Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
This time we arrived later than usual, since we wanted to see how things worked around 5:30-6:00, which is supposed to be the peak period.
When we arrived the area was full of people, the parking lot was full of vans.
5:05 By the separation barrier, people strolled into the checkpoint, with no running. The lines waiting to enter were not jammed, but even so we saw a few people climb over the barriers between the lines.
A man went back into Palestinian territory. We asked him why, and he said his permit had expired. He had a new permit waiting for him to pick up at the office in Jenin, but he hadn't got it. The staff saw in the computer that the new permit had been issued, but they still didn't let him through, and sent him to get the printed form. We wondered about this runaround. A Palestinian who heard us answered that they were right, because if the man had been caught in Israel without a valid permit he would have been in trouble... but we still wonder. Even if he had been caught in a roundup, couldn't the police confirm that he did have a permit?
On the Israeli side both turnstiles were working. However, a group of men who wanted to go back couldn't do so. We asked the guard in front of the building to open the side gate for them. He said that they wouldn't be allowed through until 7:00, because the pressure in the building was too great, and letting anyone go back would slow the flow of people who needed to get to work. We passed this information on, to the dissatisfaction of the men who were waiting. They saw no reason why they couldn't pass through a turnstile leading back, without going into the building at all, the way people do in the afternoon.
We spoke to an acquaintance of ours, who was waiting for another worker to come through. He said that even on Sunday, if he came early the lines weren't long, and it only took him ten minutes to get into the checkpoint.
We measured how long it took people to get through the checkpoint. Around 5:15 it took two men 15-16 minutes to get through. Between 5:30 and 6:00 it took 10-12 minutes for the men we were watching for, only 5 minutes for a woman.
At 6:15, by the separation barrier, there was still a steady flow of people into the checkpoint, but no one had to wait in line to get in. Two people we chose to watch for got through in 7 minutes.
6:30 We left. Most of the crowd had already gone, also most of the vehicles in the parking lot.