Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 10.5.13, Morning
Dawn - uproar and confusion.
Through this privatized checkpoint, run by Modi’in Ezrachi, pass Palestinian laborers holding permits to be in Israel. They come from the area of Tulkarm, Jenin and other West Bank villages on their way to work in Israel. The gate usually opens at 04:00 on weekdays and at 05:00 on Friday.
05:05 The gate opened five minutes late. People charge madly into the facility. “Walk, don’t run!” over the loudspeaker slows down the rush slightly.
The women’s gate isn’t open. I go to the office of the company in charge of security; two armed guards stop me at the courtyard entrance. Why aren’t they opening the gate? We are, they say; it’s open. I specify: the women’s gate? Yes! they reply. I return to where I stood – no open gate, no nothing. Back to the office. I ask the guards to bring someone who’s in charge. A young man arrives. According to him: A. We’re prohibited from approaching the fence separating the Palestinian side from ours. B. There is no such thing as a “women’s gate,” and never was during the 3 ½ years he’s worked here. And to my question, What about the gate that opens Sunday for women? He’s not familiar with it, doesn’t know, won’t open. Go talk to the wall. In the past women have told us on Sunday that the women’s gate didn’t open Friday. Is that the Friday policy? We have to follow up.
When I returned to where we stood (in violation of the rules) Leora and Analin had been told that the women who’d waited at the gate apparently gave up and ultimately pushed through a break in the fence. Did I say “break”? A huge gap. About ten meters of fence were missing. More people came from the side, parked their cars and presto! – they’re in! I anticipate pandemonium on Sunday.
At 05:30 congestion eased on the path to the facility. We moved to the exit to Israel. On our way Leora wondered: why the rush and crowding at the start, when by 05:30 it’s no longer congested? On our way to the revolving gate at the exit – in fact, even before we got there – everyone we met was upset, cursing. Only three windows were open to serve the vast crowd. The congestion was terrible. One man said: death is preferable to going through here in the morning. Their most frequent comment – chaos. Another said: there’s a real war going on within. A third, who spoke English, said: It’s because we can’t control ourselves. In any case, a man who exited at 05:50 told us he’d arrived at the checkpoint about 03:30, to be among the first. If he doesn’t get through by 06:00 he’ll miss his ride to work. He entered the facility about 05:10; he spent 40 minutes inside!
It’s clear why people run. When the gate opens at 05:00, and certainly when it opens late, everyone who has to get through by 06:0 is worried he won’t get to work, so he pushes and gets pushed.
06:15 We drove toward Jubara to see with our own eyes the miracle of the fence that had been removed. We met contractors removing portions that are now unnecessary. They told us they’ll also remove the concrete portions and people will be able to plow the fields.
06:40 We started back.