'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Eyal Crossing, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Thu 23.4.09, Afternoon

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Mika S., Karin L., Nur B. (reporting and photographing)

Translator:  Charles K.


Today we wanted to observe the checkpoints where workers cross in the afternoon from Israel to Palestine when they return home from work.  People going from one country to another on their way home from work.

14:30  Eliyahu crossing.  We entered Palestine.

15:00  Deir Sharaf.  Three soldiers man the entrance toward Nablus.  At the moment, people crossing aren’t inspected.  Random inspections of people coming from Nablus.  The DCO: “Sometimes one in 80, sometimes one in 100, sometimes an hour passes and no one is inspected.”  We saw one car pulled over to the side for inspection, including the trunk.

15:15  Anabta   Traffic is backed up to the junction of Route 557 (leading to the settlements of Einav and Avnei Hefetz).  The reason – excavation underway to enlarge the checkpoint (an additional lane is planned).  We’re told that half an hour ago traffic was backed up even farther.

15:30  Kafriat/Te’anim crossing.  Back in Israel.

15:40  Irtah/Efrayim gate  Although it’s in fact a border crossing, it looks nothing like one.  Border crossings usually have a different décor, more organized, more elegant.  The décor here is astounding – high electrified fences (2.5 meters).  Concrete blocks piled one on another at the entrance.  Photos attached.  The people we saw here are the poorest members of society.  Hewers of wood and drawers of water for Israel.  Male and female agricultural laborers, construction workers.  Some wearing torn clothes.  They come from the northern West Bank to work in Israel.  And they’re the lucky ones.  There are those who didn’t receive an entry permit.

A civilian security guard approaches to ask what we’re doing.  What could Israeli citizens be looking for here?  First we went over to the emplacement that was less congested at this hour – the entry to Israel.  Most of those waiting at this time are families (most of them apparently relatives of prisoners on their way to visit family members imprisoned in Israel).  They’ve already been waiting an hour and a half; the gate is closed.  A boy swings on the huge yellow gate, then tries to climb the fence.  He wants to move around a little, relieve the boredom.  His family calls to him in panic.  The fence, after all, is electrified.  A large sign with a picture of a pink flower and in large letters, in Arabic, “The hope of us all;” in smaller letters again in Hebrew and English.  We went over to the entrance to Palestine when we saw large taxis arriving at the parking lot.  Israeli employers drop off their workers here.

At 16:00 a line of some 200 people (Karin counted), lengthening by the minute.  The revolving gate at the head of the line, through which people approach the inspection booths, begins turning, workers start entering.  They know the gate will stop turning and they push against one another, all wanting to get home.  Young men, probably unmarried, hurry less.  Most are men, but there are some women and some families (apparently relatives returning from visiting prisoners).  The revolving gate stops, once for six minutes, once for two minutes, once for only half a minute.  Each time the revolving gate turned we counted how many people managed to get through: 30, 55, 27, 112.  And that’s just the entrance to the checkpoint.  They still have to be inspected inside.  A man, 40, from Jenin, who works as a tile layer in Netanya, tells us:  He leaves home at 03:00, gets here at 04:20.  Gets through the crossing at 05:30.  He says that if you don’t arrive at Irtach between 05:00 and 06:00 you won’t get through in time, you’ll miss your ride and lose a day of work.  This man is lucky, he has a vehicle.  He leaves it at the crossing.  He told us that the return crossing to Palestine is relatively quick.  He expects to be home in fifty minutes.  He asked us to come in the morning.  We promised to do so.  Two other men said that even though they have all the necessary permits they’re frequently detained at the checkpoint in the morning.  They have to wait inside the rooms and miss their rides to work.

16:50  Eyal crossing  Some men kneel on prayer mats in the parking lot.  Not everyone can fit in the place set aside for prayer.  We hear about what happened yesterday (many men told us, and they all told similar stories).  The line was very long, the whole path was filled all the way to the plaza (in other words, about 500 people).  They waited three hours but the gate didn’t open.  They said there were times they felt the soldiers were about to hit some of them.  A young Palestinian Israeli said:  “These are people trying to make a living for their children.  They waited until eight at night.  I called Channel 10 so they’d come and film.  They didn’t.  No one cares.”  How naïve.  Today is calm (a term which has to be understood in relative terms, of course).  A taxi or two arrives every few minutes.  Ten or twenty workers get out, enter the crossing quickly; no line forms.  We see them coming out a few minutes later after their documents have been inspected.  One man said that on Thursday (today) fewer people arrive because some return to Ramallah via the Qalandiyya checkpoint.  Photos:  1274 – Irtach, entrance to the checkpoint.  1255, 1258 – Irtach, a boy relieving the boredom of the long wait.  .