Eyal Crossing, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 28.12.10, Morning
“Ordnung muss sein.” “The soldier’s doing his job.”
A little past where the road from Tayiba curves to the right, leading to the checkpoint, Palestinians who’ve already come through wait in small groups in the darkness for their employers to pick them up. In the gray parking lot, “sterilized” by asphalt paving, small fires burn, people gathered around them to keep warm. The cold wind in this open space reminds us, despite the relatively warm night, that it’s still winter. Those building “the Jewish state,” its agricultural laborers, the ones nurturing it, are forced to wake in the dark, cold night to undergo the checkpoint’s travails.
We’re told the checkpoint opened today at 4.
We arrived and found the revolving gates at the entrance motionless. The area between those gates and the metal detector is filthy, plastic bags blowing in the wind. People stand crowded on the path, appearing in the darkness as a single mass. At the end of the path is an area lit by the stands, and it seems that at this hour, and apparently because of what day it is, the line is less congested. We see at a distance the headlights of cars that keep arriving to drop people off, the workers…
Voices come from the building. The revolving gates are now moving again. This is how the “system” appears to work: the unseen hand operates the revolving gates, the open area fills with the allotted quota, the gates move, the area fills, the area empties. Four or five times. 50-60 people in each group. Then the gates stop for a while. And the process repeats itself. Some remove their shoes on the dirty concrete before passing through the metal detector.
We spotted a person who entered at 05:05 and we moved to the exit.
The muezzin’s call from the nearby village was the signal for many to begin praying, something we hadn’t seen at Irtach in the past.
The man who’d entered at 05:05 came out at 05:20. Whoever ventures to arrive still wearing a belt exits the building trying to put it back on.
The revolving gate at the exit stops and prevents those who’ve already been inspected from coming out. Three minutes later it starts again.
We returned to the entrance. On our way we talked to laborers from Jenin. They arrive at the checkpoint at 02:30 to get on line. They work in the center of the country and this checkpoint is more convenient for them.
The revolving gates at the entrance stop. Five minutes later one of those waiting yells toward the installation. They don’t open. At 05:51 a solitary voice calls from the crowd, “Walla, iftach, iftach.” But, unlike the tale in One Thousand and One Nights, the magic words don’t help…
We call the DCO. The soldier who answers doesn’t know where Irtach is. She also doesn’t know where the “Efraim crossing” is, but she says the checkpoint is supposed to open at 06:30. Meanwhile, as dawn is breaking we see the path at the entrance is full and very crowded. At 05:57, as voices were heard from the building, the revolving gates began moving.
06:35 – Eyal. Day has broken. The air is still filled with the odor of the bonfires. People are still coming out of the installation, but fewer are now waiting for their employers. We spoke with one of them. Each time he crosses he’s detained for a long time because of his dark skin. They think he’s an African “refugee” (We’re Bedouin, he told us. His family originated in the Beesheba region).
Zufin. A few dozen people wait for inspection.
Eliyahu crossing. A few people on line for inspection.
Habla. The two buses with the children arrived. One of the children, accompanied by a soldier, opens the luggage compartments. The buses cross.
About 15 people still wait to exit the village. From time to time they move forward slightly. The soldier tells them “back, back,” motioning to them. The “system” here: Five people are chosen from the waiting group. They advance a few steps, stand separately from the others. Hand over their IDs, wait until the previous group of five leaves the inspection building, then these five enter. One by one. Two youths who wanted to return to the village soon after they exited were asked, “So soon?”, by the soldier – meaning that he saw them when they left this morning. He took their IDs for inspection. We tried to joke with the young men about it and were told, “The soldier’s doing his job.”