The Strawberrypickers – part 2

 

 

 

 

A very crowded queue. It’s hard to estimate the number of people in line. Galila and I make it to be above one thousand, standing here on the track entering the facility, towards the turnstiles, a track marked by hedges higher than people. They’re practically standing one on top of the other. Here and there you can see someone climbing on the fence because he doesn’t have where to stand. When that happens, his friends shove those beside them to make some room. The women have their own place by a side-gate near the turnstiles. Some of them are sitting on the ground. The photo, from 5:30am, after it was light, shows a later queue, when it is a little less crowded.

The facility opened at 5:03am. The turnstiles turn and turn until some thirty people fill the space between them and the metal detector at the entrance to the facility. Then they lock. Some people are trapped in the turnstile (second photo). When the turnstiles move again, those who were trapped are virtually spewed out of them (third photo). The examiner calls on the PA system: “Wahad, Wahad” (one [by] one).  And also “Everything, take everything out. Tuna, Humus, Olives, everything.”

One woman tells me: she’s from Irtah, 67 (!) years old, works in agriculture. This week she picked mainly strawberries and peppers. She goes through here every day. She arrives about an hour before the facility is opened to get a good place in the queue. I remember her from previous visits of mine, she has a fixed place, by the turnstile nearest to the hedge where we stand. She always sits a little bent, leaning on the steel, and gets up only when the PA announces that the facility is about to be opened. You’ve seen her photo here already. Today she got out of the facility with blood on both of her hands. She said that because it was crowded she was pressed against the fence.

Two workers wait by the entrance gate to the facility from the other direction. They arrived shortly before 5am (we met them at 5:10am). They were working all night, laying sewage pipes in some of Netanya’s main streets, and now they want to go home. But in these hours the facility only operates in the opposite direction, towards Israel. So they wait. Patiently and in incredible silence, at this time of dawn, and having worked all night. I turned to a security guard at the parking lot to make sure they were aware these workers were there (the answer was positive). Galila noticed an open window, and tried to communicate with the face she saw through it. This was a rare moment in the Irtah facility, and the window was quickly closed. The taxi driver who was waiting for them on the other side, gave up and went. Only at 6:10am they were allowed to go through. But why – surely these are not the first Palestinians (and definitely not the last), who return to the West Bank in the early morning because they work in those jobs that are done at night, lest they disturb the Israeli daytime.

 

Click here for a Hebrew version.

 

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