Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 1.3.11, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
04:00-04:50, before daybreak, Irtah/Efrayim crossingThe revolving gates through which the laborers enter opened at 04:00. The line was very crowded; people went in quickly. They came out the other end of the inspection process at a rate that varied. The first ones came through very quickly, then it took 8-10 minutes per person. Only two booths were open at first, then three. Only after 04:15 were three more booths gradually opened. Not more than 30-35 women came through. Most were older women, with a few younger ones. Around 04:40 the line in the winding entry lane to the inspection area was very sparse. People moved forward in small groups, separated by large gaps. We could hear the voices of the children selling coffee coming from the distant canopies under which people who must not have been in a great hurry were crowded. The public prayer was held a little before five. People we spoke with said that today was easy and the crossing was rapid.
Changes: All the vehicles picking up laborers going to Israel have been forbidden to approach the lot in which they gather to wait. As a result, they have a long walk, which will be a problem when it’s raining. The large sign in front of the inspection area, with the picture of the anemone and the slogan, “The hope of us all,” is gone. On the other hand, all the gates and lanes with double or triple fencing in that area have been numbered. And large yellow signs have been posted announcing that it’s a security area in which photography is prohibited. They’re everywhere, including where people gather after coming out of inspections.
Since we saw the flow of people had greatly diminished we decided to drive on to the Eyal crossing.
Eyal crossing – 05:10 – 06:00
There was the usual crowd of people and vehicles when we arrived at the area distant from the fenced lane through which people come out after leaving the inspection area. Signs prohibiting photography have been posted everywhere here also. Loud voices from the inspection building. We approached the revolving gate through which people come out after having previously come through the revolving gate at the end of the inspection corridor, which is farther away. One of us walked along the paved path on the other side of the fenced lane to look into the corridor through which people come out after the physical inspection, where the document inspection booths are located. After a few minutes a security man arrived and politely explained that we’re not allowed to proceed on this path beyond the final revolving exit gate. We asked whom we could contact to find out why, and appeal to. The facility manager, he said. Meanwhile, one of those coming through the revolving gate told us that a man who, because of the cold, tried to pray in the corridor inside had his ID taken. A few minutes later a person arrived who introduced himself as the facility manager and explained that the issue is one of security – his concern and responsibility for the safety of everyone in this area, including us. He pointed to a side gate in the fenced lane and said that we could go through it and use the intercom to ask whether and when we could enter, if at all. While talking with him about the fact that the facility can’t be observed from the outside – for example, by us – he said that the operation was completely transparent. He offered to show us the rear portion – that is, the lane through which people move on their way to the inspection facility. He didn’t agree to take us inside to see the inspection facility itself. He said that security issues were involved that had to remain secret.
Here’s what we saw (our comments appear in double parentheses):
We could see from a distance a large shed crowded with people. The manager said that coffee and food is sold there. He called it “their market.” From there a straight path ((as opposed to the winding path at Irtah)), covered along its entire length, runs to the revolving gate at the entrance. An observation tower overlooks all of this, and the loud voice of ne of the security personnel can be heard telling people to more along and go through quickly. At this hour people stood in scattered groups and it was clear that the pressure had abated. When we commented on the tone of the announcements and referred to complaints we’d heard, he said that the workers undergo training, but don’t always follow instructions. The manager pointed out changes that had been made – covering the path, more booths for ID inspection and more facility staff. He was willing to tell us that the facility contained body scanners, similar to those he said were found at many airports in the USA, which cause no health problems ((these are full-body scanners)). He says people go through very quickly now, and most have crossed before 06:00. He noted that a large kiosk had been set up in the area where people wait for their rides, as well as a canopy shelter from the rain and for prayer. We referred to the drainage problems under the canopy, which we’d heard about from previous shifts. They also installed six toilets. He noted that it was very hard to keep them clean, because of the users’ behavior. He also referred to the successful cooperation with the Palestinian police in maintaining order “on their side.” There’s another lane, parallel to the entry lane, through which people return home at the end of the day, which he said goes even faster. It’s open from 04:00 until 18:00. In response to our question he pointed to a canopy that had been erected next to a traffic circle in an area we’re usually not allowed access to, for families waiting for Red Cross buses to take them to visit prisoners in Israeli jails ((usually to Ketziot)). He said that now more than 4000 people go through here every day. He claimed that Israel authorized entry for an additional 4700; he expects most of them to come through Eyal and plans to expand the existing inspection facility and lanes. He spoke about the importance of preventing terrorists from entering Israel, about his commitment to making the crossing fast and efficient, and that he views his job as a mission.
We thanked him. We left depressed. True, some of what’s being done there makes it easier for those coming through this checkpoint to work (under conditions in which they’re individually and collectively exploited and discriminated against by both their employers and by the state of Israel). The system upgrades provide evidence of their permanence, their persistence, their normalization, the fact that they’ve become an unquestioned component of an increasingly elaborate system of occupation which has already become a permanent colonial establishment whose employees see their roles as fulfilling a national mission, the mission of the Israeli in the uncivilizedcolony of Palestine.