Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim)
07:00 – We arrived at the Irtah CP. Several groups of workers are still waiting for their employers to come and fetch them.
We talked with a group of Palestinians. We asked about the manner of their passage at the CP. According to them, as usual, the pressure is great at the opening hours, between 03:45 and 05:00. Later the pressure diminishes and then there are no delays. They passed at the CP at 06:00, in 5 minutes. This has been the situation in the last ten days. The passage is quick. Most of them live in the region of Tul Karem and Jenin. One of them lives in Kalkilya but goes to the Irtah CP (and not Eyal) because he now works in Tzoran, which is near the CP. We heard from him praises about the proceedings at the Eyal CP. He told us that for about 10 years he has been active in a group of volunteers from Kalkilya, who took an initiative to organize the CP on the Palestinian side. There the appearance of the CP is better and there are functioning toilets. The volunteers have good relations with the person in charge for the checkpoint, an Israeli called Eran, and their cooperation very much helps the proceedings at the checkpoint. When Eran is not around there are more problems. The volunteers see to it that workers who must set out early for their jobs pass first at the CP. They also see to it that the women do not pass in a jam, and that the humanitarian gate is open when necessary.
Contrary to this, the proceedings at Irtah are different. The place is filthy, the toilets inhumane, and as for the communication between the Palestinians and the officials at the checkpoints: any Palestinian who approaches a guard must face the risk of being prevented from passing on that same day. An argument can cause the confiscation of the permit. According to the Palestinians, these acts depend on the person who mans the checkpoint that day. Is it possibly that the "spirit of the commander" of the place dictates the behavior of the persons employed at the CP?
07:30 – we approach a group of women and children. Their meticulous clothes indicate that they are not on their way to work in the fields. It turns out that they are waiting for a bus that would take them to visit relatives, who are prisoners in one of the prisons in Israel. One of the women whose son was arrested tells us that he is 32 years old. and has been sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.
While we were talking with the women, another Palestinian, 52 years old, came up to us. He has a health problem, so he cannot work as a laborer. He carries a small sack with a little merchandise (he has no car) and goes to Taibe to sell it. He spreads the merchandise out on the sidewalk, just like the local merchants. A policeman who knows that he is a Palestinian from the occupied territories targeted him and imposed on him a fine of 1000 shekel, threatening that next time he would confiscate his merchant's license. All his merchandise is valued at about 200 shekel! Now he is in despair. He has children and doesn't know how to provide for them. At Tul Karem there is no work and he doesn't know how to support his family.
H. comes to us and tells us that he is short of breath because of a pulmonary condition he got as a painter. A times of crowdedness at the CP he asked to be allowed to pass. As a result the guard forced him to go back. At Irtah there is no passage for anybody who opens his mouth, as another person testifies as well. M. is in contact with a lawyer from Netanya who specializes in labor laws. M. tells us about appeals of Palestinians who were wounded in the course of their job and the employer, as a reaction, returns them to the checkpoint, and that's it. He has no more contact with them. And they are forced to stay in the village, wounded in body and soul and without work. Thus is happened to a laborer who got an iron shard in his eye, 3 centimeter deep. The contractor didn't consider the gravity of his situation and took him back to the checkpoint, instead of taking him for treatment. The man says he has lost sight in that eye. The fate of others, who were injured in the course of their work is similar, even if the injury is very grave. There is no immediate treatment.
M. also points out that in the last weeks many Palestinians were deprived of their passage permits for work in Israel, and they find themselves without livelihood, without any advance notice and without reason.