Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Exceptionally difficult Sunday morning
04:03 The gates open. Standing by the fence between Israel and Area C we're watching the entrance to the facility. The women's gate remains closed. Crowds of men are pushing to get through while a group of women is standing quietly nearby. No men are climbing the barbed wire fence on our side but on the other side, (evidently the breach on our side has been closed. Only the barbed wire fence shows in the pictures we tried to take of the men on the roof…) a young man, apparently frustrated by the closed breach, throws a stone into the entrance area…the same young man picks up an iron bar and tries to break through the fence next to the women's gate. Nobody tries to stop him.
Some men complain about the line which is so full that they try to get in on the side. We meet some ecumenical volunteers who tell us that there really is a lot of pressure at the entrance, and that there are crowds pushing to get through on the other side as well. People are also climbing the roof to jump into the line.
04:45 We move over to the side where the laborers enter Israel. The waiting area has been diminished to make room for the construction of a meeting place for merchants. The construction work has not started yet, but we see the signs. The waiting area is very crowded, but the atmosphere is relaxed. For a long time we (especially Liora) have been wondering why people are pushing so hard at the entrance to the facility but waiting so calmly, resting and even sleeping on the Israeli side after having passed through the checkpoint. We get a clear answer from a laborer who tells us that on last Thursday he was told to wait on the side while his documents, which were returned to him after an hour, were being checked. If you don't arrive very early in the morning you might miss a day's work because of an event like that. The transportation does not wait and being late means that you might get fired. People don't know how long it will take to pass through the checkpoint, and that's why there is so much pressure early in the morning.
People coming out are smiling. Inside the facility everything works smoothly today. Night guards waiting to go home are gathering. There is a large number of people coming out, so their gate has not been opened yet.
05:05 We return to the entrance of the facility. There is a new breach in the fence. People are pushing through and a fight starts between those who have been waiting in line and those who push their way through the broken fence. The ecumenical volunteers go to check and report that an injured man is being carried out by his friends. Contrary to last Friday, there is still a lot of pressure even an hour after the opening of the gates. The ecumenical people counted 2,500 people entering during the first hour. As usual, the gates open at intervals. When the pause is long the pressure starts. The instructions given through the loudspeakers are not spoken but shouted in spite of the promise to change the tone. A group of photographers studying communication (?) are taking pictures. Their escort says that, contrary to what we have been told, the Israelis are those who do not permit the Palestinian police to supervise and keep the order. As soon as a police car arrives, soldiers who tell the Palestinians to leave, also arrive. I don't know if he told the truth. We give the ecumenical volunteers an e-mail address so they can send us the pictures they have taken. At 06:00 there is still a lot of pressure.
06:10 We leave.