Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn. The pressure is back.
3:40 By the separation barrier. People waiting to cross the border are getting ready for the gates to open - standing up, lifting the large tins they sat on to the rafters to be kept for another day. The gates open almost on time, and within three minutes the first laborers have passed through the checkpoint into Israel.
Back again by the barrier - there is no pressure, no lines, people enter the checkpoint as soon as they arrive. We pick several people to watch for. They spend longer in the checkpoint than we expect - one got out in nine minutes, others took fourteen minutes.
On the Israeli side we notice more elderly women than we saw during the summer. We ask what work they do, and are told they pick berries and peppers, or work in the packing houses. It seems that the agricultural season has started.
4:45 We notice the difference at the separation barrier. Lines have built up, of people waiting to cross. The gates open for 3 - 4 minutes, at which time people rush to get into the main building, then they close for a minute or two. Each time the gates close, two or three people are sent back into Palestinian territory. We don't manage to find out why. The phenomenon of young men climbing over the barricades between the lines is back. When they jump into the head of the line they provoke protests and arguments. They also knock down the tins that were balanced under the roof, a minor matter but noticeable. We pick more people to watch for. A woman gets through in five minutes, one man takes fifteen minutes. After waiting twenty minutes we give up on another man.
A man speaks to us about his son who can't get a work permit, asking if we can help. We tell him what documents he needs, and give him Sylvia's fax.
5:25 For the first time, we see lines extending beyond the roofed area. The lines appear orderly, but there are a lot more people than there were in the summer.
5:30 We leave.