Eyal Crossing, Eliyahu Crossing, Wed 15.7.09, Morning
Translation: Bracha B.A.
04:00 – Eyal Crossing
The crossing opened exactly as we arrived. We wanted to get to the place where we would see the line of people waiting outside in front of the entrance (next to the security road) but the gate through which we could get there was closed. We walked to a place where people leave the checkpoint at the opening where the turnstiles are.
We received contradicting answers regarding the limitations on bringing in food. ON the other hand, everyone told us that they could not bring in liquids such as ice water, cola, or oil. One small bottle of water is permitted.
Raya and her son stayed next to the turnstiles and I went to try and get to the other side to see the people coming in. The gate opened for one of the cars and I was able to pass through. Since it was still dark I was unable to photograph the huge mass of people waiting in line. The turnstile there opened for several minutes allowing groups of people to go through and was then closed again until the group entered and disappeared from view. In general, people were moving.
I went back to the exit from the checkpoint, to Raya. People coming out are complaining about the X-ray machine which they feel is carcinogenic.
A security guard from Modi’in Ha’ezrachi comes up to us. He answers our question regarding whether the inspection room is dangerous to people’s health and causes cancer by claiming that it definitely does not. He says that he himself goes through many times each day and there is nothing to worry about. People still demand that a doctor come to check it.
We went to check the bathrooms: the building was empty but could be smelled at a distance. I photographed the dirt and mud, which was truly horrible. I could not photograph the smell...
We checked the water fountain. There is a faucet from which one can fill a bottle with great effort. The flow is either too strong to fill the bottle or too weak. There is also a drinking fountain but it has no water. Apparently it is there as a reminder of the days when it once worked.
There is a kiosk next to the parking lot. Many workers buy coffee there as well as sandwiches that cost NIS 5. If there had been chairs there we would have bought something as well.
Most of the complaints are about the carcinogenic inspection facility where people are held up for a long time in crowded conditions. They also complain about the inhumane and apathetic attitude towards people coming through the checkpoint and the lengthy and difficult procedure that people have to go through from when they leave home in the middle of the night, at 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 AM, until they get to Eyal, where they have to wait for hours, standing up without moving, until they get out. Only then they can begin their journey to their workplaces in Israel.
Some people come from Jericho, Nablus, and Qalqilya and the surrounding area. All of them talk about the lack of sleep before their long work day begins. Standing in line for hours is much more difficult than their work day itself. When they get to work after all these difficulties they are already tired. They begin and end their workday with accumulated fatigue.
All of them are constantly plagued by anxiety that they will miss their workday. For this reason they get to the checkpoint hours before it opens, at 4:00 AM. When they get out they wait for their rides, and sometimes they wait for a long time because the driver waits until all the workers get out of the checkpoint. Whoever is very late misses the workday.
We left when we saw that there were only 20 people waiting at the entrance to the checkpoint.
07:00 Gate 109 Eliyahu Crossing
We met a Palestinian driver who takes workers from the checkpoint to the hothouses. He was angry at us and said, “Don’t come here, you aren’t helping us. You have no reason to come here. Go talk to the Minister of Defense, do something.!”
Raya told him what had actually happened. “I did meet with the Minister of Defense and talked to him. We are doing what we can, no more and no less.” The conversation continued and the man became less harsh. He asked us to come every day. “It’s important that you be here every day!” He took our telephone numbers and gave us his. We parted as friends.
Everyone, including the driver, complained about yesterday, which was intolerable. The line did not move. People stood there and did not move forward until 9 in the morning. According to them the soldier was a young kid who did not care, and they felt that there should be an older supervisor with a family, who would relate to people as human beings.
Today it is a totally different picture. The soldiers changed and the male and female soldiers are wonderful. It appears that everything depends upon the soldier who is posted there and less upon orders. People get used to orders, but not to rudeness and lack of concern on the part soldiers who are young kids.
07:45 – Gate 1351 - Ras Atiya
There is almost no traffic. Children are on summer vacation and it is therefore particularly quiet.
The soldiers are bored. They let us stand on the other side of the checkpoint where there is shade. We left and went back to our car.
From far away I saw a shepherd that I had met during one of our shifts there. We went to visit him in his tent on the hill near the checkpoint. We met his wife and daughters and saw the mattresses spread on the floor outside – he sleeps there together with his two sons who are how herding his sheep. His wife was combing each of her five daughters’ hair. The family has 12 children. Three are married, two are shepherds, and 5 are lovely girls who look happy. (Where are the other two?)
They have a house in the village of Wadi-A Rasheh. (?) However, since the fence now separates his home from his pasture they now live in a tent next to the field that is still open. He is alone and moves the tent three times each year. He also returns home sometimes. Before we left we were served small cups of sweet tea – all while we were standing in the hot sun because there are no chairs and no place to receive guests.
I photographed the family and promised to bring them the picture. The girls were pleased to be photographed and to see themselves on the camera screen.
09:00 – We said goodbye and promised to come again. . .