Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Wed 25.5.11, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
- allegations were made against the Huwwara DCO administration, perhaps what is going on there should be monitored
- the manager of Ayal Crossing held us up and called in the police. Advocate Gabby Lasky was approached with the help of Tamar Fleishman.
4:00 a.m. The muezzin's call accompanies the opening of the gate. 33 people cross. Within another minute 37 cross.
4:02 a.m.The side gate opens and 25 women cross through it to the turnstiles.
4:03 a.m.Some 50 additional people cross.
Within 5 minutes all those queuing enter and from now on as people arrive, they cross.
4:10 a.m.We go to the exit gate and are astonished to find that the turnstile is locked. We ask a smiling young man if the turnstile often opens late and he answers, "sometimes", and adds, "just for a few minutes".
4:25 a.m.Traffic is sparse. All the interior gateways bar one are open.
4:30 a.m. Back to the entrance gate to the building – the turnstiles are open and the traffic flows. It is the first time we witness such a situation. Previously people entered in groups of 10/40/50 and the turnstiles close between groups.
4:42 a.m. The number of people arriving rises and the flow into the building continues. At the exit the traffic also flows.
4:44 a.m. The turnstiles stop. Two people return to the eastern side and the turnstiles open again.
4:46 a.m. The turnstiles close. Within a few minutes a queue of some 150 people builds up.
4:48 a.m. The turnstiles open and some 100 people cross, and then they close again. It is already crowded outside and so is the exit turnstile.
We ask how it was inside. We are told that the inspections lasted half an hour and many people were taken into rooms "not just youngsters". We are also told that while we were at the entrance gate the exit turnstile was closed for a quarter of an hour.
A young man of about 30 hurries outside holding his trouser belt in his hand. He appears to be stressed. His telephone rings, he answers and explains to his 'boss' that he had been held up in a room for 20 minutes and he will arrive in a moment. There is great crowding near the turnstile. A man of about 40 is sitting on a small picnic box, waiting for a friend. He approaches us and says: "There's a real mess at the Hawwara DCO. We need help." He describes the problems in renewing magnetic cards, people arrive at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and wait for 4 – 5 hours. Only 20 out of 100 people enter, sometimes 30. All the rest are not dealt with. According to him, he went there for 3 days, waited and returned home without getting in at all. Only on the fourth day did he manage to get served. He also told us that soldiers can be seen playing football in the DCO area and Palestinians are dealt with in the intervals between games. He shows us his card. It states that it is valid until 2015, but according to the man the card must be renewed every two years. He also has a work permit (certifying that he has an employer in Israel). We ask where he comes from, and he answers that he lives in Nablus, he gets up every day at 3:00 a.m., and works on building sites in central Israel: Herzliya, Hod HaSharon and Rishon LeZion. He says: "It's a hard life", and parts from us with a smile.
The crowding near the turnstile lessens. People exit holding their trouser belts in their hands.
There are hundreds of people in the area, mainly in groups: eating, drinking coffee, smoking, chatting. It is already light and prayers are over. 4 people are asleep on the traffic island. Irritable drivers call out their destinations: Netanya, Petach Tikva…Hundreds of people sit and wait for transport near the car park or by the road. Vehicle doors thud closed and dust rises from the gravel as each van leaves the car park.
Many hundreds of people sit by the side of the road outside the area. Within the area – as previously – there is great crowding; tens of cars, hundreds of people stand all along the road, all along the pavements and close to the fences. It is almost impossible to move between the people without touching them. Above everyone lies a pall of cigarette smoke.
The exit turnstile works continuously but even so there is crowding at the exit. Someone passes by us and says: "Today go very good".
5:50 a.m. We ask how things are going within the building and they answer us "like clockwork"; "as smooth as honey"; "5 minutes today".
5:52 a.m. 2 young men come out and call over to us: "come every day; 5 minutes and we're out. Not like most days when it takes half an hour to an hour".
5:53 a.m. A lean man of about 40 comes over to Michal and says "they are driving us mad!" Michal asks: "Where?" He answers: "Everywhere, all the time". He then goes to Ophira and says, eyes burning: "They are driving us mad! I give them myself; give them my ID card – that's myself! What more do they want?"
5:55 a.m. The turnstile stops. A minute later it opens. We ask those leaving what is going on inside, they say that there is a lot of pressure and it has taken them half an hour to an hour. According to them there are not only a lot of people inside – there are lots at the entrance gate as well.
6:02 a.m. We hear from those leaving that "it is full of people inside", "chaos". Previously the manager of the building boasted that "we finish work at 6:00 a.m. and everyone has gone through". We decided to observe at the entrance to the building to gain an impression of the state of the queue from the Palestinian side. We cross via the gate from where we can view the eastern side from the second crossing.
As requested by the manager previously we rang the bell to get permission to observe the entrance to the eastern crossing – from the Palestinian side. No response. We wait and then ring again. No response. We wait and then ring a third time. No response this time either. (The shift on 28.3.2010 told us to ask for someone called Shimon, the manager of the building, to coordinate our entrance with him so that they can arrange an escort for us. He gave us the telephone number of the office at Ayal, 09 7633838, but said that there is no need to contact them beforehand, just press the bell of the intercom. This is what we have done previously and, indeed, someone has always been sent to escort us.)
6:09 a.m. We decide to go in alone. There is an area of approximately 25 metres between the observation point and the intercom. Close to the concrete block is a tower in which there is an armed guard. He signals us to go away. We move back a metre or two, and the building manager, Shimon – accompanied by another armed guard – arrives shouting.
On the Palestinian side about 20 people are on their way to be inspected.
He shouted at us that we, and the other members of our organisation, are taking advantage of his good will, and that "you do whatever you want." According to him, without his escort we are exposed to danger because the guard in the tower cannot be responsible if "something is thrown" from the other side. He agreed with us that he is not responsible in such a situation "but I am armed and if something happens to you while I escort you I know, and those above me will know, that I acted in your defence."
He demanded our ID cards. One card was in our vehicle. He decided to call the police alleging that it is a military area and we are breaking the law by entering without permission.
There are no notices on the gate or the fence declaring the place a military area and there is no notice forbidding entrance. There is only a stop sign (vehicles cross at this gate).
We gave him Michal's full name and her ID number and Ophira gave him her ID card. He noted down the details and told us that he would teach us a lesson. As we were about to leave he actually stopped us with his body. Afterwards he also held the gate closed and detained us for about 30 minutes. We told him that he could release us and put in a complaint – as he already had our details. However, he insisted that "the police would interrogate us here". The police did not come and finally he opened the gate and allowed us leave.
When we left there were still hundreds in the area and on the road and many cars.
Someone who had heard our interaction with the manager asked Ophira: "Are you a solicitor?"