Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 29.10.10, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
We arrived at the checkpoint around 5 AM, just when it opened.
We stood near the entrance. Groups of people ran in, trying to get a good place in line.
The line of laborers is long, filling the entire space between the fences. Much noise and chaos, attempts to cut in and move up to a better location. When the gate opens, people run in quickly and again there’s pushing and confusion.
We then moved over to where people exit.
We heard many complaints from everywhere. People approached to tell us how Fridays were particularly difficult. That the checkpoints opens later, at 5 rather than at 4, results in much crowding and tension, and that’s why there’s pushing and violence in the line to the entrance.
People are injured when others climb over them to get closer. They say many are injured, and they don’t know how to improve the situation. They despair at what goes on, and at their inability to impose order, as if they were waiting for someone to come from outside and organize things. On the one hand, they want us to speak to the Palestinian Authority (because the area up to the revolving gates is still under its control), and on the other hand say that it’s their own fault. “It’s us, we’re like that…” They internalize the Israeli attitude to them.
In addition to repeating the requests they’ve made before to open earlier on Fridays and open more lanes, they described the procedure they undergo within the building as unbearable, accompanied by continual humiliation by the security staff. Including ridicule, contempt and wasting their time.
After they enter, people move through three lines:
Line no. 1: Rooms which most of the younger laborers enter – where they present their ID and wait an indeterminate and unknown length of time to get it back.
Line no. 2: Body scanning in a machine whose health effects – they’re exposed every day – are unknown.
Line no. 3: Older people cross without any special inspection.
An ordinary, middle-aged man (neither young nor old) can choose Line 1 or Line 2, which is essentially a choice between two evils. Today, for example, Line 3 didn’t open, so everyone was inspected and exited breathing hard and angry.
Some explained repeatedly what we already knew, adding that two of us were here and did nothing.
They were right.
One of the laborers who spoke with me at length said that he expects them to strike again in the coming days, since they’ve had it up to here. He said that nothing is being organized but it could occur any time. It’s in the air.
I asked him to notify us.
At 06:20 we returned to the entry area and saw the last laborers going in.
They walked slowly.
All the laborers entered in about an hour and a half. Why should I open the checkpoint at 4? That’s what the checkpoint manager will say.
It’s clear that uncertainty about “what will it be like today?”, the danger of losing a day of work or anything else that could disrupt the routine only increases the laborers’ confusion and creates a vicious circle.
A routine, involving rising at 2 in the morning to reach the checkpoint at 4 and spend two hours on one line or another growing increasingly nervous every singly day. You have to be very strong to survive such conditions.