A difficult morning at the Ni’ilin checkpoint
We arrived at the Ni’ilin checkpoint (also known as “Hashmona’im crossing) at approximately 05:40. We drove through the checkpoint and parked a little beyond, by the roadside. We crossed the road and stood at the location where people jump over the safety railing and go down a dirt path toward the checkpoint. Food stands wait for them on the other side of the safety railing. Below, on the road from Ni’ilin, there are stands too.
From the checkpoint there’s a line extending around the plaza and sometimes reaching the yellow bar which blocks cars coming from Ni’ilin. The line is usually 3-4 people wide and it advances slowly. Today we saw a kind of funnel formed from the side of the plaza toward the line, so that the line becomes wider as one moves back. Clearly things were in danger of breaking down. And in fact, the line soon disintegrated. People running toward the head of the line and a crowd of people formed at the entrance to the building, accompanied by yelling and screaming. Older people and those who couldn’t or didn’t wish to push moved back and stood or sat on the side to wait. We’re used to such sights at Qalandiya, but hadn’t seen them here.
We focused on a man wearing bright clothing to time his passage, and returned to the vehicles. Today there were also long lines at the vehicle checkpoint. We had to maneuver in order to turn the car around and join the line. While we waited at the vehicle checkpoint, a man arrived pushing a girl in a wheelchair. He approached the vehicle checkpoint, beside which is a gate that can be opened for pedestrians. And in fact people came to him immediately, inspected his documents and let him through the gate. He was followed by two young men with blue IDs. At first they hesitated, but finally approached and talked to the crossing staff. Apparently they asked to cross there because of the situation at the regular crossing. We were pleased to see they were allowed through.
We drove through the checkpoint and parked on the Israeli side. As usual, there’s great tumult here. Many cars at the plaza and in the parking lot, primarily buses and minibuses transporting people to work. It’s bustling. The public bathrooms are open. While we waited for “our” man to arrive, we spoke with H., whom we know from previous visits, and with others. All complain about how difficult things are today. They say too few people are let through each time, and inspection takes a long time. Some claimed it was being done on purpose. “Our” guy took 40 minutes to go through, which is definitely longer than usual here.
We decided to speak to the checkpoint staff and find out what caused today’s problems. When we approached the shift manager came toward us, a guy wearing a black skullcap. He says there wasn’t any particular problem today, but that it’s crowded because it’s a Sunday. He hopes they’ll add more inspection booths, God willing, and more “sleeves” (we call them cages) to ease and hasten the crossing.
On our way back we saw a volunteer from “The Road to Recovery” who’d come to pick up the man and the girl in a wheelchair, who’s on her way to receive treatment at Tel Hashomer. She was followed by another patient who joined the ride.
We decided not to continue to the Beit Sira (Macabbim) checkpoint because it was late. We also thought fewer people would be crossing there this morning, since a closure had been imposed on the adjacent village, Beir ‘Ur al Taht, after people came from there Friday night to shoot at IDF soldiers.