Eyal Crossing, Sun 11.10.09, Morning
Today was the first day the CP was opened after being closed for the Succoth Holiday (October 1 to 10th, 2009). We were told by the Ecumenical Accompaniment people that at 4:00AM the line outside was not long. However, by 4:18AM a long line started to form and by 4:42AM there were about 700 people on line outside. By 5:00AM there were about 1000 waiting. It seems one of the two x-ray machines for checking packages was not working and the bags were being checked by hand. In the first hour the terminal was open only 200 people went through as opposed to over 1000 that usually pass through at that time.
We immediately called the DCO. They claimed that help was on the way. It never came and until we left at 8:00AM there was total chaos at the terminal. The Palestinians were under terrible pressure to get to work on time. The Palestinians were able to keep the line outside the terminal on the Palestinian side in order despite the hundreds of people waiting but once inside the building there was a back up at the x-ray machine. We were told that there was fighting and pushing and we could hear sounds of a mob, shouting and whistles blowing, all the way outside the building where we were standing. At 6:00AM some people started to turn around and go home rather then fighting their way into the line. At a certain point the guards were turning back people telling them to go home and the entrance was closed.
Contractors who were waiting for their workers outside were extremely angry. They came to the exit and tried to speak to the guards. They were constantly on the phone trying to speak to their workers. The wait in the terminal was at least an hour and a half. This was not counting the wait on line outside the building. Some people had waited 3 hours or more total. At 7:00AM one contractor who had to bring his workers all the way to Ashdod told his workers who were already in the terminal but stuck on line to go home. He felt that by the time they got out and he drove to Ashdod in the heavy morning traffic, he could not get any work done. He says that he must pay 60 shekels a day for each worker to the National Insurance even when it is the checkpoint's fault that they can not get through. He claims that there is always some problem and there is no point in complaining because it never does any good. He says one contractor was beaten up by guards when he went in to complain.
A Palestinian who lives in Beedia and who had actually made it through told us he was going to go back home. He has to take a mini bus from the parking lot to Highway 4 and from there he has to take a bus to the central bus station in Tel Aviv. From there he has to take a bus to Ramat Aviv where he works. He had left his home at 3:00AM and it was now after 7:00AM. By the time he would get to Ramat Aviv it would be about 10AM and he didn't think it would be worth it for just a couple of hours work. He has to be back at the terminal at 5:30PM to return home.
The people coming out were very upset:
B'al'ah gan (chaos); It's a war in there; The closure when we couldn't work was better then this; Going through the line is worse then a month's work; We are herded like sheep and told to go here, go there; No good today, no good; Nothing is moving; Today is a lost day; Why are they doing this to us; What a terrible situation; (For real, it is a mess today).
It was very difficult to understand how after 10 days of the terminal being closed it was just discovered this morning that the x-ray machine was not working. And equally difficult to understand how in the 4 hours we were there (4:00 to 8:00)that no one came to fix the machine.