Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
After almost three months' absence, we were surprised to see, as soon as we got to the checkpoint, a new set of toilets, doubling the old capacity. The new stalls aren't open for business yet, but there's hope....
The gates opened promptly at 3:45, and four minutes later the first Palestinians got out into Israel. At this stage, around 4:00, the line isn't long and it moves quickly. We picked people to watch for.
On the other side, the entrance to Israel, only one turnstile was working. I tried to tell the guard about it, but he insisted vehemently that both turnstiles were fine, and the workers chose to use only one of them. Even when I reported that I had checked, one turnstile was out of order, he kept claiming that everything was open. He said if I wanted I could talk to the shift supervisor. I didn't insist, but when I returned to the exit I found that the side gate was open, and it stayed open until we left. The people we were watching for got through in 8-10 minutes.
4:15 By the separation barrier we met four Spanish volunteers. Their English was very poor, and we couldn't understand what organization they were from. They peered suspiciously at our badges through the wire fence. They had never heard of MachsomWatch. They didn't try to make conversation, but did mention that this was their first day at the checkpoint. At 4:30 The gates at the entrance from Palestinian territory close periodically, but for less than a minute each time. They are open for longer periods, indicating that the facility is working with reasonable efficiency. However, we already see a few people climbing over the barriers to get a better place in line.
At the exit into Israel, people tell us there's "balagan" - a mess, confusion, on the other side. The people we watched for came out in 10 minutes.
Towards five o'clock, at the separation barrier, we see the mess. A number of people, mostly young men, climb over the barriers and jump to the heads of the lines, in spite of the objections of the people waiting there. Now the people we timed took 15 minutes to get through.
We didn't see anyone being sent back.
5:20 We left.