Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 28.6.09, Morning
Translation: Galia S.
We arrive at the checkpoint at 04:00. About 20 older women, agricultural workers, sit at the head of the line and pray. The line of people waiting to enter is very long as it usually is every Sunday. The workers we ask how many people are waiting say that the line stretches as far as the village of Irtah. They all seem glad to see us and many of them say they feel relaxed and safe when they see us. They say in Hebrew "Hats off" and "Thank you for coming".
The turnstiles open at 04:27. The women who sit at the head of the line run quickly in order to enter the facility. One of the women is stopped by the checkers. Over the loudspeaker she is told in Hebrew again and again to go back and take everything out of her bag. "Why don't you understand?" they shout at her. "Is it difficult for you to understand?" She doesn't understand Hebrew and one of the waiting people explains to her in Arabic what the checker wants her to do. Finally, after she takes everything out of the bag and puts it on the table, she is allowed to pass with an "Okay" ("Sababa") over the loudspeaker. I mention the words the checkers use because they reflect their attitude toward the workers.
The line moves forward very slowly and the waiting people lose their patience fearing they'll be late for work, which often means losing a workday. They complain that the facility didn't open at 04:00. Round 04:40 three workers come back because the contractor has gone. Two others come back because of some problem with their permit. At about 05:10 four kids who sell coffee to the people in line get here. We know each of them by name and also their ages from previous shifts at the checkpoint. They spent the night at the checkpoint so they can sell coffee early in the morning. I give them some dolls I promised to bring them. I had an old teddy-bear, a Mickey Mouse doll, 3 different sized furry dogs and a pink, heart-shaped pillow, all of which old toys. The children, happy to see the toys, smile and thank us. Ten minutes later two guards of the private security company "Modi'in Ezrahi", show up wearing the company's uniform, pointing their weapon at us. They tell me I mustn't give the children anything. I shout back that they mustn't point their weapon at me and tell them to lay their weapon down because it is forbidden to point a weapon at civilians. I take up my camera intending to photograph them, which causes them to lay the weapon down and split.
Until 05:50 the turnstiles opened at long intervals and the line moved forward very slowly. The slow checking made the waiting people tense. Round 06:00 an IDF jeep with 3 soldiers arrives. The commander tells us that it is forbidden to hand over toys because we might be transferring drugs in them. Than he adds that we are standing on the patrol road. He refuses to tell us his name and talks rudely. Picking up a small stone and putting it on the ground, he tells us to stand near the stone. We tell him that Alon, another commander, said we were allowed to stand where we did, but he insists that we stand near the stone. We try to explain to the soldiers that we brought toys to the kids but they refuse to listen. When the jeep leaves, we go back to stand near the fence.
The line of people waiting to enter (approximately 4000) goes on until 06:50.
At about 07:30 we leave the place.