'Anabta, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Sun 24.5.09, Morning
Remark: A late shift because of the necessity of coordinating cars.
We went straight to the north side of the checkpoint in a change of checking. About 60 people were waiting, many of them tired and had sat down, crowded together waiting near to the first turnstile so as to get in as soon as it opened. Some minutes after we had arrived the buzzer sounded and all went as quickly as possible through the second turnstile. We waited close of the fence, trying to speak to people and to get important details. It was very difficult to talk and to understand because of the distance and in the confusion of fences and turnstiles. It is almost impossible also to document anything and so, what can be seen? Almost as if in an abstract picture, difficult to analyse - bits of bodies, colours, and clothing, eyes locking, the mouth moving and we try to reas the lips.
Yes, he is from the area of Jenin but there are many other places where they had to pass checkpoints. A taxi to get here costs at least 20 shekel. There is a big family, he works in agriculture, his son in construction. They wait, it will be better, he smiles and makes a movement of Inshallah. The gate opens. Now he has to concentrate so as to survive. Soon he will go into the yellow building with the pastel colours,.BORDER PASSAGE, EPHRAIM GATE. TERMINAL. In simple language. IRTACH TERMINAL. His body language becomes even more obedient, there is many electronic devices which will check his goods and his body. Over his head guards of the security company, Mikoed, in routes which are meant for this. The rifles are pointed down so as to make sure that nothing gets out of hand. In the nearby room, full of screens, other workers follow carefully each movement that he and his friends make and document with cameras which are present in all direction in and out of the terminal. In the end, next to one of the 16 booths, maybe they will open more than three."There is not enough manpower." There the magnetic cards will have to be checked, all his life will appear on the screen and if there has been no further suspicious detail he will be allowed to pass at least into the last turnstile where also there are often many long moments of waiting for the buzzer to open the steel door to the same turnstile which leads to the parking lot. He will make haste to find the car of the contractor who has been waiting or not waiting for him to get out. A trader form Nazlat Iaa e says that they were inside for more than an hour. More than 100 people waiting. Why?
The coffee vendor comes up and gives us coffee through the fence. A Hummer arrives with 4 smiling captains who ask politely that we do not approach the fence so that they should not have to turn out (like now). They stopped to speak to us.
When we arrived we met Ziona O. who was at the end of the dawn shift and she said that the soldiers had told her very sternly not to stand where we had been standing and told her to stand by a makeshift white line. I want to mention that we often come to this and other places where it is sometimes like this and sometimes like that. As if to say tomorrow there will be another avocado. The information and the documentation must be gathered in somehow.
The time lost in the waiting and the minutes and the cruel routine amongst the violence, drama and storminess, the BECOMING ACCUSTOMED is very hard , hard to document, that what cannot be seen is hardest to see. It is impossible to bring the daily life to the talk of the sitting room. People don't buy it. It is not interesting. But it is forbidden to ignore it. If we do not come close and speak to the people we will never know. It is clear to all that there is an attempt to drive away the eye and the ear which wants to see and hear, to force it to stand obediently on the other side of the white line, to see from afar.
A minute after all have gone through a young man arrives, waits two or three minutes, a buzzer, the turnstile opens and he goes through. From far off we see three buses with prisoners' families setting off. They will only arrive for the afternoon visit of about 15 minutes and then go all the way back to the turnstile at Irtach.
8.45 We go the side from which the workers pass. It is empty. The steel gate is closed. After some minutes the gate opens and a man comes out with his belt in hand, a sign of the checking. His fact exhausted to a new day of work or not. Soon he will know if the contractor has waited for him. He says that there are many many people inside, hard to stand in the line, the head hurts, they want to drink, to go to the toilet and so it is each day. Up to now the workers have gone through, the families and at 9.00 the traders will come through.
8.45 Some workers with parcels of food in their hands come back as the contractor simply did not wait for them. A father of 6 children from Jenin, left the house at 3.15 and waited at the checkpoint from 4.30 to 7.00. Inside the building he waited two hours. When he got to the parking lot the contractor had left and he had returned. He cannot be in an Israeli area without his employer. He says that instead of earning anything today he has lost 45 shekel because of the price of the taxi.
A marble trader from Kafin who goes regularly to a client in Natanya says that inside the terminal there is not place to sit, they stand all the time and his body has broken down.
