Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
04:50 We arrived and parked by the roadside some distance from the terrible congestion through which dozens of minibuses maneuver while waiting to pick up people coming out on their way to work. Construction of the new terminal building continues (slowly, it seems), so the entire former parking area is closed to vehicles.
We can’t see through the fence the crowded line of people waiting to enter, but what’s happening there is clear from the trail of people pushing and running toward the metal detector each time the three revolving gates open and let them through. Since the gates stop turning suddenly, with no warning, some people are always trapped between their bars (the only benefit: they’ll be the first one to run toward the next stage in the inspection procedure when the gates reopen). Despite all the “renovations” intended to ensure that people proceed along the dedicated paths toward inspection, we see some pushing themselves into line by climbing through the razor wire fencing.
We then moved to the exit. The area is filled with groups of laborers as well as long lines of people arranging themselves for the morning prayer. The revolving gate at the exit turns constantly and emits laborers who’ve complete inspection and are continuing on their way. The system seems to be “ticking along” today: the Palestinians say all the inspection booths inside are open and are working relatively quickly. I asked a group of people waiting near the exit for their companions, to go together to their employer (a renovations contractor who takes them from place to place), where they came from and where they’re going. It turns out they’re now working in Sderot [An Israeli town located near Gaza (!)]. One comes from Jenin (!), one from Qafin, one from Turmus Ay'ya (on the way to Jerusalem) and one from Tulkarm. Think how long their journey is, and what the workday of these men is like, and they’re considered lucky…They tell us that when we’re here the crossing goes faster and more smoothly…I’m not sure, but it’s nice to hear.
Three Palestinians returning from the night shift wait at the gate; there’s no one to open the entrance for them…I tried to go to the offices and ask/demand a solution, and received an explanation: “Now people are going to work, not returning home…”
At about 7 AM, when we left, the area was emptying. But the road through Tira (one lane in each direction, with no median divider) was crowded with cars driving bumper to bumper on their way to work.