Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 7.6.13, Morning
04.35 The parking lot at Eyal Terminal is still shrouded in darkness, unknown quiet and deserted except for a few transit-cars in which the drivers are asleep. The Terminal is not open yet and will probably do so, as at Irtah, at 05.00.
04.50 Irtah. All the side-fences of the covered walkway that, on the Palestinian side, leads towards the ”snake”, the queue- creating- railing just before the turnstiles, have disappeared. As the so called “women’s-gate” is now so close by the other entrance it is difficult to see if indeed this gate was opened (at 5.00 punctual today) for the (sometimes) few minutes: all the laborers now crowd together and the women keep their distance. Some extra pushy workers try to jump the queue by climbing high over it. We can only hear the shouting that it causes and not see if they succeed. Through the fence, a nice and outgoing Palestinian woman, Huda, talks with us in almost perfect Hebrew. It puts us to shame in our ignorance of Arabic. She tells us that she works already more than 25 years in Beth Halevy, a village in the Emek Hefer region; although she looks quite young to be a grandmother she has 7 grandchildren.” I was married when I was 15” she tells us. We see that she enters the terminal at 5.17 and when we go at 5.20 to the exit gate at the other side of the terminal we meet her again at 5.32. It took her one quarter of an hour. As there are already for quite some time no “Ecumenicals” we could not ask anyone to give a note with the entrance time to one of the laborers and have no idea how much time it takes for the men to pass the terminal. Realizing how many people entered at the same time there must be masses waiting to pass the checking booths as there are only 3 or 4 of these open! (Why isn’t it possible to add some personnel at this peak-hour even only for one hour ; a lot of suffering could be avoided.) The shouting inside is deafening! We try to catch the attention of the security guard inside to ask him what is happening, but he pretends not to hear us. From one of the exiting workers we hear:one of the computers does not work. The angry Friday-morning-comment we get from everyone: “Balaghan, balaghan!”
At 5.40we try to call the office of the terminal-management (Ronen Kariv) but no answer; (we try again at 6.05: no one to talk to). We hear from some women that an older man fainted inside. Someone else tells us that several workers are kept inside for a while as a punishment (for pushing?) and their permits withheld (temporarily). On the wall just outside the exit turnstile there is a notice in Arabic saying that merchants are not allowed to pass the terminal before 6.00 AM or their permits are being withheld (nottemporarily!). We try to understand why after so much pressure to pass the terminal so many stand idle waiting on the parking-lot. On Friday mornings Israeli’s are looking for workers to do some odd jobs; not every Palestinian has work on Friday-morning and tries to find some extra earnings; the earlier the better and the first ones may indeed be lucky. We now understand too why proceedings at the Eyal terminal are more orderly on the Palestinian side. Not just because Qalqiliya is “closer” to its terminal than Tulkarm, as we were explained at our last meeting with Ronen Kariv, but because the Irtah terminal is de-facto in area C which means that there is no Palestinian police allowed (to assist with keeping order) as is the case near Qalqiliya’s area A..
6.10 We go back to the fence near the Palestinian entrance side. There are no laborers waiting. Behind the fence we see our Danish acquaintance, Peter, and his Palestinian friend, Yusuf, we were planning to meet, so they could show us the Palestinian side of the terminal. We arrange to meet near the Jabara-checkpoint, park our car there and they will drive us to the Terminal. For the first time we see that the (“coffee”-) house near the checkpoint is, at last, no longer in Israel’s territory: the Separation Wall is finally moved. From the checkpoint we walk a few hundred meters and cross a field to join Yusuf and Peter. First we are- naturally!- invited to have coffee at Yusuf’s house, a lovely “micro-cosmos” of urban and rural life (sheep, goats and more animals in their yard with fruit-trees etc.), and get a taste of the delicious homemade yoghurt which Yusuf’s father produces on a small scale to provide part of their livelihood. After meeting several members of the family Yusuf takes us in his car to the Terminal. The road leading towards it is in an extremely bad shape: full with potholes, as is the parking lot. The contrast with Israel’s side is poignant! The large –dusty, unpaved- area in front of the walkway that leads towards Israel resembles a Chinese open-air-food-market with not only all kinds of food being sold but being cooked on the spot as well. It is now empty of customers and, as much as possible, being swept clean.
8.30Yusuf takes us back to the spot near Jabara-checkpoint, we thank our hosts and return home.