Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 26.5.09, Morning
Tom is preparing a film.
Summary: Our watches that started to visit on a fairly regular basis brought about an improvement in the situation.
The formation of a corridor leading to the outside carrousels; lighting in the waiting area; activation of 3 “lanes”
instead of two.
Several problems await solution in the future:
Starting the examinations at 04:00 instead of at 04:30.
Formation of a separate lane for women.
To ease the draconian limitations on the food and drink allowance. People with a duration of their workday
from 03:00 till at least 18:00, deserve diversified food and also drink. Even if there are security constraints,
a measured and logical approach is required.
The dependence of the worker on his Israeli employer leads to unconscionable exploitation and a hunger wage.
It is advisable to check with “A Line for the Employed” if there is a way to monitor the wages of Palestinian
workers in Israel. That should be one of the functions of the Ministry of Labor. They are afraid to complain
and for good reason.
The Barrels Checkpoint only opens at 05:00. It is desirable to open earlier; for the workers this is too late.
We tried to understand how the examinations are performed, and what the meaning is of ‘lanes’, ‘chains’,
‘rooms’ and ‘windows’.
We arrived at 04:40 (the post opens at 04:30) and we saw the first workers exit from the post, mostly female
workers , who had been given priority by the male workers in order that they don’t have to be jostled between
the men, which is an affront to the women, and certainly to Palestinian women, for whom it is forbidden
according to their faith. Later we saw a few women pressed between the men. That means that a women who
wishes not to be pushed together with the men, must come very early in the morning.
Immediately we started hearing complaints, that are voiced again and again about the goings on at the
First of all – why don’t they open up at 04:00 (people wait from 03:00). That would make their arriving in
time at the workplace easier.
Why is there no separate line for women.
Complaints about food forbidden to bring to work (humus, sausage, coffee, water bottles, bottles with oil).
For people who earn so little to support their large families there is no money to buy food in Israel.
We went to the back, where people are waiting before they enter the building. We saw beyond the fence
a mass of people – hundreds and possibly more, because we cannot see the end of the line.
In comparison to what I saw a month ago there are two innovations:
fences were built that form a corridor to stand before entering the carrousels, so that the number of people
standing in front of the carrousel is limited and this prevents the terrible pressure which frequently causes
injuries, sometimes necessitating their transfer to hospitals. We saw an orderly line without pushing, quietly.
Indeed, this reminds one of an orderly passage of cattle and the humiliation is no less. People told us that
that is what they feel, that they are treated as less than animals.
The second thing – there is light, at least they are not standing in darkness anymore.
On the average every two minutes the carrousel is opened, and a lot of men (30 – 40 on average) run
towards the magnetometer and beyond it the examinations that we cannot see. Even before the
magnetometer everyone takes off anything that might cause the apparatus to beep – from experience –
like belts, sometimes shoes, bags of food, and put them on a rack next to the apparatus. It all happens
fast and quietly.
While we were standing there, we saw a man and a woman returning to the carrousel in the direction of
Tulkarem. We did not manage to find out from them why they were returned (because of the distance
between them and us between the fences). Afterwards the coffee vendor explained that it was either
because the examination of the hand failed (and then they must wait for the opening of the DCO and
they lose a workday) or because they brought a forbidden item of food (see above).
From conversations with the people we tried to find out the routine of examinations inside the building.
- Sleeves or belts. After passing the magnetometer they put aside all luggage, including what is in their
pockets and they undergo some sort of examination. Aside from that there is the examination of the hand
(where some fail, and then they try again and again, and that holds up the others. Whoever does not
succeed must go back, and wait until the office opens, to have the picture of his fingerprint taken
again. This happens mostly in those who do physical work and their print is eroded).
- Part of the people, according to instructions by the examiners (especially younger persons)
have to undergo a body search by a machine that turns around the body.
- Rooms. Also here only part of the people are directed, also young persons. If I understand
Correctly – a group of some 30, out of which 7 at the same time are examined. Their belongings
are taken from them to see if they had any contact with explosives. This examination holds up the
whole group from half an hour to one hour.
- Windows. These are computer sites at the end of the process.
One month ago only two sleeves were working (the workers call them belts). But since two weeks
three are in use and that speeds up the examinations by 50%. Apparently thanks to our watches they
started to examine routinely.
Today 5 or 8 windows were in use, according to different persons.
We read stories about interrogations and about people who must undress up to their underpants.
In a conversation with M., a friend of mine who passes this point daily since it was opened, he told
us that there are no interrogations, and that he never has seen persons who had to undress, but he
heard about these things.
We spoke to several persons who waited to travel to their places of work.
One man comes from a village in the Jenin area. Left his home at 03:00 and arrived at the
checkpoint at 04:00. On the way there is no fixed checkpoint, but there is a flying checkpoint,
where he is delayed for half an hour. It took him 45 minutes until he passed the outer carrousel.
Passed the examinations in about one hour.
Another man from Far’oun (a village close to the checkpoint) arrived at 04:15 and exited at
05:30. He works at fruit-picking for the firm “Pri-Or mehadrin”, seven hours a day, and gets
85 shekels per day. We spoke to his boss, who gets 110 shekels, and we asked if they are willing
to complain at “the Workers Line” about this transgression of the minimum wage law. They were
reluctant and refused to give their telephone numbers. Their dependence upon their Israeli employer
who affords them their permit to work inside Israel is complete and there are those who exploit
them. If a worker does not show up for work (e.g. is ill) he is fined 54 shekels.
Another man from a village near Tulkarem works as an electrician in a building firm, makes 150
shekel a day.
I waited for M. who was delayed by examinations inside the building from 05:30 until 06:20.
He told us that today the examinations are slow.
A man from Nablus passes through the barrel-checkpoint, which opens only at 05:00. He left
his home at 03:30, waited for an hour for the barrel-checkpoint to open, passed the Einav
checkpoint. Reached this passage at 05:30, now it is 06:20 and he just came out.
On the way home he arrives at 16:00 ay the checkpoint and he is home by 19:00 – 19:30.
Someone says: ‘I hope it remains like this. A month ago it was hell here’.
‘Until two weeks ago there were only two sleeves’.
They don’t allow water bottles. What should we drink?
A transit van full of people. All have to wait for one of the workers who is sent to the rooms.
All of them are delayed.
The taxi drivers are looking for clients. A trip to Kfar Saba costs 10 shekels, to Geha 15.
And that also is deducted from their miserable wages.