Line jumpers, nicknamed “wall crawlers” and “snakes,” try to get ahead of the traffic jam at Checkpoint 300.–Tarek Al Taweel, 30, lives in Hebron in the West Bank with his wife, Iman, and their 9-month old son, Azem. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
A barrier wall separates a Palestinian refugee camp, left, from an Israeli settlement, right. Both are located in East Jerusalem. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)–A worker arrives early in the morning on April 9 to build homes for Israelis in Jerusalem after crossing Checkpoint 300. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
Published on May 24, 2017
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Under starry skies, a young Palestinian Everyman wakes before dawn to begin his daily commute to work in Israel.
There are thousands like him. They are building Israel. Five or six mornings a week, long before the Muslim morning prayers, before the cocks crow, when packs of dogs still own the dumpsters, his alarm beeps. Today it is 3:30 a.m.
His name is Tarek Al Taweel. He is a Palestinian construction worker, not without skills. He builds modern high-rise apartments in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, where a five-bedroom penthouse sells for $600,000.
The job is okay, he said. He makes 250 shekels, about $68 a day, twice what he would make in the West Bank. He works beside his father, uncles and brothers. They’re proud of their craftsmanship. They keep photographs on their mobile phones of their aluminum work, fine carpentry, elaborate tiling.
It’s not the work. It’s the Israeli checkpoint. “I hate it,” Taweel told us. The daily crossing drains him. It makes him feel that life is desperate and ugly.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I don’t want to go to the checkpoint. Sometimes I put my head back on the pillow,” Taweel said. “My wife will say to me, ‘You have to feed our child. Get up. Get up!’ And I get up and go.”
The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began 50 years ago in June.
Taweel turned 30 last year.
Like Taweel, four of every five Palestinians have never known anything but the occupation — an evolving system by which the Israeli military and intelligence services exert control over 2.6 million Arabs in the West Bank, with one system for Palestinians, another for Israelis.
This summer, the Israelis will celebrate their near-miraculous victory in the 1967 war, when in just six days, they took all of Jerusalem and their armed forces crushed the Arab armies thrown against them.