Tulkarem, 3 AM
We got up at 3 AM to go to a workers' terminal where Palestinians pass through into Israel each morning to work. The journey takes many hours so people start out at 3 AM.
It was dark, a dusty parking lot full of so many cars, bustling with people parking, taxis, man after man shuffling from the gravel road into the super crowded market outside the terminal, a mix of darkness, fire and flames, amazing smells of kebab and eggplant cooking, thousands of men moving through and grabbing coffees and teas and snacks before filing into this horrible metal cage.
A cage, where they are separated into rows and then stand behind metal turnstiles that are turned on and off by some invisible person, like prison doors - the sound of clanging metal, the feeling of surveillance, the mix of seeing people treated like animals being herded, and treated like people to be feared.
After they pass through these turnstiles, and another set of turnstiles (all "crowd control" devices), they come to a set of many doors. Beyond those doors they meet Israeli soldiers who search them, take their finger prints and even eye scans. Some of them are strip searched before passing through, and some are turned away.
At this terminal alone, some 20,000 people pass through each day to work in Israel, the majority of them in the construction industry. Some make as little as 40-60 shekels per day ($10-$15) and very few make the Israeli minimum wage. Only some have work permits, but our host, a union organizer with the New Unions, says Israel allows these workers in because they are even easier to exploit. Many do extremely dangerous jobs.
Around 150,000 Palestinians in the West Bank enter Israel to work each day. The alternative to a workers' terminal like this one is figuring out a way to scale the wall.