'Atarot, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Mon 30.11.09, Afternoon

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Natanya G. and Phyllis W. (reporting)

Monday was the last day of the Id al Adkha holiday.  All afternoon Qalandiya CP was crowded with families and individuals, dressed in their finest and carrying gifts, on their way to visit relatives in Jerusalem and celebrate the holiday together.  Unfortunately, the authorities who run the checkpoint seem once again to have been caught unawares and unprepared (or perhaps, uncaring).  Although three passageways were working all afternoon, they were not working efficiently and the wait was interminable, both in the northern shed and afterwards in the passageways.  There was no way of opening the "humanitarian gate" for the mothers leading multiple children, some sitting in carriages.  Instead the mothers were forced to fold the carriages and hold their infants, as well as their packages, in their arms and squeeze (literally) slowly through the narrow metal cages that funnel people into the carousels (turnstiles) leading to the passageways.  We saw several instances of families arriving at Qalandiya and, despairing at the crowding and the length of the wait, turning around to head back home.  Just another example of the casual inhumanity practiced so casually at the checkpoint.  Happy Holiday!!!! 

15:15: The line of cars at Atarot CP reached beyond the turn in the road.  Soldiers were checking drivers' papers selectively.

15:30 - Qalandiya: About 90 people were waiting in the northern shed, lined up in the 3 "cages" and spilling over into the shed itself.  Inside the CP three passageways were active.  Along with the female soldier operating the gatesinfo-icon, three policemen were in the booth in the shed.  Nothing at all seemed to be moving.

15:44:  Two civilian guards playfully "attacked" the booth with automatic weapons at the ready, joining the four already inside.  We called CP Headquarters to ask if something couldn't be done to speed up passage of the CP.  Shortly thereafter the carousels were opened and about half of those waiting in the shed were allowed to enter the CP.  One of the policemen in the booth came out and with no apparent reason shouted at those standing in the line nearest the booth that the line was closed.  Then he turned to the soldier operating the carousels and signaled to her to close it.  We immediately started to phone for help and when he saw this he went back inside watching us...and then suddenly the turnstile reopened.  If the line had been closed, the people who had been waiting there for at least 20 minutes to enter the CP would have had to go to another turnstile where they would have been last in line. 

15:55:  After new arrivals, there were now more than 100 people in the northern shed with more coming in all the time, many women with young children and entire families.  Once again the carousels were opened and swiftly closed once again, separating a 3-year old from his mother caught inside.  We tried to attract the attention of the policeman in the booth to the crying youngster but he was impervious. 

16:09:  The lines are still very long.  None of the peddlers selling refreshments from their wagons are at the CP today - perhaps they're celebrating the holiday.  The only one present is the ever-smiling "coffee man". 

16:20:  Two women arrive with 4 children in tow and an infant sleeping in his carriage.  We ask the soldier, through the fence and the closed booth windows, if she could please open the humanitarian gate.  The soldier actually tries, calling someone on the phone to ask how to help.  But in the end she shrugs her shoulders to show there's nothing she can do. And the women slowly thread their way through the cage and finally fold the carriage up when they get to the carousel.

16:29:  A middle aged woman arrives carrying a 10-year old boy whose leg is bandaged from knee to ankle. The boy, a Jerusalem resident who was visiting his friend in Qalandiya, had been playing outside and fallen from a boulder and the woman was trying to take him through the CP and return him to his family so that he could get medical care.   Once again the soldier in the booth shrugged her shoulders at her inability to help, but she did open the carousel and allow everyone in that line to enter until the woman herself, still carrying the 10-yr. old, had entered the CP.

16:37:  There were still more than 100 people waiting in the northern shed to enter the CP.

16:40:  We spotted the woman with the 10-yr. old as she returned without him.  She said she had delivered him to his parents who had taken him to Hadassah Hospital.

16:57: There were still more than 100 people waiting in the northern shed to enter the CP.

17:10:  We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem.  There was a line of 11 vehicles at Lil/Jabba CP with more arriving all the time.  There was a huge traffic jam on the way to Hizmeh, but at the CP itself the traffic was moving slowly but surely.