Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 19.5.09, Morning
Akiva Or and I arrived at the checkpoint at 04.00 and we saw hundreds of people sitting on the ground and waiting in silence for the "slam" in front of the turnstiles. In the front sat elderly women who greeted us with a good morning both in Hebrew and in Arabic and again asked us to try to have a separate line formed for the women and for the checkpoint to be opened at 04.00 and not 04.30. The turnstiles opened at 04.32 and about 20 people went through.,
After some times Moriah and Tom arrived and began to count and photograph those passing through. After a while another turnstile opened and each time about 50 or more people went through. About 20 minutes later Tom and Moriah decided to go to the other side of the terminal and count those exiting from the checking. We stayed so as to check on the length of time that it took to open the turnstiles and to speak to those waiting in the line. Many said to us, "Come every day because when you are here they follow the procedures as it should be done and there are few delays". Many asked us to invite the teams of CNN, El Jazeera and Channel 1o to come and photograph them and the terminal.
After about half an hour those who had been rejected began to return. One elderly woman showed us a nylon bag and in it a plastic box containing potatoes. We asked the children who sold coffee to those in line to bring us the box. We photographed it and returned it to them. When we asked one of those responsible afterwards as to the reason we were told that there was a problem that viruses and illnesses such as mad cow disease could be transmitted to Israel.
5.34 Moriah and Tom came to say that they were leaving. A few minutes later an elderly worker came back because he had a telephone with him that he was taking to Israel to be fixed. We asked to see the phone so as to photograph it and the children who sold coffee brought it to us. But the loudspeaker ordered us to return it which we did without photographing it. Some minutes later two men arrived and ordered us not to take anything from the workers. 3 workers who were sent back told us that their employer had not paid his taxes for them to the Labour Department.
6.30 Most of the workers had entered the terminal. Some of them returned and said that they had to wait until 08.00 for the DCO office to open as there were various problems connected with their documents.
When we went to the waiting area we saw three buses which had come to transport the prisoners' families to the jails in Israel. The checking of these families further delays the checking of the workers. The buses to the jails are accompanied by the police and they may not stop on the way. I asked the drivers what happened if a child had to go to the toilet. They said they had no answer and the children had to wet their pants and stay so until they returned home. During the visit the drivers may not leave the buses. One policeman said that young children should not visit a jail and added that their mothers should bring nappies.
One worker was informed that his wife had been sent to hospital as she was in labour and so he wanted to go home and had to wait an hour before this was allowed.
Many workers again asked that the terminal opened at 04.00 and that there should be a separate line for the women and more so to increase the number of those checking from 3 - 6 so that they could get to work before the traffic jams started. I asked to meet the person responsible. He came a little after 08.00 and said that he was Ronen. He said that before he would listen to us he wanted to know what had happened when we had received the telephone from the worker. We said that we had wanted to photograph it but when we had been told to return it we had done so without photographing. He said that we had endangered our lives and that it was a "very serious security offence" because there might have been a bomb in the instrument. He asked for our cameras so as to check what we had photographed. We said that we would show him anything that we had photographed but would not give him our cameras because he might delete what we had photographed. We told him about the demand of the workers and he said that he did his best so that all the workers should be transported to work by 07.00. We also spoke to an armed guard who told us that he earned 40 shekel for a workday of between 8 - 10 hours. If we work out that he earns about 500 shekel a day and works 20 days a month he earns 10,000 shekel a month.
8.30 We left the checkpoint.
In making a comparison one must remember that most of the Palestinian workers who work in building or in agriculture earn about 150 shekel a day and from that one has to take off the cost of transport and the various taxes so they are left with about 100 shekel...that is 3000 shekel a month.