Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 21.7.09, Morning
Dawn shift, 4:10 - 5:00 AM
We arrived about twenty minutes before the checkpoint opened. We could see a large group of people waiting for it to open.
The checkpoint opened exactly at 4:30. The turnstiles at the entrance start and stop intermittently, controlled by the people in the inspection booths (we can't see whether they're soldiers or employees of Modi'in Ezrachi, the company operating the checkpoint). About twenty people can go in each time the turnstile is released. They line up in front of the metal detector and enter the checkpoint one at a time.
From time to time someone yells over the loudspeaker - "One at a time! Wahad wahad!," "Stop! Go back!" "Put the bag on the table!," "Stand on the side!" That's how the inspector directs from a distance the movement of people through the metal detector. The orders are shouted in Hebrew, over loudspeakers which are hard to understand. People don't always understand what they're supposed to do, which leads to confusion and delays.
People leaving the checkpoint report that they went through relatively quickly today. The rate at which people exit indicates that there aren't many delays. Two complaints are heard repeatedly: Despite the question in the Knesset, despite the media inquiry and despite the declarations of the Ministry of Defense, there are still restrictions on the kind and amount of food that people can bring through the checkpoint. You can bring in a small bottle, not a large one, a bottle of frozen water is prohibited, cooked food is prohibited, meat is prohibited, only a small container of humous, only a few grams, 4 or 5 pitas. "Matbuach mamnua," the workers say, watermelon is prohibited.
The second complaint is that during the inspection they have to go through the scanner. They enter a glass cupboard one by one, and a scanner rotates around their body. People worry that the daily exposure to an unknown type of radiation may be harmful to their health.
To the best of my knowledge, the scanner is the "Safeview" model made by the American company LG. "HaShmira" installs them at the checkpoints. The scanners display a picture of an unclothed body and allow the operator to see whether a person is carrying something under his clothing. The company's website states that the scan is carried out by a millimeter wave. We know there were attempts to install such scanners at a number of airports in the word but they always aroused a public storm which led to the discontinuation of their use. The public opposition was based on the invasion of privacy caused by the fact that the device creates a nude image of the person being examined.
After we saw that people were going through relatively smoothly this morning, we decided to see what was going on at the Eyal checkpoint (cf. a separate report).