Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)

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Edith M. (translation), Varda Z. (reporting)

Dawn. Routine.

4:25 The gatesinfo-icon on the Palestinian side are open, the flow of people entering the checkpoint is steady.

4:35 On the Israeli side: There is crowding near the single exit turnstile. In spite of the crowding, the guards don't open the side gate. A man tells us about an incident - on Friday he went into Israel for a pleasure outing (it was unclear who he was with, it might have been a group from work.) They tried to return home via the Jabareh checkpoint, just before 9:00. The soldiers at the checkpoint said they were late, their permit was only good until 7:00, and detained them (calling the police, who evidently didn't come) until almost 2:00 in the morning, before allowing them to go home.

Another man stops to ask us to come more often. He says that when MachsomWatch volunteers are watching, the procedure flows better. He says he's observed, and we really make a difference.

Everyone says that Friday is the worst day for crossing.

5:00 Back at the Palestinian side, the turnstiles are limiting access again. For a change a guard explains the reason via the loudspeaker: the building is full, there's no room for more people at the moment. The lines waiting under the new roof are still not jammed, at least as far as we can see. We see mainly the women's line, which has many men in it, but when women arrive the men let them by, to the head of the line. When the gate opens, they go first.

We chose two men to watch for.

5:10 At the exit into Israel, one man we were looking for got through in 13 minutes. The other might have taken 33 minutes, but we weren't sure we identified him correctly.

A man asks for help in getting back a merchant's permit for someone who was blacklisted. We give him Sylvia and Hannah's contact information, since he doesn't know if the problem is police or security.

There is still a lot of pressure on the turnstile, even before it shuts down for two minutes around 5:20.

5:40 Back at the entry. Entry is still being limited, and only one line at a time is allowed to move. When a line shuts down, a few people climb over the dividers to get into one that's moving.

6:00 We leave.


General comments:

1 - The promised toilet still hasn't been installed near the exit.

2. The parking lot is almost empty, but access to it is crowded and occasionally totally blocked for minutes at a time.

3. It appears that the main pressure at the crossing is shifted to arround 5:00.