Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
We arrived at about 3:50. On our way to the fence no one had come through the checkpoint yet. When we got closer, we saw that the men's lines were open. When their gates closed, the women's line opened. Several men slipped in together with the women.
We picked two men to observe.
4:00 On the Israeli side, there are already dozens of people who passed through the checkpoint. The flow is strong and steady. Pressure developed on the exit turnstile, and the side door was opened to relieve the congestion. People tried to pass through the door instead of the turnstile, and to keep it open, but a call on the loudspeaker telling them to close the door was obeyed promptly. One of the men we chose to watch passed through the building in ten minutes, we couldn't find the other one. It is possible, in light of the speed of traffic, that he got through before we made our way around the building.
A man approached us and said that he works for an Israeli company without benefits, though he's been there for some time. When he was injured, he was taken to a nearby clinic for first aid, and from there to the checkpoint to go home. He said that now, months later, his ability to work is still down. He asked what can be done. We gave him the phone number of Abed from Kav LaOved. We hope he gets help, but we've been told that though Israeli employers deduct health care payments from Palestinians' wages, they refer the workers who need treatment to Palestinian sources.
4:25 On our way back to the fence we notice that the new prayer shelter is full of people praying, and another group is praying outside in the old yard.
There is no pressure on the women's line. We see its gate open, again separate from the other lines. We don't see people climbing over fences to get to the head of the line.
We chose to observe a woman who passed through in just four minutes! Top speed.
Again, a number of men use the women's line. When it closes, they wait by the turnstile. When a woman arrives, they squeeze aside to let her go to the head of the line.
4:40 All the lines shut down for about five minutes. The first to open is the women's line (which is full of men.) We pick one of them to observe, and go back to the Israeli side.
4:47 Again, congestion at the exit caused the door next to the turnstile to open for several minutes.
The man we chose came through after fifteen minutes. We tried to speak to him, but he said he didn't speak Hebrew and seemed in a hurry.
5:00 We left.