Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 30.8.13, Morning
05.05 When we arrive the gates are opening. Next to the fence which separates Israel from the Palestinian authority the line is not crowded. Many sit and wait outside the line in the open area, smoking.
05.10 A man climbs over the fence of the enclosure (including over the barbed wire on top) and jumps right into the turning style at the opening. Slowly the line empties out, some of them slipping into the line easily and being cursed by those around.
05.30 On the Israeli side it seems that all is streaming along. Liora counts 5 windows open (afterwards we are told that there are 10 which can be opened). People come out smiling. Suddenly the turnstile at the exit closes. Many people are crowded there. After two or three minutes the turnstile opens together with the side doors and the pressure is eased.
Now suddenly a shout arises from inside the terminal. It appears from what those existing tell us that one window closed and those in the line were sent to other queues. The commotion increases.
A sick man on crutches (we are told that he suffers from kidney stones) wants to go back. A guard agrees to come and listen to us after a few moments of trying to get the attention of someone says rudely that the man has to wait until the way will be opened for him. After long moments a guard comes and allows him and another man who had been waiting to return.
05.50 The entrance to Israel is completely closed including the doors and not only the gates. Loud shouts are heard from inside. Two weeks ago it had been much quieter. When the gates are opened at 6.00 people come out very angry. Some of them have missed the free transport provided by the employers at 5.45. And now they will have to pay from their own pockets for the transport and will also come late and maybe be fired. The main complaint, time and time again, is that on Fridays the gates open at 05.00 and not at 04.00 and added to that is the fact that not all the windows are opened. 45 minutes is not enough to check and allow all the workers who have organized transport to go through. Whoever comes out after 6.00 does not bother to run and he knows that now he is on his own.
06.20 There are many people in the courtyard. We ask one of the men why he had hurried to get out if he is now just sitting around. He says that he is waiting for his friends who work with him at the same place and they are still locked inside. They will then hire a taxi to take them together to their place of work. Others who do not have fixed employment are waiting for employers who have permits so they say. Whoever needs a temporary worker comes to the square and hires people. The first one to come out is hired. They say that if by 7.00 they have not been hired they have no chance and that is why they push to get out early.
They say that those waiting in the courtyard have to rely on the kindness of the gaurds. They are packed into one room , 14 at a time, and so we have been told before. And if anyone dares to ask, complain or knock on the door the guard keeps them waiting until he feels that they have been sufficiently punished for their check.
On our way out Liora suggests that we try to speak to the person who is responsible for this shift and to understand why today it has been so difficult for those exiting. The person responsible is called and after a few minutes Lior arrived, a pleasant and well spoken man. We explain to him what we have seen and tell him that we had been told that even if the door on Friday was only opened an hour later by 6.00 all the workers were outside and today it was not so. We also asked why the woman’s gate was not open on Fridays. He did not know about this and thought it was opened and asks the Palestinian worker, responsible for the opening and who had not known that he would ask. He says that the gate is opened for the women but not on Fridays and Lior who is surprised has no solution.
Lior says that a new terminal is being built and then the entrance and the amount of time spent inside will be more comfortable. There will be a special entrance for the women. He says that the problem starts at 06.00 when the traders who have permits to enter push into the queues of the workers and when they get to the windows before 06.00 they are not allowed through….the fault of the computer….. and they delay the line which is sent back. Before traders were allowed to enter only at 7.00 on Fridays. It is a big problem. We suggested that the hour for traders to go through be put again at 07.00, at least on Fridays if the gates cannot be opened earlier. Or instead that the line for traders be opened only at the hour at which they are permitted to pass. We are told that they will think of a solution…we will see.
07.10 we left.