Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 10.10.10, Morning

Natalie C., Ruthie R. (reporting), Translator: Charles K.

.  04:15We arrived a little late and saw there were already people on the Israeli side, so it must have opened on time, at 04:00.We went to the location at the fence where we could see the Palestinian side, and ran into three members of the EAPPI group, from Norway and Sweden.  They’re here for three months, living in Tulkarm.  They observe four checkpoints – Irtach, Eyal, Qalandiya and 300.  They say that the Irtach checkpoint is the worst.By 04:20 they’d counted 1,000 Palestinians crossing.

At the entrance to the crossing:  It’s very crowded at the revolving gate.  People pushing, and sometimes young men jump over everyone to the head of the line.  There was one incident where people were actually hitting each other; there are injuries, and police (the men show me their injuries as they exit).People go through the revolving gate quickly, about 25 at a time, men and women together.

At the exit area:  Only six booths out of a possible 16 are open for document inspection.  We tried to identify the bottleneck, but couldn’t.  Everyone coming through is angry at the line outside and at all the apparatus inside the facility they have to go through, as well as the “room”.  How many inspections are necessary? They ask.  And why isn’t this open 24 hours a day, like the crossings to Jordan? One woman asksMany, many people are waiting for their rides.

05:15-05:30  At the entrance:  People aren’t being allowed through.  No explanation, the revolving gatesinfo-icon simply don’t turn.  It so happens that now it’s quiet and people wait patiently.  About 2,100 people have crossed already.The person who opens the revolving gates was relieved.  How did we know?  Someone suddenly yelled at us, “Machsomwatch get back or we won’t let anyone cross!”   We moved and the revolving gate opened.  Chaos began  again: young men climbing along the fence over the heads of the waiting crowd.  How can such behavior be prevented?We saw new signs – at the entrance and exit to the checkpoint:  “Security Installation – Photography Prohibited,” in three languages. 

We timed how long it took to go through.  A 50-year-old man went through in 17 minutes.  A young man, wearing a bold purple shirt, took 32 minutes.  Our international colleagues felt there were relatively many people crossing today.  Talking to Palestinians waiting for rides it turned out they were correct – the pomelo and tempuri orange picking season began today, and many laborers were hired.

06:10  3,300 people have crossed by now.

06:20  You can see the end of the line!  We didn’t believe we’d see it so soon.  The crowding was terrible till now.

06:30  The line ended.  About 3,600 Palestinian laborers exited here this morning to work in Israel