Israeli officials acknowledged that the motives were not entirely altruistic. Jewish settlers have raised objections to Palestinians being on board buses that enter their communities, fearing attacks. West Bank settlers last year petitioned the army to sign an order banning Palestinians from riding buses servicing West Bank settlers.
He said settlers often complain when Palestinians enter their buses. Palestinians can be blocked from boarding, kicked off or subject to verbal abuse once on board, he said. ‘Riding with settlers is humiliating, and involves a lot of suffering,’ Hamdan said.
In one instance, Hamdan said a female Jewish settler tried to order him off a bus that had come from the large Israeli settlement of Ariel but the bus driver refused to stop. He said his friends have had to walk 10 kilometres, or six miles, after being kicked off Israeli buses.
‘The new bus line is better, because we won’t have to go through all of this,’ he said, adding that the buses were a cheaper alternative to the private minivans that shuttle Palestinians to work inside Israel. A bus ticket costs anywhere from US$1 to US$3, compared to US$6 demanded by the private drivers.
Hosni Hanash, a 45-year-old construction worker from the village of Zeita, said he generally sets out from his village at 03h45 each morning, arrives in a taxi at the Eyal checkpoint at 04h30, and then spends an hour crossing through Eyal before heading in a private van to a full day of construction work.
He said the separation that began Monday relieved some of the stress of the long morning journey. ‘We are comfortable being by ourselves,’ he said.