Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)

Annelien Kisch (photos), Hanna Aviram (reporting) Tal H. translating

Irtah/Sha'ar Efraiym,  Dawn


A huge crowd already presses against the entrance to the inspection track. Some climb the shed in order to reach the entry point more rapidly. In the still gloomy light, it is hard to tell whether women are standing in a separate line.

5:03 The turnstiles closer to the waiting shed on the Palestinian side are opened. Even though this shift is similar to others, the sight of dozens of people (hard to make a precise count) rushing at the first metal-detector – in order to be the first to place the food bag/gear on the side table, quickly remove shoes and make it even more quickly to the next inspection post – is  as harsh as ever. Turnstiles open and are locked again, people crowd and crush against them, women on the run as well, collect as a group and have to wait until the men get across. Only then do they claim some room in this restricted space. Checkpoint = war over getting to work!

This happens every few minutes. The turnstiles open – a rush, a run, shoes off, bags aside. Whoever has not made it through the turnstiles yet, the machines preventing passage in every direction, is crushed against them, waiting.

From the building we hear voices sounding like growls Occasionally we manage to detect the words “get back!”.

5:10 The first inspected Palestinians appear on the road leading to and from the checkpoint.

While we were there, 10 groups of people were allowed through between the opening and closing of turnstiles. EAPPI volunteers standing on the other side of the fence counted about 275 crossing in 15 minutes.

5:15 A man who lost his cell phone in the crowded dark wishes to get back to look for it. He waits for a while until allowed to do so. Then returns to the line, happy to have found his lost item.

5:20 Another man returns to the entrance area.

5:25 Two more people get back to the entrance area.

5:35 Very few people are still waiting to get into the “promised land”.

The first light of day revealed to us the area under Israeli control: neglect is an understatement. The ones who enjoy the filth and unrestricted freedom of movement are… the cats.

We moved over to the exit area:


6:09 the area is full of people. Inside the building many stand by the checking windows, and people are constantly exiting. Near the turnstiles we see a man wishing to go back in, prevented from doing so by the metal bars. Annelien approaches the security guard who says that as long as there are people inside the building, the man may not return. Only at 7:30.