Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)

Annelien K., Edith M. (reporting)

Dawn. A good day

I phoned the checkpoint manager a few days in advance, to ask what time the checkpoint would open. He said 4:00, so that's when we planned to come.

When we arrived, a few minutes before 4:00, a few Palestinians had already crossed and were walking around the parking lot on the Israeli side. We told the guard we had arrived, and he opened the gate to the fence for us, as the manager had promised. In the course of the next hour we walked back and forth three times, checking how long it took selected individuals to pass through the checkpoint. One man got through in just four minutes, others took a little longer - up to ten minutes, still quite reasonable.

On one of our visits to the exit from the building, we noticed that one of the turnstiles was stuck, and a large crowd collected behind the single working turnstile. We pointed this out to the guard, and the problem was corrected immediately. A man thanked us for our efforts. He said that the checkpoint employees are sensitive to our presence, and that when no observers are around they work less efficiently.

We found an explanation for the congestion we noticed two weeks ago on the narrow path to the parking lot. Several hundred people paused to pray together in the courtyard. When they finished, they all moved together towards the parking lot. The same as last time, the guard unlocked the large vehicles gate to let them through. When we passed by fifteen minutes later, the big gate was locked again.

It seems to me that this illustrates two opposing philosophical positions: Our liberal stand favors maximum freedom. We accept that border checks are necessary, but once a person has passed security his movement should not be further restricted. The other, conservative, stand favors maximum control. If you have a lock, you keep it locked unless someone need to pass through at that moment. The guards are evidently conservatives.