Eyal Crossing, Wed 23.9.09, Morning
I have not been at Eyal since the changeover from army to civilian management, which was about 3 months ago. The terminal itself has now become totally isolated by security fences. There is no way to see the Palestinian side of the terminal or the people that are waiting to enter the building from that side. This severely limits our estimation of the situation. We have no idea how many people are waiting on line and what the conditions are like.
Today, Wednesday September 23, 2009, is just a few days after the Rosh Hashannah closure and the Moslem Eed El Fitter holiday. We are told that not as many people are waiting on line because some will wait to the beginning of next week to begin working. Next week is Yom Kippur and no doubt there will be very little demand for workers, if any, and there will probably be closure.
We arrived at 4:03AM. At 4:06AM we started to see the first people leaving the terminal on the Israeli side after being checked.
Until 5:58AM the people who came out said today was a good day. They said the lines weren't long and they passed through relatively quickly. From time to time there would be someone who complained bitterly about being kept in the "security check room" for from 40 to 90 minutes. These rooms are where people are randomly chosen to go through an extra check up which may include removing shoes and clothes.
By 5:00AM the parking lot where people wait for their employers or take mini-buses to other pick up points or destinations, was filled with hundreds of people. One group of about 300 hundred men was lined up in rows and was praying. Others were sitting around in smaller groups. We were wondering why they came so early if they didn't have to leave for work immediately. It seems they never know how long it is going to take and they would rather come much earlier then be late and lose their job. We then saw an example of what they meant.
At 5:59AM the exit doors closed automatically, checking was terminated and those who had just left were stopped about 50 meters down the walkway by an armed guard. After a few minutes he had the group go back the way they came and into the terminal. The checking was held up until 6:11AM. It seems the guards inside had pointed to one of the men passing through to step into the "security check room" and he didn't relate to the request. When they realized he had not abided their request and had passed through the regular checking lines, they closed the whole checking area down and stopped the people on the way out in order to find him.
This delay of 15 minutes caused a bottleneck so that when the doors reopened about 200 people came out in a wave and everyone looked angry and many were complaining. The whole tone of the day had changed. At 6:26AM we were told that there were still several hundred people waiting outside on the Palestinian side to be checked.
The man who had been stopped because he hadn't gone through the security room as demanded came out at 6:36AM. He claimed he did not see the guards select him out. His two brothers who had come out earlier waited near us because they didn't understand what was taking him so long and were trying to reach him by phone. It was through the two brothers that we were aware of what was happening. As those in the parking lot had told us, it is better to be early because you never know what will happen. A "good" day can suddenly change to a "bad" one.
When people were being checked, the rate of people coming out the turnstile on the Israeli side was anywhere from 30 per minute to one or two per minute. It was not clear to us why this was so inconsistent.
We were told that no ice water is permitted. One man complained that water that was in his container of cheese was considered against the rules and it was spilled out.