Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 13.5.09, Morning
Translator: Louise Levi
Nathan Sheransky spent ages in jail struggling for the right of young Jews to immigrate to Israel and to tell Palestinians on their way to work that they are not allowed to bring more than two pita breads for a day’s work in construction.
It is four o’clock in the morning. Why was I not told that at this hour it would be so cold. It is even more chilling to see thousands of people crowding behind the fences, their shadows dead silent. These people, who got up at 2:00, have already passed one or two checkpoints and since three o’clock they have been waiting here, freezing in the cold, for the turnstiles to open.
4:30 The turnstiles open. Like in a horse race the lucky ones, who are at the head of the line, pass the turnstile and run to the magnometer where they wait in line for further instructions, a line of tire people even before they have begun their day of work. Everyone is holding a plastic bag with two pita breads, they are not allowed to bring more, a small tin with humus, a big one is not allowed, two tomatoes and two cucumbers. Those who can afford it also bring Coca cola or juice. Water is forbidden, and so are melons. If you bring a transistor radio you are ordered back to the end of the line.
Take everything out of the bag and put it on the floor. Show your empty bag. Now move on to the magnometer. It keeps ringing. Take off your shoes. Why have you brought so many things. Have you come to stay for a month?
This is a line of thousands of people who have received their work permits. They have been checked by the General Security Service. They are allowed to work in Israel. Nobody has told them that the entrance to the Holy Land means so much suffering. Afterwards, on their way out from the big cement stucture, they tell us about the three turnstiles still waiting for them and about the “rooms”. Frightened, they whisper the word “rooms”. People are being picked out for inspection at random.
The room is small with a thick iron door. He has to open his hands. In front of him there is glass. "I see the officer with the loudspeaker. There is no chair. Take everything off, he tells me through the loudspeaker. I’m afraid he’ll tell me to take my knickers off as well, but he doesn’t. He asks me questions. What is there for you in Israel? Work, I answer. Do you want to fuck our girls? No, why? I come to work. Do you want to take our girls to the sea and fuck them? I am ashamed of his words and ashamed of my knickers. Do you use aftershave? No, I say. How much drugs do you smoke in Israel? What do you want of me, I don’t smoke anything, just cigarettes, drugs are forbidden. How much whisky do you buy in Israel? No, we are not allowed to drink whisky. Just like that, questions for security, for forty minutes or an hour. Sometimes he stops asking and speaks with his friend on the phone, and I’m standing there in my knickers in the middle of the room. In the end I ask him, why like this, have I done anything? And he answers, you are dressed too nicely. Maybe you’ve come to Israel to do something else, not work. What do you want, maybe after you treat me like this I might feel like doing something else in Israel, not work."
These are the people coming to Israel to work, to pick our lemons in the orchards, to build our health care center in Pardesiya, to construct a new mall in Hod Hasharon, to clean our streets, to work in our factories doing jobs that no Israelis would want o do. And they have to wear work clothes to fit our image of them. If they dress nicely, it is because they come to fuck our girls.
It has taken two hours for all the people in the endless line to get through. The workers run as fast as they can to catch the cars of their employers, because if they are late the driver leaves and they lose a day’s work. We leave the fences where we saw them enter and go to the exit to see them leave. Three buses are driving families of prisoners to jails in Israel.
People have dressed up for the visit. They are excited and moving about in the bus and outside it. The parking lot is full with transits belonging to the contractors and cabs waiting to drive those who have been delayed when answering if they use aftershave.
All of a sudden a lot of tension. If you have been to Africa you know the picture of a herd of deer suddenly feeling the smell of an approaching lion. People are tense and anxious. The gates at the exit are being locked. The search for an infiltrator is being announced. Young sturdy men in black uniforms and with earphones and machine guns are mixing with the people. They are looking for an “infiltrator”, a woman who has passed the checkpoint without inspection.
They get on the buses in pairs their friends protecting them from crowds of old mothers and young sisters. The air stands still.
The alert is over. The commander orders his unit to stop the search. The “infiltrator” a fifteen-year-old girl looking very frightened is brought out of the bus. People tell her not to be afraid, but her eyes are wide open and tears show on her cheeks. Surrounded by a wall of armed men she is being led back to the checkpoint. After ten minutes they bring her back.
At 9:30 we return home to make up for our lost hours of sleep. Four thousand people are busy building our country.