Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Sun 16.12.12, Morning
We arrived at 04:18 and found a new gate, for now not locked, that is supposed to block the approach to the fence, on the side closer to the Palestinians. We entered next to the fence, from the Palestinian side Two volunteers from the Ecumenicals came over to us and reported that they come to this spot on Sundays and Thursdays. We exchange names and cards and remain in contact during our whole shift there, whenever necessary, through SMS's from Leora's phone.
Within the area some one is shouting loudly, orders in Hebrew, in a high and biting voice. From where we were standing, it was impossible to understand what she wanted. The echo from the sound system interfered. We met a guard and told him nobody could hear. We had a conversation with him, and he suggested we come sometime and observe the checkpoint from the Palestinian side. Perhaps. The women's gate was closed.
04:45 - we arrive at the exit. 6 stations were open and everything was flowing along. Unusually, an armed guard was standing on the bridge over the exit hall. According to the report of those leaving - the whole previous week, everyone was inspected in the x-ray machine, not just a random sample (generally, only 7 out of the 14 who enter the room). This process slows everything down.
05:00. The Ecumenicals tell us that the entrance gate is closed. The pressure outside increases and becomes unbearable. The gate is opened again, after 7 minutes. (When we left, at 06:45, we went to one of the guards and asked why the passage had been closed at a time of great pressure, and he told us, with a half-smile - "What, don't we deserve a coffee break?"
05:10 We counted 37 men who went through in one minute. At the exit, there was no pressure and not a lot of people. One man stopped to ask our help. He was fired from his job with an Israeli construction firm, after 6 years of work, and the owner refused to pay him compensation. We took his details and gave them to the "workers' hotline", and they promised to make contact with him and deal with this.
We asked people how much time it took to go through. Someone said about half- an- hour. Another said an hour. One man, whom Annelin timed, took 25 minutes. For another man, whom the Ecumenicals timed, it took 45 minutes. In our previous visits at this checkpoint, it took people whom we tracked about 14-15 minutes to go through! The brother who was waiting said that on Sundays they get up at 02:00; on other days, it is sufficient to get up at 04:00. He said that there is a special line for people over 45, he went through that line. Those in the lines for youths take a longer time.
06:45 - we left.