Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 13.5.09, Morning

Edna C and Tsiona O (reporting) Translator: Louise L
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Bringing a video camerainfo-icon Edna Canetti joined me for the morning shift. It was still dark when we arrived at 04:15. We saw hundreds of people crowding quietly without pushing waiting for the turnstile to open. Some women were sitting on the ground. It was cold. After about seven minutes a shielded army Hummer without lights appeared. The driver was invisible. The vehicle stopped about 10 meters from where we were standing, and after half an hour it drove away. The soldiers did not say a word to us. The people waiting in line greeted us, “good morning”,  “shalom Tsiona”, “thanks for coming”. I introduced Edna to them. She kept photographing the whole shift and spoke to the people. Next to the turnstile a man and two children were selling coffee to the people waiting in line. They told us that before they go to school, from 3 a.m. until 6.30 a.m., they sell coffee to help supporting their family. We were told that there is an alarm at the turnstile, which is supposed to sound if somebody faints or is injured because of the pressure in the line. However, the alarm does not work and nobody repairs it. A man told us that there are additional turnstiles at the checkpoint. The individual inspection in the rooms is insulting and humiliating. Since there is nobody from Machsomwatch present and no other external supervision is taking place, the soldiers performing the inspection feel free to be abusive and arrogant. Sometimes, after having been inspected, a person is sent home without any explanation, meaning he has no idea what to do in order to be let through the next time he comes. Today about 50 people came to the District Coordination Office to renew their permits. We saw the man in charge of the DCO, a Druse named Eyal, in the parking lot where the workers are picked up by their employers. We asked him to open the DCO earlier than scheduled. He agreed and opened at 8:20 instead of 9:00.  

At about 6:20 most of the people waiting in line had entered the checkpoint. One person whose hand had been in a cast was sent back since his handprint after the accident was not identical to the print before his injury.  

In the parking lot an Israeli contractor, who is building the Kupat Holim Health care Center in Pardessiya, asked us to do something about the long time the workers have to wait at the checkpoint. He is obliged to complete the construction on a certain date, but because of the delays at the checkpoint he will not be able to do so. We promised to do our best and to keep him informed. 

At 8:10 five workers arrived at the checkpoint. I went to the parking lot and asked a guard with a machine gun if they could open the turnstile again for the five last workers. While I was talking to the guard an old man who had been standing and listening came up to us and said: “After 7 o’clock I have to take care of those bastards coming to visit their relatives in jail, and I can’t open the turnstile for those who come at 8:00.” I asked him: “ How dare you call old women and children bastards?” He answered me: “They are visiting terrorists  and bringing them sweets, but we are not allowed to visit Gilad Shalit.” I said: “Those who are visiting the prisoners are not responsible for what somebody in their family did.” He left. I asked the guard who the man is, and he answered that he is one of the people in charge of the checkpoint, and that his name is Yaron.  

At about 8:30 we started on our way home, but we changed our minds and returned to see who had been sent home. A man on the other side of the fence told us that he had been sent home. He described the inspections at the checkpoint. There is a sealed room with glass walls. The person, who performs the inspection, gives orders through a microphone from the outside. Usually people are told to stand only in their under pants and to answer psychological questions such as “Do you drink alcohol in Israel?” “Have you come to look for women in Israel?” “Why have you brought the charger for your cell phone? Do you intend to spend the night in Israel?” According to him this inspection lasts half an hour at times. There is no chair in the room and no heating, and sometimes the person is left there without being investigated. He told us that there are no such rooms at other checkpoints. There the use of X-rays is enough. He said that the rooms cause great anger among the workers and that they should be cancelled. He repeated that our presence might relieve the suffering of the people who are investigated. At 9:15 we left.  

In conclusion: Action should be taken to allow the presence of Machsomwatch representatives at the inspection facilities. This would shorten the waiting time and prevent some of the humiliation that the inspected people have to go through. There is no reason whatsoever for abuse. Abuse does not contribute anything to the security of Israel. It does the opposite. If the inspection is fair those who perform it have nothing to fear from observers like us.  

Tsiona Or