Do you manage to see the woman in the left-hand corner of the photo, sitting behind the turnstile? She is somewhat identifiable, because she is wearing white, against the background of steel. She is sitting, because this way she won’t be pushed and shoved, and can keep her place in line.
The line. At the head of the line there’s a small shed in Tulkarm. It’s hard to notice in the dark, but the art of interweaving fences is quite remarkable here, perhaps the most remarkable of all the checkpoints I’ve seen. They are tall and are structured in such a way that they create a double snake trail, in order to slow the pace, of course.
The winding line is noticeable when the people waiting are moving. But I also know it because I’ve been here in the afternoon. Crowded men who were being crushed climbed above the fences. At the end of the line there is the yellow gate, another form of slowing down the line. The section between us and the turnstiles is the most crowded. The turnstile locks every few seconds, to maintain a controlled number of people between the turnstile and the metal detector. I could see the palms of those locked inside the turnstile. When the turnstiles move again, the are spewed out running to the metal detector at the entrance to the inspection facility. "All around the world people work in order to live, I work in order to die" – the exact words of a man, about fifty years old, a construction worker from Tul Karm.
The photo was taken on Friday, May 21, 2010, moments before the checkpoint at Irtah was opened, south of Tul Karm, 4:55am. On Fridays the terminal opens an hour later. Most of the women who passed through today work in Israel picking strawberries.
Click here for a Hebrew version of this post.