Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 31.1.12, Morning
People are working.
At 03:40 we arrived at the Irtach checkpoint. On the way we saw cars entering the area of the Eyal checkpoint.
On the “Palestinian” side of the checkpoint, beyond the fences, under the canopy built a few months ago, there are now food and coffee stands. From a distance we can see plastic sheeting hung to protect customers from the wind and rain coming from the side.
The checkpoint opens at 04:05. About 40 people went through the revolving gate each time it opened. The first wave consisted mainly of men, the second mainly women, most young. Later we saw older women entering a few at a time.
Around 04:30 the electric revolving gate at the exit from the inspection building stopped operating, and the doors also closed for about five minutes. People said someone didn’t go where he was told inside the building. All in all, people go through pretty quickly.
Skilled workers earn significantly more than agricultural laborers, NIS 300-350/day. Transportation costs NIS 36 round-trip, and they pay the labor contractor NIS 1000/month. People at Eyal also confirmed that amount.
When we arrived the large parking lot was already jammed with vehicles picking up workers. People came out through the revolving gates fairly quickly. The canopy above the exit lane from the inspections has been extended an additional 20 meters. It seems to us that more people are crossing through Irtach, and somewhat fewer through Eyal. At 05:10 about 400 people arranged themselves in long lines between the parked cars to pray, and many of those coming out of the inspections joined them at various stages. But many people didn’t join them and continued what they were doing – smoking, eating, drinking coffee.
A person who approached us exemplified again what’s written in the booklet about people blacklisted from entering Israel - more than 30 years old, with children, no history of involvement in resistance, forbidden from entering Israel without understanding why.
Agricultural laborers receive NIS 150/day. They also pay NIS 1000/month to the labor contractor. They told us that some of the contractors under-report the number of workdays to the Employment Service and pocket the difference. The person we were speaking with referred to a labor contractor from Haifa with an office in Netanya who has 400 people employed through him!! We asked what happens if someone is injured on the job. They said that usually an ambulance is called, and medical expenses are covered, but they also knew of cases where people who were hurt were expelled to the West Bank without having been treated.
As you remember, buses transporting relatives of prisoners to visits in Israeli jails go through the Eyal checkpoint accompanied by Red Cross representatives. It seems that’s why the government has invested in cleaning up and decorating portions of the checkpoint that are off limits both to the laborers and to us. There’s a round plaza on which venerable olive trees have been planted (which must have been stolen from someone), along with boulders for decoration. Yesterday all that was illuminated by colored lights – red, green, blue, purple. Thus shall the state do with the checkpoint it wishes to glorify.
We tried to get permission to see the other side – the entrance to the checkpoint – but we couldn’t.