Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Mon 1.6.09, Morning
04:08 We reached Irtah and found hundreds of workers sitting on the ground in the dark, waiting for the carousels to open. And as usual the women sat next to the carousels. In the background - the prayer of the Mua'zin from Tulkarm, and many of those waiting joined the prayer, while remaining in the queue. After the prayer they told us that they were very tired because on average they sleep 4 hours a night, because they get up at 02:00 to reach the checkpoint in good time, and they get back home only at 20:00-21:00 . There were workers who said that on the way to Irtah they were inspected at other checkpoints: at Einav, at Homesh junction and at Bizaria village which is situated between Homesh and Einav. In addition to the above there are also "surprise checkpoints" erected by the IDF. According to their calculations they are wasting on average 4 hours a day at various checkpoints to and from their work places in Israel. When the carousels did not open at 04:30 I called the private cell phone of the man in charge of the checkpoint. He did not answer but the carousels opened at 04:35. Those who have been waiting ran to the metal detectors. Later we heard shouting from inside the installation.
At about 04:52 we saw an elderly worker returning from the installation because they had not let him through. He told us that the night before soldiers from the Border Police had stopped him and taken away his permit. They had told him that he would get his papers back in the morning at Irtah checkpoint. He called his employer who lives in Modi'in, and the latter promised to come and sort things out. He waited for his employer until 23:00. His employer arrived and talked to the BP soldiers. But he did not get back the permit. The soldiers told the employer that the worker had to present himself in the morning at Irtah checkpoint where he would receive his permit. This morning he got to Irtah but has been told that he had to wait till 08:00 until the opening of the DCO. Another worker came back because he had brought in a small piece of watermelon but was not allowed to bring it in. He gave it to those in the queue and returned to the installation. Another worker returned with a transparent plastic bag containing half a kilo of sugar. We photographed it. At about 05:10 the elderly worker whose permit had been taken returned because his employer (for whom he had been working for seven year) had not paid his taxes. He was afraid to give us his name and the name of his employer. At 05:16 another older worker returned because the palm print machine rejected him. He is a 49 years old man from Tulkarm, and has been working for 20 years for the same employer at a flowers nursery in Nitzanei Oz. They told him to wait till 08:00 for the DCO to open. Other workers told us that the installation is manned by three Ethiopian girls who send them to be inspected in different rooms, and treat them in an insulting manner. They complained of this insulting attitude. Today the inspection is very slow. The opening of the carousels was late apparently because of delays in returning from the Shavu'ot holiday. One worker told us that he had some medicine in his carrier bag which triggered off the metal detector. The inspector came back and told him to take off his coat. He said that they could see it in the ex-ray but insisted on him taking off his coat. A 47 years old worker from Kaffin village, near Kibbutz Metzer , owns an olive grove on the Israeli side of the fence, but they had not renewed his permit to come and work in his own olive grove. He told us that he had 6 brothers but only one of them got a permit. That caused suspicions and stress in the family. Six times he had approached the Palestinian Authorities in Tulkarm and was told that they still had no answer as to why his fence permit had been taken away from him. Another worker is sent back because he had two bags of cucumbers which he was taking as a present to his employer.
By 06:34 most of the workers had gone through - approximately 4000 workers.
06:45 an IDF hammer arrived. No one descended and it went away 5 minutes later.
At around 07:00 a private car arrived and four builders who work in Or Akiva and Caesaria for Yaniv Turjeman. The employer had refused to have them working because of them being late. I rang the employer and explained to him that they had been delayed because of the inspection and that it was not their fault. The employer thanked me politely and agreed to have the back working. The workers thanked us.
07:20 We departed.