I returned to Yatta on Saturday morning. Christian, Leif and I got up early Sunday morning to be at the Meitar checkpoint for 4. We got there at 3:45 and there were venders already there to sell to workers and drivers. I went into the ‘stalls’ with the men already lined up. I wanted to go through the line to see how long the process would take and what was involved. Even though it was early, there were already close to 500 men in the line. Some wanted to let me go ahead but since I wanted to time it, I declined. At one point there was some shoving since there are those who climb over and try to get ahead in line. This is especially true at 5:30 or so when the men are desperate to make sure they get to the buses picking them up on the other side of the checkpoint. They work in Israel in a variety of jobs picking fruit, factories, construction. The work permits belong to the employer and can be revoked at any time. No reason has to be given. Or it could be revoked for “security reasons”.
I went through 2 turnstiles and got to an area like in airports. Had to put my jacket and EAPPI vest through the conveyer and walk through a ‘doorway’ that detects metal. Next, our ID was taken and then given back a bit further down the line. I thought that would be it but after going through yet another turnstile, I had to give in my passport again. And as with Checkpoint 300 at Bethlehem, the men had to put their ID on a tray and put their finger on a fingerprint detector and wait for their picture to come up on a computer screen in a booth manned by soldiers. They made some calls about my passport and so I waited. Then two security personnel showed up and the soldiers gave the passport to one of them. He looked at it, and just told me to go. So now I was on the ‘other side’ – in Israel. Here I saw mini-buses lined up probably belonging to different companies that were picking up workers. The whole process took 45 minutes.
Getting back was a bit of a challenge of course since I was going against the tide so to speak.
I rejoined Leif and Christian. Leif was counting the people going through and Christian was recording the number who were rejected and trying to find out why. We rotated jobs every half hour.
As daylight was breaking, we spotted men trying to bypass the line by walking through the desert and we felt that maybe there was a break in the fence. It was not long however when you could make out the cloud of tear gas and people were coming back.
We counted 5437 men that morning going through the checkpoint.
Returning to the car and our driver, we saw 13 men sitting handcuffed on the ground and two soldiers guarding them. So we stayed and watched. I talked to one of the soldiers. He blamed all Palestinians for what a few do. I told him that I talked to the mother of the 12-yr-old that was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier. Does that mean all Israeli soldiers are child killers? You cannot blame a whole population for what a few do. Three hours went by and during this time, more soldiers came as well as a police car. Eventually 12 were let go. The other apparently had a problem with his I.D. One of the detained men came in the car with us since he lived in Yatta and our driver knew him. He said that they were hit and kicked before we came.
While the men were being detained, a shepherd came over the hilltop. They came past were we were and the shepherd took them across the busy street. I was amazed at how well the sheep obeyed and followed him. Also further up on the hill was a man with a donkey ploughing. Such scenes!