Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Thu 19.8.10, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
We arrived at the roadblock at 4:30 a.m., after a break of 3 months. It is the second week of Ramadan, many labourers rest at the side of the road before a day's work. Those who leave early have a wait of some two hours before them before their transport arrives. Many of them sleep on the traffic island or at the side of the road. In the central area labourers stand in long lines saying their morning prayers as one mass. Others pass the time. The café by the roadblock exit is open even though it is Ramadan and there were even a few customers. No complaints were heard, no one approached us. Someone said that today and yesterday everything was OK. He said that the problem is on Fridays because the roadblock is opened late (5:30 a.m.) and it becomes very crowded. We went over to the entrance side of the roadblock where there were still very many labourers. There were long intervals between groups and then many people were let in at once. We asked the security guard if we could talk to the local manager and he called him. About an hour later the manager, Ronen, arrived and told us he was dealing with Chana B.'s request (a MachsomWatch activist) about various issues. He detailed them and said they were all being dealt with. According to him there are 3 double checkpoints and at each checkpoint there are two lanes, on Fridays there are two checkpoints because only 1100 people cross compared to 3500 on other days. On Sundays more labourers cross (some of them with permits to sleep over in Israel). The lengthy intervals between the groups arise from security problems which are checked on the spot. At any rate, according to him, by 6:00 a.m. no labourers are left outside the roadblock. After that they are able to deal with families arriving to visit prisoners.
A change for the better occurred 4 months ago: the return into the West Bank takes place without any inspections. No magnetic cards are swiped and, in fact, there is no inspection or any monitoring of the labourers and thus there is no crowding.
25,000 Palestinians hold entrance permits to Israel and 70% of them are used, the others not. The reason for not using the permits is not clear. The next change due to happen in the near future is the building of a gate which will direct the taxis transporting the labourers to the car park so that they don't park on the road. The road should be available for pedestrians (from the roadblock to the cars). In this way another gate will be added to the way to freedom, sorry, to the workplace. The issue of transport is indeed in need of a review.
Once there was a large car park for everyone. It was then divided into two thirds for transport and one third for roadblock employees. It was then turned into a sterile area, half for transport, a quarter for employees. Later the quarter for employees grew and grew taking up the sterile area. (Sterile = labourers without cars.)
Later the taxis were taken out of the fenced area and parked on the road or any reasonable place outside the car park. The employees' parking grew and the rest became somewhere for the labourers to wait, including an area with an awning and benches, an area for coffee and sandwiches and somewhere for prayers. They intend to put in a water fountain at the request of the labourers. Thus we reach the next stage which should happen in the near future: a car park on the west side of the road.