Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 18.6.10, Morning

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Nur (photographing), Miriam (reporting), Hagar (guest)

Translator:  Charles K.


This is a continuation of previous Friday dawn reports from Irtah.  Sna’it wrote the report from 21.5.10, Nur the one from 11.5.10.  Today, as in Sna’it’s report, the inspections were conducted inefficiently, and the turnstiles through which laborers enter the installation stopped three times for 10 to 15 minutes (between 05:00 and 06:15).  At other times the turnstile stopped for a few minutes. 
The shouts heard from the installation were testimony to the great stress.  It was very crowded and sometimes fights broke out among the laborers. 
Shortly after 06:00, the inspections became more efficient (apparently additional staff from the security company running the facility start working at that time). 
At 06:30, when we left, there was still a very long line (on June 11 the inspections were efficient and by 06:00 most of the laborers were on the way to their jobs in Israel).


We learned something else today – the cost of travel from Irtah to their jobs falls on the laborers, not on their Israeli employers.  The price varies, of course, depending on the destination.  Construction laborers working in the Netanya region told us they earn NIS 150 for an eight-hour day, less NIS 20 for round-trip travel costs.


(I asked Miriam, a new volunteer, to write the report.  Nur)


It’s five in the morning, we’re walking on a dirt path and hear a buzzing.  I’m told that’s the sound of the checkpoint.  The checkpoint has a sound of its own. 
The voices of thousands of people waiting, crowded between the fences, of people who rose early, leaning into the turnstile that are operated electrically from a distance. 
When will someone push the button to liberate them?  And then it happens!  For thirty seconds people rush toward the revoturnstile into the large installation.  But just as the turnstile suddenly opened, they suddenly stop, and a man is trapped inside.  How long will he have to wait?  I asked myself: Whose hand presses the button?   Does the person whose hand it is see the man trapped inside as the minutes tick by?  Why doesn’t he open it and allow him through?


On Friday the checkpoint opens only at five, rather than at four as it does on the other days. 
Fewer inspection stations are open on Friday inside the building, and what goes on there isn’t visible from outside.  Only the voices can be heard.  Loud shouts are audible from inside the building.  We cross to the other side and talk to the men and women coming out.  Sentences like, “Every Friday it’s terrible!”  and “Why do they humiliate us this way?” are heard repeatedly.  Accounts of people coming to blows when someone tries to cut the line.  And in particular, despair at the long wait.  An hour and a half from the time someone enters through the turnstile until they exit the inspection building.


The state of Israel allocates 47,000 work permits to Palestinian laborers.  They cross the border every day through three main crossings for laborers run by a civilian company, and also through agricultural gatesinfo-icon for which the IDF is responsible.  A year and a half ago, the government decided to privatize security at the checkpoints for laborers.


At 06:30, hundreds are still waiting.  The turnstile open for shorter periods of time, and people wait for twenty minutes or more until they reopen.  The shouting within the building grows louder. 
Talking to laborers who apparently missed their ride and are sitting next to the parking area, we can see their frustration!  “It can’t go on like this!  Why don’t they open at four?  Why are there only two lanes, rather than four like on other mornings?  You have to tell people what’s happening here.”


Tired, creased faces, worn-out clothing, plastic bags containing the day’s food. 
The daily occupation:  not really cruel, just endlessly humiliating.