Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
The checkpoint is poorly managed. People complain that not all the revolving gates are operating. After they enter they’re subject to the inspectors’ whims. Interruptions in the inspection cause traffic jams. The congestion in the rear is unbearable. Moreover, the behavior of the staff is humiliating and insulting. The people crossing are treated rudely, with contempt. But one person notes that not everything is bad. There are some bright spots. If someone collapses, an ambulance comes. A comforting thought; they know they won’t be abandoned if they fall.
04:20 The plaza at the checkpoint’s exit. We stopped near a group of laborers. Some speak fluent Hebrew. They’re waiting for a contractor to pick them up. He’s supposed to come at 06:00. They must pass the time until he arrives. One works in Yavneh. Others in the Tel Aviv area. The ones we spoke to were lucky. They live near the checkpoint, in Tulkarm. Only a 20-minute ride, and NIS 10 for the taxi. They reached the checkpoint at 03:00, and waited an hour until it opened. The arithmetic is simple: they must spend 2 ½ hours here early in the morning. The bonus: crossing at 04:00, when the checkpoint opens, is relatively smooth. They’re among the first to go through. More and more people gather behind them, numbering in the thousands. Some won’t get through in time. They’ll be forced to go back. The contractor will wait for them only ten minutes.
The checkpoint is poorly managed. People complain not all the revolving gates are operating. And after they enter they’re subject to the inspectors’ whims. Interruptions in the inspection cause traffic jams. The congestion in the rear is unbearable. Moreover, the behavior of the staff is humiliating and insulting. The people crossing are treated rudely, with contempt. But one person notes with a grin that not everything is bad. There are some bright spots. If someone collapses, an ambulance comes.
Complaints also about the trip home in the afternoon. People we spoke to say only one revolving gate operates. There’s congestion that causes great delays in reentering the occupied territories. They told us to come in the afternoon when it’s crowded with workers returning home from work.
Friday, when the checkpoint opens later than other days, there’s great congestion at the gates. Many people work also on Friday because they need the money.
Another Palestinian from Tulkarm who leaves home at 02:30 told us that one day this week, when he opened his door to leave, he was faced by three armed soldiers. After they interrogated him, asked him where he was going, they allowed him to continue. He’s bothered by what his daughter saw. She’s only twelve but rises each morning to say goodbye to him before he leaves for his long, exhausting work day. She saw the armed soldiers pointing their guns at her father. It’s routine to see soldiers patrolling the streets at night. He said he must pay his employer NIS 2000/month for his work permit. He’d rather work on the West Bank for NIS 80/day instead of having to undergo the harassment involved in going to work and returning. That’s not possible because of high unemployment on the West Bank.
Everyone we spoke to told us the way the checkpoint operates every day is bad and inhumane. They were in despair, hopeless that their lives would ever improve.
We moved to where we could see people entering the checkpoint. The loudspeaker immediately announced that the two Israeli women must leave instantly. The area where people emerge from inspection is also off-limits.
We left at 05:30.