Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
The checkpoint opens. Thousands of people crowd into the fence corridor headed toward the crossing. The women’s crossing is filled with men, and a few women. It’s crammed and congested. It opens for ten minutes and then closes. Some of the women are left outside. For the entire two hours the line through the wicket beyond the gate is jammed.
Should we again report the crowding, pressure, congestion, the voices rising from the mass, the cries of women who can’t breathe, the tension, perspiration… A woman who works at the plant nursery and speaks English told us about herself. Her struggle on line. Her long work day which nets her NIS 120. She and other women arrived late, after the women’s gate closed; they’re waiting for the right moment to join the regular line.
After a while we crossed to the exit side. Long, straight lines of people, like rulers, were being led in morning prayer.
One of the laborers spoke to us near the exit revolving gate: “They treat us like donkeys. Worse than donkeys. All we have are lunch bags and clothing. Why must we pass through so many inspection devices?” He had suggestions to improve the procedure; said they have no life; would be better not to come here, not to work at all. But he’s been working for years nevertheless. The familiar trap.
He said only 5 of the 16 inspection stations were open. We weren’t able to count them from where we stood. He said two months ago someone on line died because of the congestion. Every day people are injured, get hit, are cut by the metal fence.
We don’t come to fight. We come to work, to make a living.
By the time we get to work after going through the checkpoint we’re tired, crushed.
It’s harder than the work itself. We leave home at 2 AM, waste four hours crossing.
They’ve thought about striking, like they did in 2010. He said they were on strike a few months ago; the Border Police came, fired tear gas; one man was injured. He lost an eye.
We returned to the entrance area. The crossing was still filled with laborers. It was already almost 06:00. The revolving gate at the entrance closed for about 8 minutes. We waited, waited, waited. The route to the exit is filled with snarls, a series of bottlenecks; one backup, then another.
The entrance was still crowded with laborers. We left for home.
Two film clips:
1. Two minutes of noise
2. Morning praye r