Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
04:02 The gates opened, quietly, with no announcement. Throughout the morning we heard no announcements. People poured through, rushing into the checkpoint facility.
04:05 The first comers already went through their checks. The exit turnstiles worked, for a change, and traffic flowed.
04:10. We heard shouting from inside the building, but of course there was no way to know why.
04:25 Four men returned, passed the "wrong" way, against the curent, from Israel into Palestinian territory. The exit turnstiles were set to turn only one way, but they managed to pass through: one man stepped into the turnstile and pushed it back until it got stuck. Then all of them leaned on the bars and eked out a little more movement, just enough for the first man to squeeze through. They let the turnstile swing back, and the second man stepped in and squeezed through the same way. Then the third and the fourth. Why isn't there a separate line for people going home, to save them unnecessary effort?
One man we were following for got through in 5 minutes, another took 22 minutes.
While we were waiting for the second man to appear, we heard complaints about the wait outside the checkpoint. One man wanted the checkpoint to open every day at 03:45, as it does on Sundays. He was also unhappy about the cost of his work permit, and said the magnetic card needs to be renewed after two years, for a fee, though the permit was supposedly good for four years. Another man said he had been waiting from 02:30 in order to get through.
04:40 On the Palestinian side: the gates closed for two minutes, opened for two minutes, then alternated - sometimes one line made progress, sometimes another. Young men constantly climbed over the barricades between the lines, angering the people standing below them. Why don't the lanes in the new roofed building have bars up to the ceiling, to maintain order?
04:50-05:05 A woman we chose to watch for passed through in five minutes, a man who was just behind her at the entrance took twenty minutes.
A man complained, again, about the turnstiles that cause jams on the way back home in the afternoon. Honestly, what do these obstructions add to our security?
05:10 The lines were still full of people, but they were no longer jam-packed.
05:15 We left.