Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Our visit to the Terminal at Irtach. 8-4-‘14
Present: Tzvia Shapira, Rachel Afek, Varda Zur, Annelien Kisch of Machsom Watch, Ronen Kariv manager of Terminal Irtach.
After our (written) request to visit the “Holiest of Holy” of the Terminal at Irtach was granted, this Tuesday 8/4/14, we were able to see with our own eyes what the Palestinian workers have to go through every morning five or six days per week.
Ronen Kariv received us in his office and, after explaining the planned improvements* and pointing out some differences between the Terminals of Eyal and Irtach, took us to the innards of the complex. First he emptied all corridors of all Palestinians and stopped the trickle of those still wanting to pass into Israel-proper; all this to secure our safety. We were being accompanied by the head of the security guards who opened all doors, gates and turnstiles we encountered on our way.
The Route- from entrance (at Palestinian side) till exit (in Israel proper).
After the un-organized queue in front of the Terminal the Palestinians are led through a 1>meandering railing and have to wait – until 4.00 or 5.00 in the morning - in front of
2> three turnstiles; from these three entrances only one line passes through the
3> magnometer; one’s packages and sometimes shoes one have to be placed on a table next to this scanning device. All this is done under the supervising eye and commanding voice of a Terminal employee who is sitting in a concrete cubicle at a distance of about ten meters from the magnometer.
4> Next there is a long, about 15 meters, fenced-in, open-air-corridor towards the next turnstile and, turning right, the continuation of the fenced-in corridor (about 20 meter) until we reach the actual building. On the way we pass 5 lavatories and somewhere stuck on the wall a little note in Arabic with a phone-number one can call in case of distress.
5> At the entrance of the building proper, a narrow hall gives way to several large doors. Three, sometimes four**, of these are in use. In front of these doors are meandering blue hand-railings. The first door is for the use of women, the next two for the men. One yellow separate door is for the use of disabled persons. Behind these doors another turnstile brings one into a space with
6> another magnometer (for people) and a conveyer belt with x-ray (for luggage: a pictogram tells us not to use it for “hands, dogs and…babies”!). Supervision is carried out under the watchful eye of three employees behind small windows and guarded by concrete walls. These employees decide where one has to go next:
7> a) to a small room together with at least ten other ”victims”, where all identity papers and permits are collected and checked; b) some people are chosen - at random, we are told - to undergo a complete body-scan before going to the small room; we are assured one runs no risk of radiation (of which we are still doubtful, M.W.). or c) the “green track”, which seems to be used in exceptional cases, straight on to the last hurdle.
8>The (almost)”last hurdle”: fingerprint- and I.D.-picture – control via a booth with large glass windows (8 booths with 16 windows of which no more than 9 windows are in regular use). This is the only stage of this route we are able to see during our regular watch.
9> At last, after the last turnstile one can breathe the freedom of the slavery of the underpaid work in Israel.
*- A new four- lane entrance route of which one lane can serve as a separate one for women; and a kind of office building where Israeli and Palestinian businessmen can meet and discuss and conclude deals
** The whole building has several fire –doors creating separate spaces at will.
Although Ronen Kariv was patient and helpful and went out of his way to explain the workings of the Terminal, needless to say we did not even get a glance and/or the feeling of the supervision and the real security measures. We noticed that often the security guard reported (to whom?) via his microphone the number of the door we opened or the room where we were.
The experience of going through the Terminal is Kafka-esque: it is like a labyrinth of corridors, narrow spaces and doors, doors and more doors, all numbered-, causing a feeling of complete disorientation.
The main problem is that the size does not suit the number of people who need to pass through at critical hours. The intention is that 5000-6000 people should pass within two . hours
This is impossible and the number one cause of hardship in passing the checkpoint.
Furthermore the abundance of turnstiles and checks along the route make everything harder