Eyal Crossing, Eliyahu Crossing, Qalqiliya, Sun 12.7.09, Morning
Observers: Karin L., Nur B. (reporting and photographing)
The position at the entrance to the Eyal facility is now fenced in and can’t be seen. We observed only at the exit from the facility.
3:40 The exit gates to Israel open. We can see that four booths are manned. At 4:05 the first woman leaves the checkpoint. The turnstile gets stuck, and she’s trapped. A photo is attached (during the first few minutes the turnstile doesn’t turn freely and almost all those leaving get stuck inside). She lives in Qalqilya, arrives here at 1 AM. When the army ran the checkpoint, she says, the situation was immeasurably better. Her view is shared by many of the people we spoke to. She says there are food items that are not allowed to be brought in, sugar and oil, for example, and also describes a large glass apparatus which, so she’s heard, causes cancer.
The inspections must be slow; we infer this from the rate that people exit the checkpoint. Some of them put their belts back on, others their shoes. Some describe, terrified, the “rooms.” Six people are taken into what they say is a very narrow room (two meters square, one says), where their IDs are checked. They remain there for about half an hour. It’s a delay which could make them lose their ride to work.
Regarding the food permitted – A 45 year old man said that fresh meat was taken from him today and thrown away; “They threw away NIS 60 worth.” Another said that the rules are inconsistent; sometimes a can of tuna is confiscated, but at other times it isn’t. Two women tell of a bottle of oil and a bottle full of olives – forbidden. The reason for the limits is, of course, fear of unregulated commerce. Permission is granted to bring in food for personal consumption at work. The prohibition is acceptable, in and of itself. The problem begins much earlier, when the citizens of one state work in another.
Most of the workers are older than 50, and most work in construction. We met a woman who works in an old age nursing home on a nearby kibbutz. Few women go through here in the morning (compared to Irtach). Some of them complain that men and women have to go through together, without a divider between them. That’s their main problem at the checkpoint, more than the limits on food, more than having to awaken early in the morning. “I have children, it’s unpleasant,” one of them said.
Many of those who pass through here tell about the full-body scanner. They have to enter it, raise their arms. They remain there for a few seconds. Everyone enters, it’s part of the routine inspection (not random). It’s perfectly clear that this is a new machine which hasn’t previously been used at the checkpoints (not a metal detector, which the Palestinians are very familiar with). Many say they’ve heard that having to pass through it every day isn’t healthy. (We couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Neither of us is familiar with such machines at the airport. I called later, from home, to Physicians for Human Rights. They also aren’t familiar with the apparatus, and haven’t seen it, but they also received similar reports. Ran Y., from PHR, will write today to the Minister of Defense and ask to enter the Eyal facility in order to see the apparatus, and to know who the manufacturer is. That’s the only way to obtain information about the level of radiation. We exchanged phone numbers.)
A 50-year-old man from the village of Shalush (south of Nablus, near Funduk) says that until four months ago he entered Israel via Azzun Atma. Now that’s impossible, and he enters here. He’s a construction worker in Rosh Ha’Ayin. A resident of Salfit, also about 50, arrived here at 4 AM, and came through at 6. He reports that they enter the turnstile in very large groups. It’s crowded and suffocating. Some of them are elderly, there’s no air.
One man called to us, “All of us work at the Dimona atomic reactor.” Another asked, “What is this, South Africa?”
All these testimonies, about limits on food, men and women entering together and about the scanning apparatus, were videotaped by Karin.
The sidewalk at the end of the path, next to the open area, has become a prayer site. Some pray elsewhere, near the turnstile or in the open area, but most of the workers seem to have agreed on an orderly prayer area. From time to time we see groups of men praying in a long line along the fence. Photos are attached.
In the parking area-
The lucky ones who came through early sit and eat breakfast. Some fall asleep on the sidewalk. We spoke with two men from Nablus. They woke at midnight, arrived here at 1:15 AM to get a place on line. One is an agricultural worker in Beersheva who has a long way to go. He sleeps there, otherwise he’d have to pay NIS 150 every day for transportation and it won’t be worth it. He has a permit to remain in Israel for 24 hours. The second works in a weaving factory in Jaffa. They say they’re not allowed to bring more than three pitas; some hummus is permitted.
The small parking lot resembles a central bus station. Drivers call out their destinations – Segula junction, Geha junction and Tel Aviv are heard most often. The drivers who come to pick up the workers are Palestinian Israelis. One who lives in Kafr Qassem says that he lets them off at Geha junction, and from there they get another ride to their workplaces. In the afternoon he picks them up at the junction and brings them back here
6:05 Tsofin gate – four soldiers
6:07 Qalqilya checkpoint – Two soldiers in the position by the roadside. The positions in the center of the road are unmanned. People go through without being inspected.
6:10 Eliyahu gate
Vehicles belonging to Palestinian Israelis are inspected – the trunk is opened, IDs.
About 70 people wait to go through on foot. It’s very slow. They’re brought in groups of four into a room to be checked, come out after about five minutes. They say that there’s only one soldier sitting inside. Only eight people go through in ten minutes. The line is divided into two parts – in front of a small yellow gate, and beyond it. Only 15 people are permitted to stand between the gate and the turnstile leading to the inspection room. There’s no need for a soldier to direct traffic; those on line know when to open the yellow gate and allow more people to move forward. They know everything very well on their own. They’re used to it. A photo of the line is attached.
Workers employed in Alfey Menashe go through here (not those working in Israel, who would have gone through at Eyal), or someone with agricultural land in Alfey Menashe (which surrounds a large agricultural area, all of which is owned by Palestinians) who has a permit to work it.
6:50 Ras Atiya Gate 1351
Workers employed in Alfey Menashe also come through here, as well as someone with agricultural land within the settlement’s boundaries. People on foot enter in groups of five, remain in the inspection room for about two minutes. A few vehicles also go through here.
We wanted to see whether the flow of workers had stopped. The open area is very crowded but very few people are coming out of the facility. We ran into Machsom Watch’s morning shift. At 7:45 most of those going through are relatives of prisoners on their way to family visits. We left at 7:50