Eyal, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), יום ג' 26.5.09, אחה"צ
16:20 We have arrived at the Eyal checkpoint. There are few cars in the parking lot and a small number of workers are on their way to the terminal.
We go to check the exit and to get an impression of the mechanically operated closed off area.
In the meantime more workers are returning but the line is not long and there is no pressure. They tell us that this morning it was "excellent"! Many people claim that our presence at the checkpoint has a positive impact - additional security positions have been opened at the terminal.
A man wearing a skullcap, named Simon, is walking towards us. At the end of June the terminal at Eyal is going to be demilitarized and he is to be in charge of the civilian administration. Simon is aware of our activities and he presents his vision to us: "The conditions here will be good and pleasant; toilets, cold water fountains and green areas." He also emphasizes that the place will be kept clean. 3 workers will be responsible for cleaning and maintenance, and their pay will be good. On their side the covers against the sun and the rain will be repaired, but they will have to take care of the sanitary conditions themselves. "It's their business." Anybody who leaves dirt will be punished and his magnetic card will beconfiscated. Also, the cars belonging to the Arab contractors will have to park in a different place. In the beginning the blue police forces will enforce the new regulations until they become routine.
We asked Simon for his family name and phone no., but he would not tell us.
(We believe that our keeping watch at Eyal will be even more crucial if the police start making life for the Palestinians more difficult by inflicting punishments to keep order.)
Many workers ask when the curfew will be (because of "Shavuot"). - "How do you know about the curfew?"
"We listen to channel 2".
The usual vague information.
17:10 We leave for Irtah.
17:35 We arrive at Irtah. A quarter of an hour from Eyal, and here the line is long and crowded and people are angry. The workers are running from their employers' cars to join the line and move forwards quickly. 5 people in a row, and the line is getting longer and longer.
We listen to the complaints of the workers coming back from an intolerably long workday. They are hungry and tired. Most of them do not even have a bag: "Why do they open only one security position, when there are 15 in the terminal?"
There is a lot of pressure at the turnstile, which stops every 3 minutes for 5 minutes. People are pushing hard, cursing and fighting to get through. Women who arrive are moving forwards as a group waiting for the men to let them pass without having to wait in line. They all work in agriculture in Sharon.
It is after six o'clock, and the line is still long.
Next to the turnstile we meet Zehava G.' and Amit from Machsomwatch. They keep calling the District Coordination Office but to no avail. Micky calls Hanna Berg who speaks to whoever it is, and once again to the DCO. All of a sudden we notice a change. The turnstile does not stop any more and the line moves forward without delay.
What a miracle. The phone calls worked and opened the security positions.
Zehava and Amit return to check what is going on at Eyal.
The alienation at the checkpoint:
While we were observing we could not see who was operating the checkpoint. There is nobody to talk to. Everything is fenced off and working mechanically. Lights are blinking and one can hear the noise of the turnstile. An armed soldier with earphones is keeping guard at the lonely turnstile. We shout asking him to open an additional one, but looking like a sphinx he stares at us and does not answer.
The parking lot is rather clean and there are toilets, a water fountain, plants and even a playground and a covered area. A Palestinian is cleaning. I try to ask him a few questions but he won't speak.
The Palestinians tell us that the checkpoint closes at 18:45. Some of them say 19:00. Others ask us about the curfew, but we find no written information. We decide to stay until they close.
18:43 A worker greets me at the entrance and the a steel door closes behind him. It is locked and there is nobody to talk to. I shout at the "sphinx" and then the door opens. The guard coming out explains that it was a mistake. More workers arrive, but at 18:45 the parking lot is already locked and the steel door closes behind what looks like the last few workers.
The armed soldier with the earphones lets us out from the parking area, and then a few more vehicles arrive. We see the workers coming out of them, maybe 14. The guards tell them: "No entrance!"
"So what will you do?"
They drive on to Jubara and from there they will be able to go home. They will take the risk of having their magnetic cards confiscated and of losing workdays - the punishment for not being on time.
We follow them to find out what will happen. It seems that we have lost the right checkpoint. When we call the DCO they have not heard about the workers who couldn't pass at Irtah, but the regulations of the DCO are clear: the first time you are late a warning, the second time the confiscation of the magnetic card.
It is getting dark.