Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
We arrived at 3:45. The parking lot was full of waiting minibuses, but nothing was moving. I asked one of the drivers when things would start happening, and he said four o'clock, which turned out to be correct.
The gate on the way to the separation barrier was unlocked. Several hundred people were waiting in the lines beyond the barrier. Promptly at four, we heard some kind of faint announcement from within the checkpoint building, and the turnstiles opened. Within four minutes the first people had already gotten out, into Israel.
At 4:10 everyone who had been waiting had passed the border, though there was some crowding at the entrance to the building. We picked people to watch for: a woman got through in seven minutes, a man took eleven minutes.
A young man asked what I was writing, and I explained. We asked about his schedule. He rides to the checkpoint with a friend who owns a car, about 20 minutes. Passage through the checkpoint takes a few minutes more, and then they wait for their ride to work. They work from 7:30 until 14:30. We asked why they come so early, and he said it's better not to risk being held up in the checkpoint. We know that there used to be problems like that, and we wonder if the workers haven't gotten used to the great improvement in the way the checkpoint is run, or if there is still a danger of being held up.
At 4:35 there was no line, people walked in as soon as they arrived. Of the people we picked, one came out after seven minutes, another took twelve, and two took twenty minutes.
5:00 We left.