Eyal Crossing, Sun 18.10.09, Morning

Observers: 
Karin L., Nava M. (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
Oct-18-2009
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Morning

We asked Mark, the security officer: What’s happening today?

Reply: It’ll be ok.

When?

When there’s peace. 

3:55

Darkness; the yellow gate in the fence is still closed.  On the Palestinian side we can see a mass of people on a line whose end isn’t visible, everything looks calm and quiet, in the background a faint, collective murmur of the crowd.  We made eye contact with the representative of the (international) ecumenicals.

A few minutes after we arrived two guards showed up, demanding we leave the area of the fence and the trackers’ path.  While we’re arguing about our right to observe people entering the facility the turnstile opens (4:03).  We “relinquished” our rights and walked toward the exit. 

The first people were coming out by 4:08, including two women.

Four inspection booths are operating.  Passage is uninterrupted, but goes very slowly.  Very loud shouting and announcements over the loudspeakers (a mixture of instructions to the laborers coming through and to the inspection staff).  When we asked one of those going through what all the shouting was about, he replied briefly, “They just treat us like animalsinfo-icon.”

One woman, who came through at 4:30, reported that she had arrived at 2:30 in the morning.  She was in a good mood, saying that today the inspections were ok, and that there are bathrooms inside.  Others, on the other hand, mostly men, offended, irate and bitter.  The rate at which people exit isn’t constant:  from time to time there are delays lasting a few minutes, and sometimes we counted 50 people coming through in 5 minutes.  During the first hour only about 500-600 people came through, all of them reporting that “inside it’s a mess.”    

We’re on the phone all the time with the ecumenicals’ representatives who are at the entrance to the installation in Qalqilya.  Among other things, they’re counting the number entering.  1200 people came in by 5:00 (1426 by 5:15; 3150 by 6:40).  It took about 1¼-1½ hours to go from the entry turnstile to the exit turnstile (we timed it together with the ecumenical representatives).

They, like us, hear the noise coming from the hundreds of laborers being delayed inside the building.  We contact the humanitarian office (as do they).  We try to find out from one of the security personnel and to talk to someone who introduced himself when we arrived as the security officer (Mark).  His reply: There was (is) an electrical malfunction in the conveyor belt of one of the scanners.  He’s busy dealing with it.  People coming out report the same thing happened last Sunday. 

There are no lines at the inspection booths that we can see.  It turns out that the conveyor belt scanner for bags is the weak link, and the cause of the delay.  Most of those coming through carry only one small plastic bag, their meal for the day.  But today is Sunday, when people with permits to remain in Israel for a week come through.  They carry bags which, in addition to food, contain clothes and toilet articles.  When the scanner prohibits taking a bag like that through, its owner has to go back and put it through three or four more times, and finally to remove everything for inspection. 

The shouting increases.

At 5:30 the ecumenicals tell us that the line has broken down, the crowd is trying to push through, two Palestinians policemen are trying to restore order, but what can they do in the face of 500 irate laborers?

People are coming through more quickly, more than 100 in 5 minutes.  It seems to us that the person at the humanitarian office took care of the complaint.

6:00 Two more booths open.

6:40 Only a few dozen people remain outside the entry turnstile.  Within, before the scanner, a mass of laborers has gathered, already fearing that they’ve lost their chance to work today.

6:45  The exit gate closes and the exit turnstile locks.  A few minutes later they reopen.  It turns out that there was a technical malfunction, the doors close automatically.

7:00  According to the ecumenical representative, a few dozen turned back, having lost a day of work.  People come through at a rate of about 50 in five minutes. 

The noise and the shouting continue.  A light flow of people exiting, all of them claiming to have arrived this morning at 3:00 or at 4:00. 

Shim’on, who’s in charge of the Eyal facility, comes over the “talk” to us.  A macho presentation about the Israeli presence along the border fence, about technical malfunctions, brief electrical outages that disrupted the computers.. 

We remained until 8:00, until the last people had come through (who also had arrived at 4:00).