Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
Dawn. A new amusement park?
3:45 The gates opened on time, and the first people got through in three minutes.
As usual, we picked people we saw at the separation barrier, and watched for them at the turnstiles at the entrance to Israel. This time, in every round, there was at least one whom we couldn't find at the exit, even after half an hour.
On our first round, a woman we picked came out after seven minutes, while men took 11-15 minutes. Closer to 5:00, when pressure build up, people started climbing over the barricades - evidently from the humanitarian line, which only opens at 7:00, to the lines that were active. Time to get through the checkpoint lengthened to twenty minutes.
Between four and five we saw pressure develop (the first time for us) at the exit gate to the parking lot. People shouted to the guard in front of the offices to open the vehicle gate. He evidently asked for permission, because it took him a while, but eventually he unlocked the large gate and the jam cleared up.
The flashing neon sign at the entrance says Welcome in Hebrew, and the message Happy Purim has changed to Happy Passover. In English it says Welcome, but doesn't mention any holidays. In Arabic it just says Shaar Efraim. (We don't read Arabic, but we asked someone.)
There's new landscaping. Under the roof that used to be the only shelter for people waiting for their rides to work, before the new prayer area was built, decorative elements have been added: synthetic grass and gravel paths to an illuminated wishing well.
A few people took advantage of the ground covering to rest, instead of lying on the asphalt pavement outside.
5:30 We left.