Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 18.1.11, Morning
The checkpoint opened at 4 AM. At the beginning, four booths were open, but soon six were operating, and people flowed through quickly and continuously. There were no intentional interruptions in the flow during the entire time we were there. People told us that, for most, the inspection takes 5-7 minutes. A few were held for a longer check, which also didn’t take much more time.
By 05:15 most men and women had crossed. The volunteers from the church organizations, who had been observing on the other side of the checkpoint during the past six weeks, told us that it was unusually fast this morning.
Some of those crossing attributed this to the strike at the checkpoint a month ago!
In the past, people coming out would pray in small groups. Today many waited and gathered for an organized prayer of 400-450 people.
Almost all the women today were at least middle-aged, and even older. There were only a few young women, all dark-skinned. It’s certainly different from what we remember from the summer.
This is what people told us:
About lengthy, rigorous inspections during the period prior to the Jewish and Moslem holidays.
Continuing complaints about how slow the crossing is Friday morning.
An urgent request for better protection against the rain:
a. In the fenced corridor leading to the checkpoint itself
b. In the inner parking lot where laborers wait for transportation.
c. A request that taxis returning laborers at the end of the work day be allowed to let them off in the inner parking lot, so they don’t have to walk to the distant outer lot exposed to the wind and rain.
People told us they live like animals – moving and eating when they’re allowed to do so, leaving home when no one, especially the children, is awake, and often returning just before the children go to sleep, and having also to go to sleep early because they have to arise so early.
We decided to see what things were like at Eyal. There, too, quite a few people had already come through the checkpoint itself even before we arrived, although there’s still a lighter flow coming out. A large canopy has been erected at Eyal, protected on three sides. People crowd together there, as well as under the roof of a wooden shed-like structure where sandwiches and drinks are sold. Cars are allowed to park in the inner lot, but there’s still some distance from there to the checkpoint exit.
It’s obvious there are many more young people among the laborers at Eyal than at Irtach. People can choose where to cross and to return. They think fewer cross at Eyal, and that inspections are faster than at Irtach. It seems that many more of those crossing at Eyal work for employers who send transportation for them, and groups wait for their rides. Since they can’t know how long it will take to get through the checkpoint they have to arrive very early, and if they come through quickly they then have to wait, most of them outside, until their transportation arrives between six and six-thirty.
This is what people told us:
There’s no drainage of the ground under the canopy or around it, so it’s quickly flooded in case of rain.
Here, too, people talked about how long their work days are.
A man who said “I’m from the south,” spoke bitterly about how Israel confiscates land, demolishes homes and sprays cultivated land to kill the crops. He said that what Machsom Watch does is like adding a little water to a quagmire to make it slightly less impassible, but no more than that.
Maintenance workers in the health system expressed deep despair about the possibility of change. Why do you need us?, they asked. When we replied, “cheap labor,” they said that our lands and our jobs were taken from us; we have no choice. One said, I’d wait ten hours a day to get back a square meter of land. Why do you stand at the checkpoints? they asked. We said that our reports are distributed and more people in Israel learn what’s going on. Does it help? they asked. We said that the material is distributed abroad as well, which may bring outside pressure on Israel. And does it help? they asked. We said that outside pressure resulted in the dismantling of some checkpoints. Yes, they said, they dismantle checkpoints, and instead there are settlers everywhere and take more and more land.