Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
An exceptionally easy day. Meeting with EAPPI volunteers.
We arrived at 3:45 and on our way to the fence we heard the announcement about the gates opening., exactly on time. We waited to see how quickly the first people to come out--it took just three minutes, a new record.
At 3:50 we approached the security barrier and saw that no one was waiting to pass through--everyone walked into the checkpoint as soon as he arrived. We picked two people to watch for, and they got through in 5 and 7 minutes.
We assume that because of Ramadan people came later than usual, wanting to have time to eat just before dawn.
Until almost 5:00 no crowds collected in the lines. People got through in about 7 minutes. Around 5:00 pressure increased, and the turnstiles began opening and closing alternately. Time to get through the checkpoint lengthened to 10-11 minutes. Nina estimated the crowd that entered the building at one time as 150-180 people; this agrees with what we have noted op previous occasions.
During the first hour thousands of people collected on the Israeli side. Some prayed, some lay down to sleep on the road, some sat in conversational groups. Our guest asked the usual question, why they came so early. We explained that they never know how long it will take to get through. Since being late can mean missing the day's work, it's better to be early.
Our guest asked about typical days, and we told him. However, since today was such an easy day, he didn't really experience the matter.
At the fence we met a group of ecumenical volunteers, who had spoken to Edith earlier about coming. They asked about our effectiveness in aiding Palestinians with problems, and Nina explained the types of cases we can sometimes help. We exchanged telephone numbers and agreed to stay in contact. For the last year and a half they haven't had any volunteers in the area, but they hope to renew their activity.
5:40 We left.