Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
3:50 We arrive at the separation barrier. The intake area is clean. There is no sign of progress on the new building. It's raining.
4:00 The gates open exactly on time. In a few minutes the intake area is littered with plastic bags and tin cans, that were used during the long wait at the turnstiles. The discarded cans block the turnstile until they're kicked into the area. The rate of intake is quick. The tone of voice of the man on the loudspeaker is reasonable.
4:10 On our way around to the entrance to Israel side we meet the first people to pass through, near the exit turnstile, so they took ten minutes to get through. A man we noticed going in at 4:08 came out after eleven minutes. The flow is steady.
We spoke with a man who only crosses once a week. He works far to the south, his transportation leaves around six and takes another four hours to get to the job site. He said that the problems of crowding and disorder here compared to Qalqiliya arise, in addition to the known causes, from the fact that this crossing serves people from all over the West Bank, people who don't know each other, and this explains their competitiveness and lack of solidarity. He said that in any case, in 2005 the workers tried to organize themselves, but the Israeli authorities objected. (Does anyone know anything about this?)
He also said that diplomaed professionals from the West Bank, even if they are employed in Israel in their area of expertise, are paid like unskilled labor.
4:25 We return to the fence. Two people, a man and a woman, are waiting for a break in traffic to let them return. Why are they returning? Her papers expired, he figures that he won't have work because of the rain.
4:50 On the side entering Israel a group is collecting of people who want to go back home. The flow going the other way is too strong to permit it. It turns out that their employers phoned to tell them not to come today. The announcement arrived when they had already waited since 2:00 and gone through the crush and the bureaucracy. And after all that they missed the day's work anyway.
5:00 On our way back to the fence we notice that the intake area is empty, the turnstiles are closed. A military vehicle drives up, and its young driver tells us we have no right to be there. It's a closed military area. We ask to see the order, he refuses. He refuses to identify himself, just claims that he's a patriot unlike us traitors. He demands to see our IDs. When we refuse he threatens to call the police. He phones someone, gets no help and comes back to try again to chase us away. A worker from the checkpoint comes out, ignores the soldier's demands to us, and directs the soldiers to their assignment. It seems that something went wrong on the outer part of the fence, that's why the turnstiles were closed. In a few minutes the problem is fixed, the soldiers come out, the turnstiles open, the flow resumes. The soldier who spoke to us repeats his slanders, without trying to budge us.
5:40 We leave.