Irtah, Thu 7.5.09, Morning
04:40 – At a distance of 200 meters
from the checkpoint we already hear a roar. As we come closer, we see
hundreds of crowded people pushing in, shouting and climbing the fences
in order to get to the turnstiles and on to the inspection. I have to
mention that we are talking about men and women, all of whom have permits
(magnetic cards) to work in Israel.
The inspections are carried out by a
private company that has been granted the franchise by the IDF. It is
claimed that they reduce as much as possible the number of people that
carry out the inspections in order to cut down on expenses. This results
in surging crowds of people pushing in and shoving while waiting for
the inspections. People who have crossed the checkpoint and got to the
Israeli side tell us that they have been waiting to pass 3 hours on
average and that some people pass out and get hurt on account of the crowding and are taken by ambulances of the Red Crescent to hospitals in
the West Bank. We have seen 3 older women who passed out and people
in the line helped them to get up. When I turned to the people in charge
of the inspection and asked them to call ambulances, the answer was
that since it happened on Palestinian ground ambulances of the Palestinian
Authority must be called, but they didn't do that, either. One of the
men I turned to about this matter told me to mind my own business and
not to interfere with theirs. He refused to give away his name.
The "happy people" that finally
get to the inspection are divided in two lines according to age. One
line is for people aged 30–35 and another for those older than 35.
People younger than 30 years are not allowed to enter Israel.
There is no separate line or a corridor
for women. Many of them, but also men, complain that standing close
together, men and women, so that their bodies touch and that violates the woman's
body. Many of the people who pass the through checkpoint tell us that
when MachsomWatch women are here an effort is made to expedite the inspections
and prevent unnecessary delays.
The Israeli contractors who drive the
workers that come out of the terminal fine each worker who doesn't come
to work (due to an illness or because he is refused passage) IS 54.00
a workday. The average wage of an agricultural worker from the territories
is IS 50.00 a day, of which he spends IS 20.00 on fares. They are not
allowed to spend the night in Israel, nor are they allowed to bring
olives, olive oil, sugar and other products into Israel. Many of them
work in Be'er Sheva, Rehovot or on different mixed farms in the south,
and spend an hour and a half traveling from the checkpoint to their
place of work. In the evening they have to get to the checkpoint not
later than 19:00.
The Israeli contractors don't put on
record the full number of working days of the Palestinians so as to
pay less income tax, which causes harm to the Palestinians. Many people
who cross the checkpoint say it is extremely important that the media
– journalists and photographers – come to see what is going on at
the checkpoint and report about it in Israel and in the world. According
to them, the security company in charge of the inspections that was
last year was more considerate than this year's. The biometric identification
(scanning the hand palms) is sometimes problematic, especially with
young people, because wounds and warts interferes with the identification
and may cause long delays.