Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
The new temporary routine
4:00 On our way to the fence we hear the gates opening, on time. When we get up to the fence the entry zone is jammed. Someone didn't go through the magnetometer properly, the workers are ordered back and asked to pass one by one. The commands are given in a reasonable voice, not barked. We don't see people climbing up to jump down into the head of the line. When we look to see why, we notice that the barbed wire is higher and thicker that it was. A few young men who slip through the construction area hesitate when they reach the new barricade. The construction is progressing.
4:10 On our way around to the exit, we see the first people coming through. The stream is weak, not what we would expect for a Sunday morning. We ask and are told that only six lanes are open in the checkpoint. A woman who is waiting near the exit tells us, when we ask, that women do get organized in advance to pass through the checkpoint in a group. That makes it easier to deal with the crowds of men.
Everyone who speaks to us says we should be on the other side, where the problems are. The ones who are passing through at this point arrived at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.
A man approaches us to say that in the past we gave him Chaya's phone number because he had a problem with the police, and she helped him a lot. He passed on her number to others, and he thanks her.
We don't identify the two men we chose to look for, to check speed of passage. Possibly neither of them got through after almost half an hour? Other people tell us the entrance to the checkpoint is the problem. The flow of people coming through is still weak.
4:35 We decide to go back to the other side. On the way we speak to the guard at the gate to the offices. We report that the flow is weak, and ask if all nine lanes are open, as was promised in the past. The young man speaks to us politely, contacts his superior by radio and says the latter will come out to speak to us. We wait a few minutes, then hear a roar from the entry side and go to see what's happening there.
4:45 There is a lot of pressure at the entrance. People bang on the metal fence, we wonder if it's to relieve their frustration, to try to speed up the process, or to protest against the latecomers who found a new way to get to the head of the line. They can't get through the barbed wire over the turnstiles, but they climb up and walk along the line of cement blocks, and evidently - we can't see that area - jump down into the line of people waiting their turn. At any rate, the noise comes from that area. We pick another man to check his time inside the checkpoint, and return to the exit side.
5:00 We speak to the guard again. He says his supervisor came out after we had moved on, and he'll call him again. Edith goes on to the exit gate, in order not to miss the man whose time we're checking. The supervisor comes quickly. He says that all nine lanes are open, that he checked the number of people who passed through and it's one or two hundred less than usual for that hour, but that the crowd waiting is smaller than usual since, because of the rain, some people, like agricultural workers didn't come.
At the exit, the flow of people is now smooth and fast, as usual. (Were all lanes open all the while, or were they opened following our complaint?)
We didn't spot the man we were looking for. It isn't likely that he was held up for more than half an hour... the conclusion is that it's hard to identify individuals in winter clothing.
5:30 We leave.
On the way out we notice progress on the parking lot. Piles of gravel are scattered around, and packages of brick flooring stand near the barricade that blocks off the dirt lot. In the meantime it's very hard for the transport drivers to maneuver in and out of the area.