Palestinian workers say daily journey to Israel ‘torturous’ 29May13 May 29, 2013

Ma’an News Agency     -    28 May 2013

220987_345x230HEBRON (Ma’an) — Around 4,000 Palestinian workers from the Hebron district face an arduous journey everyday as they try to cross into Israel via the Tarqumiya checkpoint.

The luckiest workers can make it through the airport-like security inspection in a few hours, while some return home after hours of waiting, and others decide to spend the night in the open air near the checkpoint so they can be first to cross over.

“This is an Israeli policy aimed at creating chaos and confusion amongst the workers, who sometimes end up going to hospital to treat bruises and fractures or asphyxia resulting from the incredibly heavy jam and pell-mell at the crossing every morning,” one worker told Ma’an reporters.

Hussein Amir Abu Zuneid said that he leaves his home in Dura, south of Hebron, at 2 a.m. to arrive at Tarqumiya crossing to “prepare for the torturous and humiliating journey inside the terminal, which opens its gates at 4 a.m.”

He arrives at the crossing, begins to take off his shoes, belt and other items for the metal detector, and then waits as Israeli forces scrutinize his ID and work permit. These procedures can take hours, according to Abu Zuneid, who says workers who arrive at the Palestinian side of the terminal at 2 a.m. often reach the Israeli side at around 8 a.m., “feeling they are reborn.”

“We leave the terminal after waiting long hours and go to our work and source of living through which we barely manage to provide the basic needs of our families. No matter how hard the work is, it is still much easier than the humiliation we experience as we pass through Tarqumiya terminal.”

Ma’an’s reporter learned that the former mayor of Nuba, a village in Hebron, works at the crossing to help keep order.

“The terminal starts to be crowded at the early dawn hours because workers start to flood in, but the Israelis do not allow them to pass before 8 a.m. Thus, the workers experience disastrous conditions unfit for any respectable creature on earth,” Mahmoud Shrouf told Ma’an.

The majority of workers fall asleep at the crossing because they leave their homes so early, Shrouf said, with many lying down on a piece of cardboard inside the terminal to get some sleep before Israel opens the gates.

Most of the time only one Israeli officer is inspecting the workers’ documentation, creating huge delays. After identification checks, workers are then taken to a small room to have their pictures taken.

“About 50 workers are held in a small room, which barely has enough space for 20 people, for at least an hour for taking photos,” Shrouf added.

Kayid Brush told Ma’an that he had been waiting at the crossing since 3 a.m., but as the pushing and shoving started he fell on the ground and was evacuated to hospital, and then home.

“After that incident, I swore I would never go back to Tarqumiya terminal seeking to go to work. I prefer my dignity to providing food for my family.”

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