By Taghrid Shbeta, Fieldworker in the Tulkarem Region
The same issue arises each time I meet workers from my district. Palestinian workers, who are lucky to have an Israeli work permit, must cross the border into Israel every morning on their way to work. Yet the difficulty associated with the exhausting process of obtaining the sought after permit, as everyone knows, does not end here. Palestinian workers are also faced with hardships as they try to cross the border into Israel.
One of these crossings is Tayibe / Ephraim, which serves the whole area of the northern West Bank. The workers that come to the border from their faraway villages must set out as early as midnight and ride for hours just to assure themselves a place in the daunting line that forms at the crossing. Having a good place in line makes it possible to cross into Israel at a reasonable hour and prevents tardiness which can anger employers and threaten workers’ jobs. Nor does the effort end here. The real war to enter Israel begins when the worker is standing in line at the crossing.
‘A’, a gardener from Amriha / Ya`bod who works in Israel, described this situation at the border crossing: “I arrive at the border at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning so I will be ready when the gates open at 4:00 am. Thousands of workers must cross the border in order to get to work. All around me is a sea of people. The crowd begins to move forward very slowly. There is a great deal of tension. Some people begin pushing. Believe me,” says ‘A’, “if someone bends down to pick something up, he may not survive.”
The Tayibe / Ephraim crossing has 16 gates, however, only three are active due to budget restraints. The hours were not extended when the number of active gates dropped to three. Just imagine the pressure of 10,000 workers crossing through three gates in two hours!
It is natural that such hardship would create friction. A situation in which a large mass of people are pressured into a small space leads to pushing and shouting. Experienced workers report that the security officers try to maintain order and sometimes use their authority to take sanctions that can result in threatening the worker’s employment. For if, as they see it, someone waiting in line shouts or is disruptive, he may be barred from crossing into Israel for a whole week.
According to ‘A’, “Each time that I pass this way I think that there is a real possibility that I will not survive. It is a game of life and death. Due to this hardship, many workers find a place to sleep in Israel. However the living conditions are often inadequate and, in addition, they are separated from their family and eat whatever they can find.”
It is critical that all people who believe in human rights and workers rights know about the daily war that confronts Palestinian workers each day at the crossing. Something must be done to fight against the unnecessary suffering that is caused day after day, to thousands of people, just because they want to get to work on time.
Translation: Sharon Kerpel
For a Swedish translation of this article, please click Israels barriärer – ett byråkratiskt helvete.