'Atarot, Hizma, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Mon 31.5.10, Afternoon
We were a little anxious as we set out - friends had called to warn us that we were in for a difficult day (battles, stone throwing, tension, who knows?). We listened to the radio all the way to the CP, hoping to hear some information on what was going on. But all was quiet (after the morning's disturbances), and the CP looked quite abandoned. I always thought that things were terrible when the CP was full to overflowing, but it turns out that empty CP's portend no good either. There is simply nothing good about a CheckPoint.
15:20: Atarot CP: There is no CP anymore! All the cement blocks and attendant paraphernalia (spike strips/tire shredders) have been removed and the traffic is flowing. It seems that the CP has been moved to Highway 443. We had no time to visit today, will do so next week.
15:30: Qalandiya CP: The CP was almost deserted. A handful of Palestinian workers were sitting in the northern shed, waiting for a lift home. The coffee vendor was not around, so we asked the sweets vendor about the day's events. He said that he had arrived at 2 PM, that all had been quiet and the CP deserted. While we were talking to Suleiman, a man aged 45-50 whom we have often seen at Qalandiya, someone who passes the CP on a daily basis, came over to speak with us. His name is Nasser.
Short Story: Where is Nasser?
Nasser is a Palestinian man who holds a permit to enter Jerusalem to conduct his business. His job is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to many institutional clients in Jerusalem - hospitals, yeshivas, etc. Yesterday he arrived at Qalandiya on his was to Hadassah Hospital to prepare a list of products for shipment.
Nasser told us that he had come with a group of friends and gotten in line at the carousel at the CP entrance. The soldier in the post controlling the entrance allowed all those ahead of Nasser in line to enter the CP but locked the carousel when it was Nasser's turn. Then the soldier announced that the adjacent carousel was open, so all those behind Nasser rushed out to join the new line. At this point, the soldier told Nasser that he had a job for him to do. He told Nasser that he must tell all those sitting in the shed to leave. Nasser refused to obey the order (he doesn't work for the IDF) and the soldier replied that until he did as he was told he would not be allowed to enter the CP. Each time that Nasser stood in line and reached the carousel, the soldier locked him out.
Natanya and I started to phone everyone we could think of to solve the problem. Headquarters promised to help. The DCO offices didn't answer. We asked Headquarters to put us in touch with the DCO representative, which they did, but the representative was not at the CP. He promised to speak with the soldier by phone. After a while, we approached the fence and tried to talk to the soldier in the post. He wouldn't open the window so that our conversation was conducted in pantomime. But we managed to understand that there was no problem, that Nasser could enter the CP. We told Nasser and got in line behind him at the carousel. As promised, the carousel turned and Nasser (and we as well) went into the CP. As he passed, the PA system announced that Passageway No. 4 was open. As 8 people were waiting on line in Passageway No. 2, Nasser went straight to No. 4. As we waited in the internal passageway, I noticed that the soldier at the entrance was talking on the phone. So was the soldier in the "aquarium" in Passageway 4. After waiting for several minutes, I suddenly thought that perhaps the two soldiers were talking with each other: were they setting a trap for Nasser? I suggested to Nasser that he should get in line and present his papers at No.2 in order to avoid any further problems, but Nasser was not suspicious and the minute the carousel opened he went in to No. 4. As he presented his papers to the soldier in the window, the soldier ordered him to enter the "examination room." Nasser disappeared from view and we didn't see him again.
Natanya and Lindsay crossed to the Jerusalem side of the CP while I waited on the Palestinian side, but Nasser never appeared. Later on I went through Passageway 4 and asked the soldier if Nasser was still inside. As expected, the soldier told me it was none of my business and turned his back on me.
We were at Qalandiya CP until 5 PM. We still don't know what happened to Nasser and we don't have his phone number either.
Back at the CP:
While Natanya and Lindsay waited to enter the CP at the northern entrance, the (same) soldier in the post moved them back and forth from one carousel to another, yelling at them.
Another little CP curiosity: We know from experience that the magnetometer in Passageway 4 is very sensitive, particularly to women's buckles, and so Passageway 4 is usually reserved for men only. However, when I went through this Passageway yesterday, after placing all my belongings in the X-ray machine, I discovered to my consternation that I had forgotten my car keys in my pocket. I had no alternative but to go through the magnetometer with the keys in my hand - but the machine did not chirp. I went through again twice, keys in hand, to put trays in position at the mouth of the machine - no chirping! What happened?
17:00: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. There was no one at Lil/Jabba CP aside from three bored soldiers, no Palestinian cars. At Hizmeh, traffic was light and flowing freely.