Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Mon 25.5.09, Morning

Nina S. Roni Sh. (reporter)

Translator: Orna B.

We arrive at the Passage. We park in the general car park. On our way we already see workers who have been through inspection. By the exit from the parking lot about 50 women are sitting – they were among the first to exit and are now awaiting their transportation. Most of them are agricultural workers. At the exit (by the turnstile) there is an unending flow of people. Most of them greet us and say that today things are better, and that it is due to our frequent arrivals for observing the Passage. The parking lot is overflowing with people and cars.

We stand by the turnstile at the entrance to the facility. The turnstile opens and about 15 people enter running. In the next 11 minutes about 300 Palestinians (in groups of 10-35) cross over. This rhythm continued most of the time. When we arrived one could not see the end of the queue and the congestion was massive. At 05:20 the queue stretches as far as the sun shelter, and at 05:35 there are a lot less people joining the queue.

From 05:15 till 05:35 we counted about 400 people entering.

They all go through a magnometer. The carrier bags have to be left on a shelf and all metallic objects are taken out. Occasionally they have to take off their shoes and belts. At times they have to go through the magnometer again holding their carrier bags. Instructions are given over a loudspeaker by an unseen entity. In all the time we were there we did not see one worker having to give up an item he was carrying. We were told that women are let through first. Later indeed there were very few women going through.

We talked to the Ecumenical women who were on the other side of the fence. At 05:35 they measured the time for a certain guy who stood in the queue until he went into the installation – 13 minutes. Sadly we did not see him coming out.

Back to the area of the exit from the facility. There is still an unending flow of people coming out. Most of them report that today was a good day. Some are coming out with bags of food, others with small food carriers. Some are without any bags. We ask them about the food restrictions. They say that it is not allowed to bring in frozen water bottles or large quantities of food. A Palestinian we chatted to said that there has been an announcement as to what was allowed and what was forbidden to bring in, and if people bring in forbidden things, such as a bottle of oil, they just delay their friends.

In a conversation with Ronen, the manager of the facility, and with the security supervisor, we brought up the subject of food. They claim that it was forbidden to bring in "commercial" quantities of food, and that in the past people would bring in several bottles of oil, jars of olives, etc. This is what they are trying to avoid. They also said that the mass in the frozen water bottles look like a 'suspicious object' when ex-rayed. And anyway - "there are taps in the facility, so why cannot they bring in empty bottles and fill them here?" They said that they let through 3000 workers each morning within two hours. Workers who arrive later go through within minutes. It is in their interest to let people through as quickly as possible and not delay them. We asked why two thirds of the parking lot were fenced off and empty, apart from a few cars belonging to facility personnel, whereas the Palestinians had to crowd in a small part of the parking lot in between cabs and the employers' cars, some of whom are obliged to park outside on the road side. We were told that later on the facility employees' car park will fill up. This seems strange as hardly anyone goes through later.

06:35 We departed.

After a short visit to Anabta checkpoint and to the Barrels checkpoint we returned to Irtach.

08:05 In the employees' car park there still is the same small number of cars.

A few workers are still waiting in the sun shelter for their employers.

One bus of prisoners' family members awaits the passengers who are going to Ktzi'ot prison. One couple from Tulkarm who have been told to be there at 06:0 are waiting and do not know when they will set off on their long journey. The rest of the passengers have not had their inspection yet.

08:15 We depart.