Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 24.5.09, Morning
Translation: Bracha B.A.
04:20 We arrived at the Irtah crossing. There were two guards in the facility who directed us to the parking area. The parking lot for Israeli cars has been expanded since our last visit two weeks ago and is surrounded by a high fence above the concrete walls.
It is still dark but at the southern entrance we can see the crowds of people who are gathered around the three entrances that are about to open at 04:30, as well as the long line that winds southward.
East of the entrance is a huge sign that reads “Our hope” and a large picture of a flower across the width.
04:33 The gates open and the women who have been let in first begin to run through the turnstiles to the magnometer, where they wait because of a malfunction that is taken care of after a few minutes.
The three turnstiles open and close alternatively, and each time they open about 80 people go through.
04:45 We note one of the workers who is coming in to keep track of how long it takes him to come out. Two of us go past the exit. Transport is done via dozens of taxis that are waiting for passengers in the parking lot.
04:50 The first Palestinian comes out after being checked. Another few women come out. There is a delay. The few people who come out report: “The machines aren’t working, they are only checking permits and there are no palm checks.”
05:02: More women come out and bitterly report that there is confusion and that the computers are not operating.
05:10 It appears that the malfunction has been fixed and the flow of people coming out increases. The worker that we marked enters the facility. He comes out at 05:15. A number of men and women stop near us to say good morning, to complain, and to ask for help. One man tells us that he is a plasterer and works in Ramat HaSharon. In another week he will be 40 years old and he can then remain tin Israel to sleep close to his place of work. Men older than 50 have a separate line and pass through more quickly. When we ask we receive a description of what everyone went through from the moment they arrived at the facility. There are three sleeves inside the facility that people go through. They place the bags they have with them on a conveyer belt and they pass through an X-ray machine. The men are asked to pick up their shirts. After they pass through the sleeve they go up to the palm inspection point. There are 14 of these. Today only 8 are open.
05:20 We skirt the building on the way back towards the entrance to the facility. About 20 women are sitting on the curb waiting for their ride. At the entrance everything stands still. No one is going through. There is shouting in Hebrew over the loudspeakers: “There is a delay. The problem will be taken care of in a few minutes. Everything will be OK.”
05:25 People are going through the entrance again.
05:35 A few people trickle out. The exit turnstile is locked and those who have already been checked are blocked from the exit and congregate in front of the turnstile.
05:42 The turnstile opens and a constant flow pf women and men come out.
06:25 There is still a very long line of people in front of the turnstile at the entrance to the facility – we cannot see the end. A Palestinian returns with bags and puts them on the ground and tells us that he was not permitted to take some of the food he brought with him. He transferred two small bottles of olive oil, a plastic container with cooked food, and a plastic container with olives and gives the bag to a man on the other side of the fence. We were told that it is permitted to bring in a small bottle of water. Large bottles of water or ice and cooked food is not permitted and they are told to throw it away.08:40 the line of workers grows shorter. A man from the Red Cross is already standing next to the magnometer, ready to receive the families who are going to visit prisoners. After ten minutes he receives permission to begin to bring the families in. The entire family passes through with men, women, and children at 07:15.
Karin’s additional note:
At about 06:00 at one of the crossings [where I was standing] in the area of the entrance to the facility the guards asked me to move my car from the parking lot but retracted their request after they learned that we had been given permission to park there by members of the previous shift. They explained that they needed the area for a new activity that was about to take place in the facility that was not connected to checking. Meanwhile the passenger vehicles are crowded into the small area that remains, and are overcrowded and in danger of running into each other and maneuver in the small area.When I wanted to continue towards the entrance the guard tried to prevent me. He said that he had instructions that it was forbidden for me to go there. Even when I told him that women from Machsom Watch have been standing there several times a week for over a month, that I had already been there several times, and had been there three days ago, and that the area was open to Israelis, he demanded that I wait until he received instructions. I continued to walk saying that I was joining my friend who was already there (Yona) and then he called “What, there are already two of you?” I continued to go to Yona at the entrance. Tziona telephoned to say that the soldiers were demanding them to leave the “erasure road”. I went back to the entrance again and stood next to the corner between the separation fence and the facility fence. The area is littered with garbage and papers: it cannot possible be an “erasure road.” 07:15 Yona and I go back to the car and Tziona calls to ask me to clarify with Smadar if and where we can stand. An army vehicle arrives, one of the soldiers comes up to ask if I am Karin. Tziona told him that I am responsible for the observation project at the checkpoint, or something like that. He spoke again about the erasure road, and he was immediately joined by two other soldiers. I explained to them that we are not damaging the erasure road where we stood. We left.
Additional note Karin has already reported what occurred during the shift, but I would like to add details of what occurred when Karin, Yona, and Atar were not present. The first event occurred at about 04:50 when Karin, Yona, and Atar went to the exit of the facility. Suddenly the loudspeaker announced “Tziona, get back from the security road. It’s forbidden for you to be on the road.” An armed IDF “Hummer” appeared with its lights on and stood next to me for about five minutes and next to Akiva. After several minutes it left without the soldiers saying a word. At 05:00 the vehicle returned. Four armed soldiers got out and came up to me. A lieutenant named Matan told me that I was standing on the erasure road and that I could not stand there. I asked him if those were new instructions because we had been there for two weeks, but nothing had been said before. He answered that he was enforcing previous orders. We asked where exactly we were allowed to stand and he took a large stone and placed it about 5 meters from the fence. From that point it was impossible to speak with the workers who were waiting in the entrance to the facility, and impossible to see. When we asked who had issued the orders, the lieutenant s Matan said that the order had been given by Ephraim, the brigade commander in charge of operations. The Hummer departed, and a few minutes after that Atar, the photographer, appeared. After we explained to him what had happened he photographed the stone with us standing next to it. After about 10 minutes Karin and Yona came back from the exit area and we told them about the event. Karin said that she did not know about any such orders and she approached the fence and took pictures. Since she had approached I also did so. The loudspeaker of the facility made no announcement. At about 07:00 Karin and Yona and Atar said that they were leaving for another checkpoint and I left for my car. Suddenly a car arrived with Esty Tzaal and two of her friends, Dvora and Miki, and I told them about the event. Esty wanted to show her friends the place where the workers wait at the entrance to the facility. All of us approached the fence. We saw that a Hummer from the army was driving towards us. It stopped next to us and four soldiers got out. One of them was a lieutenant named Uri. He spoke politely and the rest of the soldiers were calm. We talked with him for a quarter of an hour. He asked who we were and after we answered him he said that the shift of soldiers had changed. When we told him about what Lieutenant Matan had said, Lieutenant Uri answered that he did not know about any such orders, and that we could stand at the place where Lieutenant Matan had told us that we could not. Esty photographed him and the other soldiers and us and he did not prevent her from doing so. After talking for a quarter of an hour during which the soldiers behaved politely they left and we stayed for another 10 minutes and then we all left for the other side of the facility because Esty wanted to show her friends the exit area. We left at about 9:30.