Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 2.6.09, Morning

Tsiyona O., Michal B. (reporting), Smadar B. (guest) Translation: Galia S.

04:10 – As far as it can be seen in the dark, very many workers are waiting beyond the fences. 

04:30 – The passage is opened. Approximately every 2 minutes the turnstiles open for a short while and people rush inside. The last one trying to pass is usually thrown back by the turnstile and often gets a hard blow. There should be something like a buzz or a lit bulb to warn that the turnstile, electrically operated from an invisible place, is about to stop (it involves people, not cattle). 

04:33 – Shouts are heard from within. There is a commotion but it's impossible to see what is going on. 

05:15 – Workers who haven't been allowed to pass come back. Some of them point at the palms of their hands. Perhaps they didn't succeed in passing the hand scanning. Yesterday they didn't allow somebody to bring in a medium sized bag of sugar. Bringing in coffee is forbidden. 

These workers earn a wage of IS. 80.00 – 120.00 a day, which has to cover the fare in each direction. Are they also supposed to buy a hot drink in Israel from that meager earning? It is also unreasonable that a worker who spends 16 hours on average outside his home – from 03:00 in the morning until 19:00 in the evening – may want a hot drink? 

05:40 – The mass of waiting people has passed and now everyone who arrives enters right away. Usually there are lines until 06:30. We move to the exit side of the passage. 

We hear complains about delays inside the rooms. One worker says they put 30 people in a 2X2 meter room, packed like sardines, where they have to wait, no explanation given. Two Ethiopian women who work there ignore them, keep talking above their heads, laugh and demonstrate a humiliating attitude, according to them. The women enter the room half an hour later, pass their hands on the permits (dusting? Cleaning dirt?) and then they are allowed to leave. 

There are repeated complains about delays because of fingerprints and about being given the runaround until they finally get the permit to leave. Somebody says that with such an attitude there can never be peace with Israel. 

One worker has been delayed for an hour and a half and another for half an hour. It has taken other workers 10 minutes to pass – no delays. 

They tell us that sometimes there is a separate passage for people over 45, but it hasn't worked today. 

We hear complaints about problems with the machine that identifies fingerprints. Other complaints about delays on the way back in the afternoon. Families returning after visiting prisoners were delayed at the passage, where things were going slowly. 

There are also complaints about problems with lands located in the seam-line zone. Fifty people from a village near Baqa al Gharbiya are not allowed to go through the passage close to their village and they are told to go through Irtah for their work in Pardes Hanna, which means an additional traveling hour in each direction. Other people from the village of Qaffin near Baqa al Gharbiya complain that they don't get a permit to work the land beyond the fence. One of them says he has been barred from getting to his piece of land for 8 months.  

Merchants complain that this week the passage permits of 1200 merchants is about to expire. Renewing the permits is a slow process. In the past, one of them says, permits have been given at a pace of 200 a day, whereas now only 30-50 permits are renewed every day.