Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
From the moment one enters the checkpoint itself the passage becomes efficient and swift - about 15-20 minutes. The problem, naturally, is to get to the desired gate. The violence on the paths and in the lines in front of the checkpoint has become terrible and the shoving and violent incidents at the entrances to the checkpoint get worse weekly. Some say that this has to do with the increasing number of permits which have been granted during this period. However, in our opinion, this is a minor reason. The crowding and violence at the entrances to the checkpoint can be prevented if there were a Palestinian force organized from the beginning to control the lines. Many of the Palestinians have asked for this, and as far as we understand, the only ones opposing it, from both the Israeli and Palestinian side, are those who see some advantage in the suffering of those being pushed and shoved. They often pay for this desire to go out to work not only by rising early ( in order to be at the checkpoint at 03:00 - 3:30 so as to get to their transport and to their workplace by 05:45) - but also pay with broken ribs, blows and beatings and the daily humiliation they endure. This is without even mentioning the occurrence of heart attacks and even deaths. The crowding and violence at the checkpoint could be prevented if, instead of opening 3-4 passageways 8 or more were opened. By 05:30 the pressure increases in the rooms: if they miss their transportation, another day of work goes down the drain. The pushing and shoving can be prevented if the women's line were separated from the men's line, but right next to it, by a strong wire fence That way all the sneaking around from the side, and the fist-fights in front of the entrance, etc.would be unnecesssary
...Maybe because the issues are so clear, many Palestinians told us some unpleasant truths about the usefulness of our presence at the checkpoints. Nothing changes. Since one can never predict that amount of time needed to cross the checkpoint, everyone leaves home very early to be on the safe side. Thus they have plenty of time during the morning to sound their complaints in our ears. We learned that if there were a better, more efficient way of crossing, they could sleep later and in general be more relaxed. One person told us that he prefers to sleep at his workplace and not go home at all during the week, because there he can allow himself to wake up at 06:15 and not at 02:30. Since he works in Raanana that is only a few kilometers away, the whole problem is obviously not one of distance but of other reasons.
Others who got up early told us that many people from the Jenin area and others get to the checkpoint of Irtach because their employers and transport come to get them at that checkpoint. It would make things easier if the issue of the transports were co-ordinated between the workers and the bosses. For instance, a number of people coming could be diverted to the checkpoint at Jalami.
When Leora and I tried to clarify in what way the Palestinian Authority was helping them, we were buried under a waterfall of complaints about the Israeli and Palestinian authorities both, who are efficient only concerning one thing - the payment of taxes; there are no public services: no health insurance for family members. If you can pay the doctor, there is a shortage of medicine. The amount taken from them for national insurance doesn't improve their situation.
05:30 - In the women's line, they allow certain individual women to go through the gate. 'Abar who is standing next to the fence asks why we come? How does it help? We are there every week, chatter, and nothing changes. Leora answers that we come because we care. We do our best. No one knows what happens here, 'Abar answers. People are ashamed to tell. We are human beings, so we are ashamed to talk about it. 'Abar suggests that we take the employers sometime on a tour of the checkpoints. They should come themselves and see in what conditions their workers arrive, what they have to go through in order to get to work; they should put pressure on the army, on the Authority, so that someone help them.
Leora and I think that this is a really good idea. We would be happy to help the guides to organize an employers' tour at the checkpoints.