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Israel's Checkpoint Princesses

The Israeli women of Machsom Watch mediate between Palestinians traveling through checkpoints and the Israeli soldiers who operate them.
Palestinian women cross at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, during the holy month of Ramadan July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION SOCIETY) - RTX11ZWA
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The members of Israeli women's group Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch) are ladies with a reputation. Every morning by the crack of dawn, these mostly retired grandmothers travel to the epicenter of the daily conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Their stated purpose is to monitor checkpoints scattered between Israel and the West Bank and within the West Bank itself, but their role is far from that of a silent observer. Today, the women tackle some of the most sensitive challenges faced by the Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. This has earned them mixed accolades — including praise not only from the Palestinians but also from the highest echelons of the Israeli defense and military establishments. Meanwhile, others have criticized them for well over a decade.

It is 2 a.m. when some of the activists set off for their shifts. Throughout the early hours, they are in regular contact with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Ministry of Defense’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit (COGAT). Often, they assist Palestinians in need of urgent medical help who may be caught up in bureaucratic entanglements or misunderstandings. The women also compile daily reports on any conflicts arising between the soldiers and the Palestinians.

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