Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
We arrive at 5:20. The entrance to the parking lot is a big mess, though this time the lot is pretty full. The new lot hasn't led to more orderliness. Hundreds of people have passed through already. Some of them are lying down sleeping, others sit on the curb. Some minibuses have already loaded up their passengers and are leaving.
By the separation fence, the gates are closed. As nearly as we can tell, all the lanes are full. There is no difference between the women's lane and the others - men are in all of them. We hear shouting from inside the building, but not from the lines outside.
After almost five minutes the gates open. A man passes back into Palestinian territory. Maybe he was the cause of the shouting and the delay.
Edith picks a man and a woman to time.
5:30 On the Israeli side. Hundreds of people stand around in the square, there's a line for the single toilet next to roofed area. The second toilet stall appears to be locked. The toilets near the exit from the building haven't been replaced yet. Last week the checkpoint manager said he knows there's a shortage and he plans to bring in more stalls, but it hasn't happened yet. The commercial center still isn't open.
The man we were watching for passed through in seven minutes, the woman in eleven minutes.
A man who worked as a night watchman is trying to get through to go home, but no one hears him calling to the guards. On our way out we mention his request to a guard, who reports it on his walkie-talkie.
A man approaches us to say that his brother is ill and needs to go to a hospital in Israel, but he doesn't have the documents he needs. We aren't sure what he needs or who is in charge of it, but we give him contact information for Buma Inbar and Yad LeHachlama, and hope that will help.
5:50 We leave for Hable.
Hable Agricultural Crossing
We arrive at 6:25 (there were traffic jams on the way.) The gates are open for pedestrians. Around twenty people are waiting to pass through, and more arrive while we watch. The soldiers check them at the gate. Later we learn that the computers are down, which is why the soldiers are checking the permits by hand, and not making anyone go through the building. Most of the people passing through are men of all ages, but we also see a family with three children, and a man with a young son.
It turns out that the first check at the gate is performed by a Palestinian, who allows only permit holders to get in line for the soldiers to check again. Who is he? What is his position?
The officer in charge speaks to us. In answer to a question he says that this group of soldiers is reasonably permanent at the crossing, and they know by name a lot of the people who use it. They are polite to us and to the Palestinians.