Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn. The new entrance building is open.
3:55 When we arrived, a few people had already come through into Israel. The gates opened at 3:45. By the fence, even before entering the facility, people smiled. The women are pleased, at last they have a separate line. There is also a humanitarian line, which isn't open this early. There is no crowding or pushing at the entrance turnstiles. Is the Messiah coming? We meet the checkpoint manager, who came out to observe the first real use of the new building (it opened on Friday, but less than 500 people used it then.) Today is the test. We notice that the messages on the loudspeaker are calm and polite.
4:00 We pick an individual for observation and go around to the Israeli side. It takes him nine minutes to get through the checkpoint.
Most of the people we meet are at ease, smiling. An acquaintance of ours stops to say he thinks the new lanes are too short, there isn't room for everyone to get under the roof at once, there is crowding at the new entrance so in all the situation isn't improved very much. (He says he's in the process of emigrating to
Canada, he's leaving in a few weeks, he can't take conditions here.)
4:25 By the fence: the turnstiles close down and stay closed for five minutes, until 4:30. Finally a man comes back into the open area. He has a permit but got turned back. He doesn't speak Hebrew or English, we couldn't understand what happened. The handicapped access is still closed. The women's line is open, but
empty. The men waiting in line have room to stand in relative comfort, but we hear a fuss from beyond them. We pick another man to observe and return to the Israeli side. An angry group greets us: The new building was a waste of money, there is still a mess outside and it takes longer to pass through. Someone complains about puddles on the floor, and water getting into his shoes. We ask if they can choose which line they go through - they say the crowding is so bad that they can't control where they go.
The man we picked takes fifteen minutes to get through.
The new parking lot still isn't open. We asked the site manager - he said he isn't satisfied with the quality of the work, and won't approve it until it's fixed. The roofed prayer area isn't finished either.
We're thinking of coming once later in the morning to see how the humanitarian line operates.