sira and other villages south-west of road 60. Only Israeli cars cross. Here too there are many transport vehicles on the Israeli side waiting for workers in the car-park and on the road itself. We saw one or two vehicles of the Modi’in municipality picking up its workers at the checkpoint. Cars crossed fast and we saw no waiting lines at the entrance to the pedestrian checkpoint. Here too people sat on the slope near the road, waiting for an employer who might offer them a day or more of work.
Reminder about the disappointing road 443:
How sad that road 443 is for Israelis only, on Palestinian land that was confiscated with the promise that it would serve them too as they drive to Ramallah and into Israel on a fast, good road. The part of the road where Palestinians are allowed to drive has been reduced to an insignificant and ineffective way to the promised sites. The matter reached the Supreme Court and was countered with the old card of the users’ safety/security.
It is simply an apartheid road…