Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
We arrived at Irtach at 4:00, and the crossing was opened a few minutes after that. As usual we heard the noise of the crowd from a distance. When we came close we saw that fewer men than in the past were waiting near the women's gate. In the “tunnel” there was some crowding, but it calmed down and people entered the crossing point without pushing or running.
We checked times, at first it took about 15 minutes for a person to pass through, later it was even faster.
The women's gate was closed, and one of the workers told us it was welded shut so it couldn't be forced open as we witnessed two weeks ago. The same man told us that the crowding in the barbed wire covered tunnel was terrible, and he felt suffocated. He said the food he had with him was squashed by the press of bodies.
It appears that the women's gate will never open. He told us that some men harass the women in the crowd. Some women waited for the crowd to diminish before going through, others went through with the men. Many workers pass through at four o'clock, and then sit around for a long time - they pray, eat and even sleep by the side of the road.
Tamar thinks the women's gate should be opened. Edith agrees that the women's problem need a solution, but feels that opening another gate wouldn't help unless there is a way to keep the men from taking it over. It seemed to us that the crowd was smaller than the last time we were here, two weeks ago.