Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 12.5.09, Morning
I arrived at the checkpoint alone on Tuesday at 04:20 and saw hundreds of people waiting quietly in the darkness for the turnstiles to open. There was no pushing or crowding. Many greeted me with "Good morning" and "Hello Tziona". Some of the women were sitting on the ground. Women and men were not separated. It was rather cold. The turnstiles opened at 4:35 AM and about 50 people passed through each time. Both men and women approached me and once again asked me to speak to the authorities and ask them to make arrangements for separating men and women. Many asked that the checkpoint open at 4:00 so that the cars taking them to work would not get stuck in traffic and their bosses would not fire them for being late for work. Others told me that because of the delays caused by the checks they were late for work and were fired, and had to change their place of work several times each month. They commented that the palm ID machines are worn out from overuse and make many mistakes and people often lose a workday because of problems with the machine.
The contractors who receive workers must pay tax to the Ministry of Labor for each worker. If they do not pay they lose their license and the facility sends the contractor's workers back home. They cannot work until the contractor renews his license. Renewing of the contractor's license can take up to two months. During that time the workers are not permitted to enter Israel.
Many of those waiting asked that we go into the inspections rooms in the facility and see how they are treated roughly and humiliated and cursed. Some of the workers told me that they are not permitted to bring any work tools with them into Israel - not even a folding measuring tape, carpenter's level, plaster knife, electric drill, or screwdriver. The claim that tools could serve as potential weapons is ironic, since they could buy them in any store in Israel if they wished. Since they have tools at home they save any money then to make a living and cannot spend money on anything they already have at home. The inspectors also confiscate their tools. Their demand that they be allowed to bring in their own tools is therefore logical.
The attitude taken towards food they can bring into the facility is similar. According to the codes, teach person can bring in two pita breads, a small tin or humus, a small tin of tuna fish, a small carton of cheese, and a quarter liter of oil. They cannot bring in cold water with ice, home cooked food, olives, sugar, sausages, or coffee, or tea.
Many people complained that the food that they are allowed to bring in is not enough and they cannot pay the prices of food in Israel. Most of the contractors do not provide food for their workers and they are hungry throughout the workday. At about 06L46 most of the people waiting had already entered the inspection facility. Only 4 inspection booths out of 16 were operating.
The check in the inspection rooms takes anywhere from a half hour to two hours. The inspection room is 2x2 meters and about 40 men and women are crammed into the room waiting in line to be personally checked. Many told me that they plan on taking action to force their contractors to put pressure on the staff of the facility to change the conditions of the personal inspections. They demand adding additional inspectors to decrease the waiting time and to instruct the inspectors to behave more politely and decently. Each person being checked has a magnetic inspection card as well as a printed page with their personal details. Both must be renewed each year - a procedure that costs NIS 100. Both renewals are done at the Liaison & Coordination Administration, which is operated by the IDF. The Liaison & Coordination Administration opens only at 09:00. Updating and renewing documents takes approximately two hours and workers therefore miss the entire work day. Each day there are dozens of people waiting in line to process their magnetic cards and documents. Since they must wait in line twice, they have organized a waiting list for the Liaison & Coordination Administration. Many have requested that the Liaison & Coordination Administration open at 07:30 rather than 9:00 so they will not miss a workday.
They have also asked that there be more than one clerk and that additional ones be added so that the procedure can take only 15 minutes. Today (Tuesday) 250 women and children entered the facility who were going to visit prisoners at the Megiddo Prison in Israel. Some of the women were elderly and walking with canes. They boarded 5 busses that were accompanied by police cars.
The supervision of prisoners' visits is done by the Red Cross. Busses are not allowed to stop on the way and there is no rest stop to use the toilet. When the bus arrives at the prison the driver cannot leave the bus.
There is heavy traffic on days when there are visits to prisoners for those returning from work in Israel. Many of them have asked to separate between those returning from work and those returning from visiting prisoners.
In summary: Demands must be made of the facility staff to open the turnstiles at 04:00 AM, to add at least another 4 inspectors for personal checks, and to allow [members of] "Machsom Watch" to be present during the personal checks.
Many people noted that the presence of Machsom Watchers helps a great deal in relieving the suffering caused by the inspections at the checkpoint. Demands must also be made of the Liaison & Coordination Administration to open their offices at 07:00 instead of 09:00.