Eyal Crossing, Eliyahu Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 12.8.09, Afternoon
13:40 Eyal Passage
We approach the shelter where the cab drivers are siting, and ask them what is going on in the checkpoint. They told us everything they knew and overheard. They tell us that a man who left half an hour ago had been held for four and a half hours. They said that people are held in there for between three and five hours. They told us of a woman that they poured out the entire bottle of gel she had, in order to check it. This woman was supposed to have arrived from Beer Sheva. They claim that people are held for no reason at all. Inside apprently ther are toilets and air conditioning but they do not let the people use them. Outside there are no toilets and no drinking water. There is a tap with hot water but they are probably going to close it. "They treat us like animals" says one guy. They say that people arrive at the checkpoint at three in the morning and get stuck there until nine o'clock. Then they have go back because they lost a day's work. They say that the authorities give people numbers so that they can go through, for which they pay a shekel. At times it turns out that the numbers are meaningless and they are paying for nothing. Also the authorities make appointments for sick people in Israeli hospitals, a month ahead, and then at the checkpoint they are being delayed or not allowed to go through at all.
A woman leaves the checkpoint and Rachel goes to chat to her. The woman tells here that she is from Tira, with two young children. Her husband is from Azzun and he arrived to give her some things. They were not allowed to transfer those things from on to another and now she had to do a huge detour in order to meet with him again. She has to go the Tzoofim Checkpoint and leave through Checkpoint 109, a detour of 125 km. Her little girl was crying because she saw her father but could not approach him.
The drivers listen to the story and nod. They say that Israeli Arabs stand in queues and are being searched while Jews from Judea and Sumaria are not checked, and go through freely. In addition to that they are not allowing people to pray there.
The civilian company which runs the checkpoint causes more problems, say the drivers, than the soldiers had in the past. After every hour they have a long break and then the doors are closed and no one goes through. They also mention checkpoint 109 where the soldiers are being replaced every day. Until they learn the ropes they are being replaced and that makes things much worse.
One man leaves the checkpoint. An Israeli is waiting for him in a vehicle. He says that they have been checking some box for two hours. He shouts: "Garbage checkpoint!" The Jewish guy in the car tells him to hurry up and enter. Jews do not go through here. Another person comes out and said he had not waited long. There is no pressure now, he says. He who has a bag waits a long time according to him. He adds that even now you cannot bring through food nor drink. When the soldiers were here one could bring in a child for the day, and bring food through. Today there is pressure and they do not allow food nor children.
A cleaner who works at the checkpoint arrives. He has been working at the passages for two or three months. As a worker he says he is ok. He works through a contractor, and gets twenty shekels an hour for eight hours a day. This is a minimum wage. Rachel asks him is if he is not being accused of collaborating. Some workers throw at him such remarks but he needs the money.
Within the fences of the checkpoint we see workers of the checkpoint going through while an Ethiopian security guard walks a few steps ahead of them with a gun, to guard them.
14:30 We leave for Checkpoint 109.
14:40 Tzoofim Checkpoint
14:45 Checkpoint 109
Soldiers greet us and we carry on our way. There are no Palestinians.
There is a short queue of pedestrians going towards the occupied territories. After a short time more and more people arrive. There is only one checkpost active. One person tells us that waiting time is half an hour. We hear the person doing the checking shouting at one woman to go through slowly and show her hand. Someone tells us that they are checking both papers and palms. After a few minutes the entrance is totally congested and the queue is trailing. Some people are stuck inside and others outside in the sun. Someone is stuck in the turnstile
At 15:25 they announce: " A discrepancy in an ID".
One woman stands by the side of the queue because she cannot push her way through and they are not letting her in. Only a few minutes later they let her in. The turnsstile stops and there is no more going through. Only when inside the queue is cleared do they operate the turnsstile again. People say that in the morning on the way to work they can wait between half an hour to an hour and a half, and on the way back it can take up to half an hour.
A businessman with a card has waited for an hour. He has a meeting in Tel Aviv. The card says that he is a senior businessman and has to be treated politely and respectfully. This did not happen. He just stood there and waited simply because they did not let him through. The man is from Jinin, and there it is better than here, says he.
These two checkpoints loom large and threatening, like horror sights, with all sorts of passages that look like large ditches, and projectors and lots of carousels and dugouts. Alien sights. What happens inside - one cannot see.