Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
4:00 - We arrived at the checkpoint a few minutes before the opening, after a few years that we haven't been there. The entrance to the checkpoint was crowded with thousands of people. The gate opened at 4:00. A large number of people charged in the direction of the turnstiles.
On the side of the big path there was an entrance area for women and this was also crowded with men and women, crowded to the point of suffocation, and the gate did not open. Above the screened gate a hole had been made to the passageway which would direct them to the entrance and people were climbing on top of each other in order to jump from the top to the front of the line! Because of the darkness, we were not able to take photos of this.
The women complained that their gate was not opened on Sundays or Fridays, which are the most problematic days. We continuously called the Humanitarian Hotline and asked them to find out what was going on at this gate, and described what we saw with our own eyes. They did make contact, but were told that the gate was open!
Then we went to the area of the exit from the checkpoint and we met the guard and told him that the women's gate was closed. After an attempt to persuade us that the gate was open, and no matter what we said, he anyway agreed to come with us and see if the gate was closed. And indeed, a few long minutes later, someone came to open the women's gate. Then there was an unbelievable crush, accompanied by shouting, and shoving and a sight which is too difficult to describe and explain. Maybe the film about Kalandia describes something like it.
For a little time, we stood at the exit gate and counted the open booths. According to reports, and according to what we ourselves saw from our vantage point, there were 16 open stations. An unceasing stream of people came out. It seems that the checkpoint is operating at its limit. Since the number of workers has increased, it really can't do the job.
We continued to stand alongside the entrance to the checkpoint and, by 6:15 there were still hundreds of people waiting in line to enter the turnstiles. So people continued to enter through the hole above the gate all the time. The women complained to us, but also murmured to each other "it won't help". One man yelled at us: "Why do you come here? You don't do anything!" And very few people paid any attention to us.
We decided to come every morning this week in order to see if there is any difference between the days. It is known that Sunday is the worst day, when all the workers come, also those who stay in Israel during the week, etc.
6:15 - we went home.