The look of the Irtach checkpoint changes so quickly. After a pretty large investment to develop and make a garden around the checkpoint "so that it should be nice for the passing Palestinians" it has simply become another ugly checkpoint. All the time one sees people holding plans, coming and going with boxes of forms, all sorts of engineers and planners. Measuring and working things out. Looking into the pages of plans. After trees had been planted (olive trees, what else?) and various coloured flowers you arrive one day and everything has been pulled out. The pavement stones and flower boxes which had decorated the olive trees have disappeared. Once again the planners come and instead of the flowerbeds and the trees which had stood there as a sign of good taste are caravans which fill the area of the garden which has disappear. Here a fence is added, here parts of a wall and try to understand what for. The Ephraim crossing which they had been so careful in the colours of the walls, pastel and delightful, have now been surrounded by ugly caravans and an opaque fence and wall. They wanted it to look like a passage but here is the true face and again there is a neglected and ugly checkpoint, the Ephraim checkpoint has once again because the Irtach checkpoint. Do you remember the playground for the children of the prisoners. It is abandoned and dirty. How long can one be hypocritical.
The big parking lot has once again been divided into two and the area allocated to the workers of the terminal has been enlarged and encroaches without measure on that of the parking lot for the vans of the employers waiting for their workers. It may be that the number of security workers has increased so much that the parking area had to be widened and caravans put in. It is worth while to check this out. At any rate the DCO offices which the army runs have remained the same size.
The Irtach checkpoint. Cargo.
The place is buzzing, much more movement of trucks entering and leaving, loading and unloading. Many nervous security people forbidding us to photograph. We did not stay.
At the police checkpoint, at the entrance to the occupied territories a truck is being checked. The driver, documents, baggage compartment and some questions and he goes off. At the area of the army checkpoint at the exit from the territories two young settlers "From the land of Israel." More specific I ask. Avne Hefetz are chatting to the soldiers and waiting for a lift to Israel.
A soldier checks the car of someone from Avnei Chefets, an orange ribbon on the mirror of the driver. He is taking 3 workers who have green IDs to work in Israel. (maybe he is returning them to Irtach. The soldier asks for documents and they go off.
We ask permission to go into Jubara, this is checked and permission received, the gate is opened and locked after us. We stop to speak to Abu Hatam and again and again breaks our hearts as we hear him trying to remain optimistic. "It will be good." In the small garden which has been left to him after so much has been stolen he grows what he needs to survive. From his porch I try to see the view which he sees when he sits there. What does he see as a daily routine? A checkpoint with everything of which it consists. A pillbox, many fences, soldiers, a well locked gate, buildings which house soldiers, many settlers in their cars going to work in Israel in the morning and coming back in the afternoon. The checkpoint as a hitching post is efficient and safe. He says the blue police, the security workers, the separation fence of which the building has been stopped by the court. A steel yellow gate, massive, which moves from side to side as is necessary.
Only his own people he can hardly see. If he finds the strength to ask the soldiers to open the gate he will go carefully through to the "centre" of the checkpoint in the direction of Tulkarm, There he can meet and walk around as if he is a free man of 81. The inhabitants of Jubara he can hardly see as they hardly comes his way. He lives at the end of the village, near to the checkpoint, far from the centre of the village and their way out is usually through gate 753 (the children's gate). This in the direction of Ar-Ras and Tulkarm. He is still strong, he smiles and asks us to have coffee.
On the road not far from the centre of the village the pupils are coming home from a short day of learning. Today the holiday between the school terms starts so they explain to us.
We ask to go in the direction of Ar-Ras and are refused. We ask that they ask "high-up" and they check. Permission is granted and we go through. The checkpoint itself is fairly quite. Reservists. Now and again cars are checked. A bus full of pupils arrives from Ar-Ras on the way to Jubara. He asks us to remain in touch with him as his permit has expired and he is scared that he will not be able to pass. We met him on the way back and he had gone through.
Anabta. The process of widening the area is continuing with great speed. This new checkpoint will be another Beit Iba.
11.30 Dir Sharif.
No DCO representative. The checkpoint is nearly empty. A car from an NGO Italian organization wants to go through. The commander refuses but after a few minutes changes his mind and lets them through. "OK you can go". As if he had not refused them a few minutes ago.
Although we had been promised that the number of the DCO office would be noted on one of the blocks of the checkpoint as at Huwwara so that people should be able to contact the office there is no sign.