By Daniel Edelson, YNet News – 4 Nov 2009
Thousands of laborers waiting to cross into Israel via Eyal checkpoint, near Qalqilya, have to do so while exposed to harsh cold
The 4,500 Palestinian workers who travel through the Eyal checkpoint, near West Bank city of Qalqilya, on their way to work in Israel, are finding it hard to enjoy the long-awaited winter.
The checkpoint provides cover for those waiting to cross it, but its little shed can shelter about 100 people at the most, leaving the rest exposed to rain and cold winds.
“I usually like the winter, but why do we have to stand here like this?” wondered Majid Nazal, a construction worker who crosses the checkpoint daily.
According to Nazal, Sundays and Thursday pose the biggest challenge, as about 5,000 people crowd the checkpoint starting at 4 am.
“We stand there in the rain like cattle… what are they waiting for – someone to die from the cold?”
Mahmoud Diab Jabbar, head of the Qalqilya workers’ association, told Ynet that he approached Israeli authorities several times about installing additional sheds near the checkpoint.
“They keep telling me that it’s being taken care of, that a construction tender was issued, but nothing is being done.
“I told them that we would build it ourselves, but they won’t allow it,” he said. “This is the closest checkpoint to central Israel and the workers have no choice but to stand in the rain for hours.
“The place doesn’t even have a lavatory. There’s nowhere to sit down. We are being abused.”
Raaya Yaron, spokeswoman for the Machsom Watch human rights group, told Ynet that “the situation there reminds me of all kinds of thing, but I can’t name them – some things are still a taboo.
“The Eyal checkpoint opens at 4:30 am, but some workers have to leaver their home at 2 am, because they never know what random checkpoints they might encounter.
“Getting through the checkpoints takes 20-25 minutes under normal conditions, but between getting to it, waiting in line, going through and waiting for their rides, they could be standing outside for up to an hour.”
The conditions at the checkpoint, she added, are appalling: “they stand outside in weather most of us are unfamiliar with. There is only one bathroom stall, which is filthy and has no running water.
“(Eyal) is supposed to be a border crossing, but despite its relative proximity to Ben Gurion (international airport), it couldn’t be further away.”