It’s 4am in the morning and concrete corridors with metal bars are crammed full of men on their way to work. This is the scene most days at Checkpoint 300, one of the largest military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. Every day thousands of people cross from Bethlehem to East Jerusalem and Israel.
The checkpoint is an intimidating place, especially during the commuter rush. The gates and turnstiles are often closed for long periods, trapping people in narrow corridors. This can make the short journey through the checkpoint last a couple of hours. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, and EAs have witnessed people passing out in the line.
On a day like this I met Nadeer, who was on the way to his construction job in Israel. Nadeer has two degrees from Bethlehem University and a master’s degree from Bahrain University. He comes to the checkpoint at 4am every morning and travels to Israel to work as a manual labourer. In the West Bank he can’t earn enough to support his pregnant wife and two young daughters.
If Nadeer can’t get onto the bus, he will lose a day’s work and return home to his family empty handed. When I met Nadeer it was 5:30am and the checkpoint gates, including the humanitarian gate, had been closed for nearly half an hour. The humanitarian gate, which is for the elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities or illnesses, is rarely opened. On one occasion, at 5am, when the main line was crowded, I tried to persuade soldiers to open the gate for a ten-year-old girl on her way to hospital with her mother. They refused.
Early morning at Checkpoint 300
Nadeer waiting at the checkpoint
The checkpoint queue at 5am
The humanitarian gate is rarely opened