Irtah, Jubara (Kafriat), Sun 22.3.09, Morning

Leah R., Anna N.Sh.

Translator: Louise L.

Irtah Checkpoint for civilians at the exit to Israel.

At last we reached the site we have heard so much about, and now we understand why. The place is surrounded by fences and walls, while pickup trucks are patrolling the area crowded with people. An hour and a half after the checkpoint opened (at 4.30 a.m.) a crowd of about 1000 people keeps waiting in front of the three turnstiles, which open for a few seconds each time.

Thousands of people having to work hard to make a living (there are those who claim 4000 people every morning) are waiting to leave for work. Packed together and exposed to the sun, the wind and the rain they stand waiting under humiliating conditions. The turnstiles open every few minutes. A wave of people rushes forward trying to pass through. About 15 people manage to pass before the turnstile is locked again. At the terminal 12 checkpoints operate simultaneously in order to cope with the large numbers of people, we are told. The passage itself takes half an hour for those who are lucky but up to an hour for those who are ordered into the closed rooms for further examination.

The parking lot is full with people and tens of private cars are waiting for the workers. Some cars are even parking outside the lot. The pita vendor is sitting on the edge of the sidewalk. His voice is swallowed up by all the noise.

One fountain supplies drinking water to the thousands of people passing through every morning. There are two toilets for men and women in every building. The doors are broken and the pipes are damaged. Water is leaking and the floor is all muddy. It is quite obvious that the toilets have not been cleaned for a long time. Those responsible blame the workers: they keep destroying the place. Two toilets for thousands of people!

There is a covered waiting corner with some benches. At least a sign of good intentions. We see one man waiting there, for an hour already between the turnstile and the checkpoint, he says. His I.D. card has been taken from him, even though he has an entry permit. His employer is waiting for him impatiently while they are having an animated conversation through the net of the fence. Later on he was allowed into Israel.

07.00 About 15 people are asking to return home, since their employer did not wait for them. They will have to wait until 07.30 when the turnstiles are being moved back. Until then it is impossible… So not only do they lose a day of work after having been kept waiting, but now they have to wait again before going home.

After the wave of workers the families arrive with their dressed-up children and/or old women. They are going to visit their relatives in the detention camp in Ketziot. There are four buses with the same destination.

Roadblock where people and goods are transferred from one vehicle to another.

The guard does not let us enter the site. He wants to call the person in charge to talk to us, but we do not wait.

Jubara  Army checkpoint for vehicles.

It’s a gate through which vehicles enter/leave the occupied territories. A huge green sign welcomes us: “Avnei Hefetz, Shavei Shomron”. A policeman is posted at the checkpoint. He is nervous.  “Drive this way. I told you to drive this way.”

The roadblock looks like a bleeding wound in the pastoral valley. From all directions there are roads for army vehicles, apartheid roads for Israeli civilians, roads leading into the army base, fences and roadblocks.

Israeli vehicles speed by on the apartheid road, while Arab cars, on their way in and out, are being checked by a team of soldiers from the border guard, I think.

A young woman with her little girl walk up the road to Israel after having  been checked.

At the center of the roadblock three young women dressed modestly are waiting to get a lift to Israel. They talk with the soldiers and seem to be quite at ease. Talking with one of the soldiers we explain our task and our opinion about the occupied territories. The girls are listening and giggling: “The occupied territories…”

The cut off Palestinian village Hirbet Jubara, an enclave surrounded by fences, is to our left. The nearby roadblock – roadblock 753, or as it is evidently called the, “Children’s Gate”, is between the fences – one lonely house. Two people are sitting by its door, a man and a woman. They are too far away for us to speak to them. After this roadblock there is one more on the way leading to A-Ras.

09.20  We leave.