Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 3.1.10, Morning
Translation: Bracha B.A.
The checkpoint is not new to us and the dawn of the first |Sunday of 2010 was the most difficult days that we have ever seen at this checkpoint in the past few months. Nothing happened that was out of the ordinary, but the shouting and rebukes that we constantly heard over the loudspeakers from the direction of the facility together with the crows of thousands of Palestinians waiting to pass through were enough. A man from a village near Jenin told us, “I have 10 children. What can I do…” People have been waiting since 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and are tense and anxious that they will make it to their rides to work on time and are therefore hurrying to be first in line. People push each other to get through the first turnstile. The dark, and the cold wind outside, intensify the feelings of degradation that these places evoke (the fences, walls, closed rooms, and narrow paths exposed to the elements). We also understood that the Palestinians who arrive at this checkpoint at this early hour “enjoy” the right to work, but the degrading attitude shown to them only exemplifies their low status – a combination of their ethnic origin and “blue collar worker” status.
At the same time the facility is being beautified and decorated with a new painted white metal sign reading “Ephraim Gate” hangs on a stone wall near the entrance to the parking lot. There are also small businesses flourishing such as hot sahlab, pita bread, and other foods that we could not identify, coffee, and the gardening work at the checkpoint also continues, with annual flowers being planted as if the cost of water has not risen or there is no water shortage on the West Bank.
04:25 – The entrance gate to the parking lot for the vehicles that take workers to their work places throughout the country is still locked and cars are parked outside. When the gate was opened some of the area that had been used up until now was covered with plastic and could not be used since Friday.
.04:30 – We arrived at the entrance area and immediately after that the checkpoint opened. A representative from the APPI standing on the Palestinian side estimated that there were 1500-2000 people in line.
The turnstiles began to operate and a group of several dozen people ran to take their places in front of the magnometer. The area in back of it is crowded. Loud voices are heard and from here on in the invisible voice on the loudspeaker constantly instructs people, rebukes, sends people back. It also sounds pressured. “What’s that bag? Put it in back, you’ll go through in a minute. Get back, one by one, “ People shout at each other and the loudspeaker issuing constant instructions drowns them all out.
It’s impossible to keep from associating the scene with moving cattle through the barn.
04:39 – Another group of about 50 people moves through the turnstile. People have already begun to come out after being checked and begin to fill every free space.A man complains that the restrooms are closed. When he approached the guard to ask for them to be opened he was treated with disrespect and sent away. He undoubtedly felt even more degraded when he asked us to ask for him. Naomi went up to the guard and he told her that the lock was broken. (There’s time to tend the gardens but no money or time to see to something as essential as restrooms in a place where thousands of people pass through.)
.People who work in Hadera and live in the area of the Reihan-Barta’a checkpoint still complain that they have to pass through this checkpoint, and that the checkpoint does not open at 04:00.The flow of people coming out of the checkpoint does not stop for a moment, but we noted how many people came out during a given amount of time. Between 05:05 and 05:10 112 people came out of the exit. We returned to the entrance to the checkpoint and on the way a man complained to us about the fact that they had not yet repaired the fence that fell and showed us that he had been scratched by the fence. People continue to arrive at the checkpoint and at this point in time, according to a representative of the APPI there are still about 400 people waiting to pass through and it appears to him that today more people are going out to work in Israel than usual. The commanding voice on the loudspeaker continued. Some of the people take their shoes off and pass through the magnometer and walk through in their socks on the dusty concrete floor. Occasionally there are people who are asked to empty their bags on the table and to show their contents..
06:30 – A man comes back because he has no permit.
06:36 – We left and there were still about 400 people who had not yet gone through.