Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn. Not much is new
When we arrived at the checkpoint, at 3:45, we noticed a new electronic sign facing towards Palestinian territory. The bright red writing that flowed across it was only in Arabic, but from the numbers we noticed in the text it evidently listed the hours when different kinds of permits would be allowed through.
The gates opened at 3:47 and the people who had been waiting ran towards the building. The first ones came out the other side just three minutes later; it pays to be first, and to hurry.
Until about 4:30, we saw no pressure or any build-up of a line of people waiting. Women got through in 4 - 5 minutes, men in 6 - 7 minutes.
Around 4:30 we saw an unusual occurrence: the magnetometers shut down, while the turnstiles in the separation barrier stayed open. In less than five minutes the open area filled with hundreds of people. When traffic flows smoothly, we don't notice what a large number of people passes through each minute. When the magnetometers opened again, it took several minutes for the area to return to normal. Men whom we picked out to watch for, who were 'caught' in the crowd, got through in 12-14 minutes. A woman took 7 minutes.
Just before 5:00, the gates began to open and close, as usual. The coffee-sellers took advantage of the opportunity to hawk their wares to the people waiting in line. A few people climbed over the barriers between lines, but there wasn't a lot of pressure. Once the gates opened, a woman passed through the checkpoint in 9 minutes, men took 10-11 minutes. At this point pressure increased at the turnstiles leading out into Israel, and the side gate was opened to ease matters.
On two separate occasions people spoke to us, saying that Sundays are fine, but we should come to see the problems on other days of the week. We plan to do that.
5:25 We left.