Irtach and Ayal
Translation: Suzanne O.
On our arrival we see a group of women standing separately by the fence (on the other side of the fence where we stand so that we can see the entrance to the building).
The turnstiles open. The labourers hurry inside (only men) and this immediately results in chaos as the queue outside the turnstiles organises itself.
A group of some 50 men enter.
Just women enter, it is a bit difficult to see, but we think they enter via the opening south of the 'slalom' which, to an extent, makes order in the queue to the central entrance opposite the turnstiles. A group of about 50 women enters. In the past they have often requested that we try to get a separate queue for women. It now appears that they have provided a solution themselves. The men allow them to cross separately, even if some of the women have arrived later than them.
This time there is a lot of shouting over the tannoy system by a male security guard: "Enter one at a time, put your bags down here, take them there, run back, forward", in Hebrew and Arabic. Later he also threatens: "If you don't go in one at a time as you should…" "Whoever puts a bag at the side will have to take everything out." "One at a time..." He sends two women back and shouts at them: "Take everything out of the bag, all the bits of iron, Tahal hon – yallah…"
Suddenly, above his voice, comes an announcement that someone has forgotten to give: "Start work ".
The women's queue goes in again and after them, again in an orderly fashion, the men go in. The shouting over the tannoy continues to boom.
The mass of people has dispersed and now people enter as they arrive.
We move over to the other side – to the exit from the building. 8 check points are open. The outgoing traffic flows smoothly.
The exit has become crowded, the turnstile turns incessantly, there are four times as many people than before.
We were told that at around 4:30 a.m. the entrance to the building gets crowded, so we went back there – but didn't see a queue. Whoever arrives enters immediately.
Outside they stand in a line to pray.
There were no complaints. They asked if there would be a closure during the festival. Unfortunately we were unable to answer.
There are a lot of people on the pavements, around the railings. In the surrounding area people warm themselves at bonfires, awaiting transport. The outgoing traffic is heavy and continuous.
We crossed the fence to the east so that we could observe the entrance to the building: very busy. They march in an orderly fashion towards the entrance.
A representative from the (building comes over to us immediately and asks us to go back to the other side – for our own safety of course. It was important to him to point out that, since the building has been under civilian control, the Palestinians have faith (that the inspection is efficient and they will not be held up) and they arrive later. He noted that at 4:00 a.m., only a few people are there.
The exit is very busy and a long queue has built up by the turnstile. We counted 45 people a minute leaving. Some of them have belts in their hands. They get dressed hurriedly (and we feel embarrassed to be there).
It is still very busy. The sun has risen and about a third of the vans transporting the labourers have left.
One man returns and when we ask him, he says that he is not working. He didn't want to go into details.
The turnstile is suddenly locked. An armoured vehicle arrives at speed, stops at the gate and an armed guard jumps out and stands to attention on the lane with his hand on his weapon. 2 minutes later he leaves and the turnstile opens again. Obviously this causes a long queue.
Someone tells us that there has been an improvement over the past two months. He helps people entering the building and passes them the bags which they have put down at the crossing. It takes about 10 minutes to cross.
Other people say that it takes 20 minutes to cross. It depends on whether there is a hold up in the room where documents are checked or in the room with the x-ray or the panoramic x-ray.
Zachariah Sadeh, the representative of Rabbis for Human Rights, told us that 8 people at a time go into the document inspection room – their documents are collected and, usually, returned to them quickly.
The hold up is in the rooms where body inspections take place.
He also said that, in contrast to what the manager of the building declares, i.e.: that the building is open in both directions continuously, all day, he came yesterday at 1:00 p.m. wanting to cross to the Palestinian side and was forced to wait an hour. He was only allowed in at 2:00 p.m.
According to him, a similar thing happened two weeks ago at Irtach. He got there at noon with some sick people and they had to wait 2 hours (!) until the gate was opened and they could cross to the Palestinian side.
People continue to leave. We depart.