Eyal crossing Irtah/Sha'ar Efraiym. Sun. 15.07.13 morning
Irtach (Efrayim gate), Eyal (Qalqilya), Sunday, 21.7.13, Ramadan, dawn
Observers: Annalin K. + Lior A. from Peace Now, Varda Z. (reporting)
Translator: Charles K.
04:05 At the separation fence. The gates open; it’s much quieter than usual. The women’s gate doesn’t open. (Nor did it open on the recent Fridays we were here.) They’ve apparently stopped trying to fight people who breach the chain link fence. It has been removed, and for a few months it’s been possible to break into the line from anywhere. That usually leads to congestion and bitter arguments at the entrance (including injuries and even deaths, as we’ve reported in the past). Today the line is orderly, polite and quiet. The entry plaza is littered with obstacles – plastic bags, empty bottles.
04:15 On our way from the facility’s exit gate to Israel: A muezzin’s call and prayer, earlier than usual, ending at 04:30. We see that the kiosk is wrapped in black plastic sheeting, apparently to conform to Ramadan restrictions. They form a kind of small courtyard; there’s a light within. Later, on our way to the exit, we went in; it was still dark outside. The kiosk was open, selling drinks, baked goods and cigarettes, but out of public view. (Annalin: like we keep kosher for Passover).
04:30 At the revolving gate to Israel: Annalin and Lior take photographs. A security guard comes over to us, very politely, asks not to photograph.
The padding has been renewed on the upper bars of the revolving gate, thick and soft this time, but it barely reaches down to the level of the heads of women going through… Inspection is quick, people exit in a steady flow. 35 people went through the revolving gate in one minute.
A woman tries to re-enter; she has her friend’s ID in her purse and her friend is still inside! I go to the office to ask the guard to let her re-enter or send a guard to get the ID from her – the guard, indifferent and hostile, says he’ll do neither, that it’s her problem, she should solve it. When I returned to the gate there was a crowd of people exiting at the revolving gate and to our surprise – something we had been told about but had never seen – the door alongside the revolving gate opened and allowed the crowd to go through and relieve the congestion. With our encouragement the woman with the ID takes advantage of the opportunity and re-enters the facility. The door begins to close, Annalin holds it open. Over the loudspeaker they call to close the door; when it doesn’t the polite employee comes back and Annalin lets the door close. Meanwhile the woman returns with her friend – a happy end to the matter of the forgotten ID.
05:15 At the exit near the vehicle plaza we talk with two laborers who are sitting and waiting. They say that things have been better recently than they were last year; less congestion on the entry line. Very crowded only on Fridays (again the complaints about Fridays, when the gates open at 05:00 instead of 04:00). During Ramadan it’s even calmer. Both have permanent jobs; their employer picks them up and returns them to the checkpoint every day, but they’re paid daily, not monthly. Their boss pays the cost of the work permit and transportation. They say transportation to Kfar Sava costs NIS 11 if the employer doesn’t bring them. They say that since there have been official buses at the Eyal checkpoint that charge NIS 4 per trip, the jitneys have reduced their price to NIS 5.
They complain that the gates at Eyal are closed for half and hour to an hour during the late afternoon; people returning wait outside in the sun until they reopen. Next time we’ll go there at that hour.
05:30 Their ride comes, and we leave.
Annalin and Lior drove to the Eyal checkpoint (Qalqilya) on their way home to observe the buses and what goes on there. The remainder of this report is by Annalin.
05:50 Buses from the Kavim company wait to transport laborers from Qalqilya to Petah Tiqwa and Oranit. (photo). Like the kiosk at Irtach, the one here is also covered with black plastic sheeting. (photo)
We asked over the intercom for an escort so we can get closer to the separation fence, near the Palestinian side (as they’d promised in the past to provide – cf. report from 28.3.10 at the Eyal crossing). Apparently too much time has gone by since that promise was made, and it’s been forgotten, because the person in charge today, Sagiv M, insistently and definitely refused to allow us to approach – for our own safety! Nevertheless, by walking behind the offices in the rear of the terminal – how dangerous! – we could approach the fence without being stopped (two photos) and clearly hear the instructions given by the checkpoint employee: White with the hat! Come on, you come on! Green, back! In response to our question about how the expansion was proceeding, Mr. M replied: “You can go see for yourselves, everything’s open.” Is it? (two photos).
06:30 We continued to Tzofin; on our way we picked up two women from Qalqilya who work there. One bitterly complained about inappropriate treatment in the terminal. This morning she, a woman alone, was taken into an inspection room together with men. That’s very frightening for a Moslem woman and not permissible.
Tzofin, which about 8 years ago was made up of only a few prefab buildings, has grown into a large settlement, most of which has been built without permits, as a proud resident told a group of rabbis two years ago which included a representative of Peace Now. Construction still proceeds apace (photo), even on the route of the unfinished security fence. Tzofin needs a donkey to guard the Israeli flag (photo).