Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Tue 18.8.09, Morning
We started our shift at the Irtah crossing at the weird hour of 4 a.m. and from there went on to the Eyal crossing. "Today the passage is fast" say the workers coming out. We spoke to M., the deputy administrator of the passage who is responsible in the morning for its operation.
4.10 The Irtah checkpoint. Outside it is cold and dark. A weak crescent of the month of Ab. Later we hear the voices of the muezzin of the village which is near the checkpoint, the calls of the women who have come early to the passage and who are sitting on the floor. Sounds of the boys calling out that they have coffee to sell. The lines of men who seem to sit in their own sort of discipline. We cannot see the end of the line because of the fences and the nets and the enveloping darkness.
4.20 Eyal. At the entrance to the parking lot the workers sit the length of the pavement, some sitting and sleeping, some lying down. They speak quietly or are silent after a night of insufficient sleep.
The car park is full of cars and vans to transport the people. Some in a white colour take 10 people. They are crowded on the asphalt and remind one of the parking lot at Huwwara. Only here the colour is different and the setting is that of night which does not end. We go to the exit and opposite us the workers come in a constant stream saying that today the passage had gone quickly. Some recognize us and wish us good morning in English and Arabic. The faces of others are conquered by exhaustion and difficulties.
M. comes out and says to the workers who are praying next to the wall. "Not here, here there is no praying." Over and over. Why does he speak in Hebrew? (He says he knows Arabic). "Because here is Israel." And so he recites answers to our claims that the length of stay in the narrow rooms (2.5 by 2.5 metres). "We stick to the rules of putting the right number of people in a square metre...maximum 12 people." But the Palestinians report that 16 people are in the rooms and there is no possibility of sitting down in a room with no air and no windows. They complain again and again about the rooms, the glass room, one by one go in in a random fashion to be x-rayed. This is a threat to them.
M: "The machine is not dangerous. Anyone can read about it in the internet. The radiation is in the range of radio waves which does not do any harm, there is a man there specially to explain this. Have you heard that at Ben Gurion airport they give explanations about the instruments. Never! " He worked previously at Ben Gurion airport.
"Why can't you give explanations in writing about the equipment?"
"What you want us to dirty the walls with explanations? When it is necessary I am considerate. So it was a week ago when I let two children go through to their camp without their birth certificates." (Ahmad and Marah, his sister).
Mecky phones Abu Shadi of the Palestinian Workers' Organization who is responsible for the numbers in line. He was offended that someone wrote on the net that he takes a shekel from each workers for this. He says he takes a shekel a week and if someone cannot pay he lets him off. The money is taken as the tax of the organization.
On our way to the parking lot an amazing scene. 100s of workers in rows praying the morning prayer. They stand and kneel. Standing up together and the night encloses them.
In conversations with the workers:
- A worker from Nablus sleeps only 3 hours a night. He leaves Nablus at 2.30, pays the contractor 60 shekel for employing him, his journeys cost 120 shekel a day. He works in building in Holon. Earns 400 shekel a day and goes home at 20.00. His 4 children he sees on Saturdays.
- A worker from Jayus. Leaves at 3.30. Earns 160 shekel a day. 6 children. The son studies at Bir Zeit and most of the money is for him.
- A worker in air conditioning from Jit. Pays 40 shekel a day for his travelling. Part of this the contractor pays. Earns 200 shekel.
A worker says that permits are hardly given to new people. There is a tendency to move those who have permits from one work to another and not to take new workers. They get up very early even though the situation has improved in the last months but sometimes there are problems and they do not get out in time to the drivers of the contractors. Like yesterday which was an especially difficult day. They do not know why. The administrator says that "the technology failed." We could not free ourselves of the feeling that this is a slave market run by the state.
5.50 We went back to sleep.