Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)

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


A bad day. People tell us recently they're all bad days.


03:50 We arrive. A number of buses and minibuses are already in the parking lot, lined up neatly. The lot is clean.


A guard stops us on our way to the gate. He checks with some authority before allowing us to proceed, and warns us not to take pictures.


04:01 The gatesinfo-icon open. People run into the yard leading to the facility. We hear the crowd roaring on the other side of the lines where people wait, but we can't see what's happening there.


04:08 The first people have passed through the checkpoint - but the exit turnstile is locked. It's only released after a sizable crowd collects inside the terminal, and people run off. Why are they running? Some of them head for the toilets. There is still only one unit, four stalls, for the thousands of people who pass through every day, sometimes waiting for hours in the cold night. As for others, we don't know why they were rushing.


04:15 At the entrance to the facility again. The turnstiles are closed, and they stay closed in spite of the complaints from the many people waiting. We don't know when they closed. Two men walk around the side of the line, trying to sell hot drinks. In the yard we see a phenomenon that we remember from before the new roofed area went up - and now again - large empty tin cans and cardboard boxes get kicked into the yard, after the earlybirds sat on them while waiting for the gates to open.


04:30 The turnstiles open for two or three minutes, then close for a few minutes. While they are closed four young people pass, one by one, back into Palestinian territory. We are too far away to ask them why they're going back.


04:40 On the Israeli side, two people we chose to watch out for come through in seven - eight minutes. A third man takes 15 minutes to pass through.


04:45 The exit turnstile locks for a minute or two. An angry crowd collects. This happens again and again. When the turnstile opens, the side gate also opens to release the pressure inside. This practice is new to us, and we see no reason for it. Several of the people coming out tell us that the real problem is on the other side, at the entrance to the lines. A few say their life is garbage, the situation is impossible.


04:55 The turnstiles at the entrance stay open for several minutes, and a large crowd fills up the yard and squeezes toward the metal detectors. Another practice that's unfamiliar to us. Even though the turnstiles are open, we see young men climbing over the barriers between the lines. We choose more people to watch for and return to the Israeli side.


05:05 The exit turnstile is still closing periodically. People tell us that a man collapsed while standing at the fingerprint station; attempts are made to resuscitate him. It's been a long time since we heard about this kind of problem, which were common before the new building went up. One of the people we chose to observe got through in 15 minutes, another might have taken half an hour, but we weren't sure we identified him.


People complain about pressure on the way back in the afternoon. We plan to check on that too.


05:30 We leave. The parking lot is chaotic and dirty.