Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Mon 28.6.10, Morning
4:00 – 5:20 Irtach We arrived just as the revolving gates opened. The line was extremely crowded. The revolving gates through which people entered the inspection area operated very quickly. On the other side – after the inspection – there was also a constant flow of many people. People were asked to place items that set off the metal detectors on a table at their entrance and collect them after going through – especially canned soda and tuna. Everyone coming through said there were many inspectors inside and 4-5 windows for checking papers, so people went through quickly.
A few people told us to pay attention to what happens after 4:30. And, in fact, from 4:45 to 4:58 the crossing stopped letting people through. Moreover, after being inspected people were kept from exiting for about five minutes. This work stoppage led to extreme crowding in the long, winding line of hundreds of people, including a few women. Two children about 12 years old, coffee sellers in the shed where the inspection line begins, came over to us. They arrive between 1 and 2 AM, and work until the line things out a little after 6 AM. Soon after they approached us a young man came over, annoyed they spoke to us, and chased them back toward the shed, where we heard additional youthful voices offering food and drink to those waiting.
It’s hard to estimate how many of those coming through work nearby. We’ll try to do so on the basis of the number of waiting vehicles. Many ride to more distant places of work – in Tel Aviv and beyond – and they walk to the buses which stop on the main road only from 5:45 on. People riding to work nearby pay NIS 10 each way, inside the Green Line, as well as NIS 4-8 to get from home to the checkpoint. Most laborers don’t have transportation provided by their employer.
Everyone complained about Friday and asked that the checkpoint open earlier, at least at 4:30, and that there will be the same number of inspectors as on the other days of the week.
A man who spoke English approached us in the middle of the open area, when we were just about ready to go to the Eyal crossing, and complained that the Israeli public was ignoring what was happening to Palestinians under occupation. He wanted action, hoping that the more people knew about what was going on, the better the chances that the government would be forced to change its policies – even though, in his opinion, the US role in what’s going on is not inconsequential. He repeated one sentence over and over: “I – we’re Moslems, you – you’re Jews, but we’re all human beings – the time has come to see that and change things.” Many people gathered, and when we shook hands goodbye they crowded around us to hear what we talked about translated into Arabic.
5:40 – 6:25 Eyal
As expected, by the time we arrived there were very many people in the fenced-off area of the Eyal checkpoint, as well as masses of vehicles picking up passengers before driving away. The flow of people leaving after inspections was slow, and they complained greatly about the slowness of the inspections, which some thought was intentional. People with whom we spoke out in front had two principal complaints: on the way they were spoken to, the tone of the inspectors and what they said, particularly about the young female inspectors, and about some new rotating device for a physical inspection on which everyone has to stand – apparently some new scanning device. They said it was very unpleasant and were afraid that it caused cancer. When we stood outside next to the inspection building – since the Eyal checkpoint is subdivided into separate, fenced areas that are concealed by an exaggerated number of galvanized metal dividers and concrete barriers – we could hear frequent loud voices giving orders and many people complaining about them in Arabic and in broken Hebrew.
There were also complaints about limits on the type of products they were allowed to bring to work – for example, a strict limit on the amount of olive oil.
They complained about Friday here as well.
We spoke with a group of people having various skills who are maintenance workers at Beilinson hospital, which provides organized transportation to and from the hospital. They’re employed by a manpower agency. We compared pay slips and they said they’re conditions were better than those of construction workers, and their employer makes payments to the National Insurance Institute (Bitu’ach Le’umi) on their behalf, but they don’t receive other social benefits.
While we were observing the exit from the inspection area, two employees of the security company that runs the checkpoint approached us claiming we’re forbidden to take photographs there, and that the permit we have from the army doesn’t apply to them, since they’re under the authority of the Ministry of Defense.