'Anabta, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 12.5.10, Afternoon

Observers: 
Slomit B., Aliya S. (reporting)
12/05/2010
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Afternoon

15:35 Anabta:
      The checkpost is empty and all vehicles are going through. I commented to Shlomit, who will translate this report into Hebrew, that she will have about 6 sentences to translate! That was before we went to Irtach!
 
 
15:55 Irtah
      When we arrived the turnstile was open and the few workers were going through the hall and out very quickly. No employees of the checkpoint or guards could be seen in the hall.
One Palestinian worker told us to watch until 16:30 when the chaos will begin.
      It didn't take that long!!! At 16:05 the turnstile was locked, for no apparent reason.
We called into the empty hall to open the turnstile with no results. Workers were arriving and standing in line. Shlomit went to speak to someone in charge.
      By 16:12 there were perhaps 150 workers jammed against the turnstile which was still locked.
 In the empty hall we saw 4 employees of the checkpoint walking slowly and nonchalantly to 4 checking windows. Then we realized why.
      At 16:15 the women and children who had been visiting at the prisons began to arrive.
The turnstile was opened but the pandemonium was intense. Men, women and children were all pushing to get through the turnstile. Arguments broke out. Some men were holding other men back from actually hitting each other. Some men were allowing some of the women and children to go through by physically blocking the workers. And then the workers would surge forward. All was chaos! The pushing and shoving was terrible. The workers were returning with bags of fruit and other things that made passage through the turnstile difficult, but even more so when being pushed with 2 and 3 men going through in the same opening. Women who had worked in the strawberry fields were returning with large boxes of berries on their heads and had difficulties going through the turnstile. Food and other things fell from bags that fell or were torn in the crush. Soon the area of the turnstile was littered with garbage.
      Shlomit had talked with the person in charge of the passage Ephraim Gate. First, it's not a private company, he told her, it's a government company. And they were trying a new system of checking, where each worker had a magnetic card which he just put on a scanner and then could go straight through. It had just been installed that day and wasn't working very well. Does that explain the turnstile being locked when the largest crowd of workers want to go through? When it was opened the workers went straight through without being checked, so why was it locked? 
      The women who had been to the prisons had to stand in line at one of the windows and have their ID cards checked. Four workers had opened windows, but in a few minutes only two windows were working. Is this the best service that can be provided to these people after a day of work or a long hard trip for a short visit to the prison? If the women and children had gone through the passage in the morning then it is known that they will return in the afternoon, so couldn't the passage be better prepared to allow them a smooth entrance? And when will we have answers to our questions?