Irtah, Sun 5.4.09, Morning
Translator: Orna B.
We arrived at 04:40, 10 minutes after the checkpoint was opened (as far as we know). Several dozens of people were already there at the parking lot. They said they had been waiting , some since 02:00, some since 03:00 am.
We alternated our observations between the rear carousels at the rear entrance from Tulkarm, and the front carousels at the exit from the checkpoint. People told us to watch the rear entrance because that was where most of the pressure occurred. And that is where we spent most of our time.
During the hours of darkness, before 06:00 the place was completely dark. One could see nothing beyond the carousels. We were told of past occurrences of terrible pushing, of people being injured, of ambulances taking people away, of the young climbing over the older people to get to the carousels.
Today was quiet. A lot of people said that today the inspections were very rapid because of our presence (when we got there we met the security people at the parking lot):"Come every day!".
At the entrance there are three carousels, but only two were operational today. (Sunday is a particularly busy day). Approximately every minute they open the carousels and dozens of men run towards the entrance pushing and shoving, like bulls to the rink. The resemblance to beasts sent shivers down my spine.
They run through fenced corridors which end in magnometers, through which they pass rapidly carrying food bags. Rarely do the machines beep because the people know what would cause it to go off., and every minute counts. The whole time they are given instruction on the loudspeakers, a man's voice, down to earth, not insulting,( calling them "Malem". The essential thing is the speed. If there is a beep the man goes back or he leaves the suspect object behind. We saw jars of olives. One man threw away his bag and put its contents into a transparent carrier bag that had been thrown in the corridor.
From the magnometers they are sent to more carousels which lead into sleeves. We did not see the other end because we are not allowed in the installation.
We counted the people going through. Every minute a cluster of about 25-40 people go through.
Time: People passing
4:50-5:00 390 in 10 mins
5:01-06 260 in 5 mins
The carousels open for longer until the corridor is full of people.
5:06-08 120 ( according to our estimate) in 2 mins
They let everyone through by 5:12
The rhythm reduces.
5:13 -20 95 in 7 mins
Altogether about 870 people in 30 mins.
The counting is not precise and the numbers are estimated, because when several dozens leave together and are swallowed into the installation in a minute or two, it is hard to count.
One man returns. He does not understand why he was sent back. He will wait for two hours to find out at the DCO. Of course he lost a day's work after going through hell.
At the Front:
Today 3 'sleeves' are operational, and three computer posts (out of the 12 which are there) and again let us stress that Sundays are particularly busy.
The carousel at the exit is also operated by a button which someone in the installation presses. It is not clear why they have control the exit of someone who has already gone through all the security checks. The need to have the power to control is endless.
When we reached the carousel it was not working and behind it crowded many dozens of workers having gone through security. As soon as we arrived they carousel started operating.
5:30 -36 - 200 went through in 6 mins.
They stop the carousel. They tell the people to go back. They tell them something. We do not understand.
We notice soldiers marching on the wire ceiling above the computer posts.
5:49 The carousel opens. In 10 mins 300 go through.
A man complains they do not allow them to pray inside the installation. (would they dare say that to Jews?) Along the exit lane, a line of people praying bent over.
6:00 The security men close the entrance gate to the parking lot. What happened?
There is an "incident". We go back to the rear carousels.
To the rear:
6:05-6:17 - 400 people in 12 mins.
The crousels stop for 17 long minutes. The crowd gathering behind is not complaining. No shouting. A calm of acceptance the whims of the rulers.
6:34-47 - 570 people
Altogether between 6:05- 47 - about 1000 people.
At this hour there is no longer a queue into the carousels. The last to arrive enter without waiting. It's a late hour for going into Israel, what with traffic jams in the Dan and the Sharon regions. At the parking lot buses are already awaiting prisoners who will soon go through the inspections in the installation.
We talk on the phone to an acquaintance who had gone through the installation, who lives near Tulkarm. He left the house at 4:00 and left the installation at 6:30. At bbest he will reach his work place at 7:00-30, after more than three hours of traveling, pushing , running, and stressing, to start a day of not a light physical work, when on his return he can expect not a much easier process.
We talked to a few workers at the parking lot.
A man from Nablus, left home at 5:00, went through the Barrels Checkpoint (as far as we know it opened at 5:00). Today he was not delayed, but on Friday they had delayed the cab for half and hour, despite the fact that they all had magnetic cards and work permits. At Anabta Checkpoint too. And the landlord was waiting for him at 7:30. Luckily for him he works in one of the neighbouring Moshavim. Bbut soon he will be working in Kfar Atta, and will have to take two buses, in addition to a cabin Netania. He earns on average 250 IS a day. Out of that he has to pay 50 IS for travel expenses and 20 for food and cigarets.
One man had left Jenin at 4:00. At 6:00 he usually leaves the installation. At the passage he spends an hour.
Someone approached us who had worked for year for a company but was sacked 8 years ago. He got a lawyer to get compensation and the Work Court awarded him 60,000 NIS 3 years ago. To date he had not been paid. The company closed down. We referred him to the workers' helpline.
We left at 7:00.
According to our counting about 1900 people went through in 70 minutes. Between 6:30 -6:45
It is lucky bigger disasters do not occur. There is a terrible disregard to human dignity.
At the time we spoke to the guy in charge of the installation from the Defence Ministry. The claim was that this is a territory and that Palestinian Authrities should see to it. As far as I remember there is a small rain shelter, far away from the carousels so that on rainy days people are waiting outside.
What people ask for is faster inspections. That means more manpower.
It is necessary, as had been suggested before, to obtain the contract terms of the company. It is advisable to liaise with the guy in charge from the Defence Ministry. He of course cannot change the contract terms but at least he can see to it that they are respected.
From talking to people we deduce that today the inspection was fast, perhaps because of our presence, and therefore one can conclude that the same number of worker can achieve more when supervised.
No one had heard of the new decree that whoever stays overnight in Israel would be punished and his work permit taken away from him.