Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Telephone conversation with the manager of Irtach checkpoint
1. The Palestinian claim that only on Sundays does the checkpoint open at 3:45 (3:50 in our experience) is true. It opens at 4:45 on Fridays, 4:00 other days of the week, if they're on time.
2. Zvia asked us to check if it's possible to permit men over 55, who don't need permits to cross the border, to pass earlier than 7:00. By that time it's hard to find a day's work. The manager said that this policy is dictated from above. He said the problem of men over 55 is new, because of recent limitations on traders' permits, and the permits are now only given to younger people. Men over 55 can't renew traders' permits, they're told to rely on their age to get them through. But the traders' permits are good from 6:00 in the morning, whereas free passage is only allowed after 8:00, the time when people with medical permits and permits to visit prisoners also come through. The manager said he understands the problem of the older men, which is why at Irtach he made an exception and allows them to cross beginning at 7:00, when the pressure on the checkpoint eases. He isn't willing to consider moving their time up further, into the peak hours of mass transit. So at present there seems to be no solution for the problem of the men without workers' or traders' permits.
3. The ISM volunteers were right. There is a humanitarian lane at Irtach, that ends in a gate instead of a turnstile, for wheelchairs. It opens as needed after 8:00. From 4:00 until then it doesn't open at all.
4. The trouble we witnessed last time (Dec. 6) was the result of an attempt to reduce pressure within the checkpoint building. The manager said that it quickly became apparent that reducing pressure inside caused greater pressure outside, and a 20% reduction in efficiency. Last week they already returned to the old system.