Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
We arrived a little before 4:00. The parking lot was already full of vans. We went to the separation barrier to see the people crossing. At 4:01 we heard an announcement, and the gates opened. Hundreds of people, who had been waiting under the roof beyond the separation barrier, poured into the checkpoint. Within five minutes the line was empty. We picked some people to watch for and went to see them come out. The transit was quick, people said ten stations were open in the building.
Several people complained to us about problems on Sundays and Fridays. Friday is a short day, the checkpoint doesn't open until 5:00, so in spite of a relatively small number of people coming to work there is crowding. They want the checkpoint to open earlier. One man said that he was almost crushed to death last Sunday.
People told us that on Sunday both this week and last week, the checkpoint opened ten or fifteen minutes late.
Today, Tuesday, was rainy, which may have lessened the number of people crossing. The process was relatively smooth, I may have gotten used to the sight of men and women, young and less so, arriving in the pre-dawn darkness.
I asked an elderly man why he came so early - before 5:00, when he doesn't need to catch his ride to work in Netanya until 7:00. He said that he lives close by, in Tul Karm, which didn't really answer the question. It appears that people allow a lot of time for unexpected problems.
We left after an hour, and plan to go again next Sunday.