Qalandiya, Fri 15.3.13, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
“They don’t honor the permits they’ve issued” because “today they’re screening.”
Maybe because of last week’s uproar on the Temple Mount, maybe because of the heat wave, maybe because that’s just how things work here, today they decided upstairs to change the rules. Except they didn’t bother to notify in advance the people subject to those rules. Today, Friday, the day for worship, for errands, an order came down from on high (high up where, exactly?) that only women, and men older than 60, will be permitted through for prayers. Others, with standing permits (merchant’s crossing permit), aren’t allowed through. Those who’d made appointments ahead of time, who gathered all the required permits, who’d received a special permit for today (for a consular or a hospital appointment) aren’t allowed through.
At 09:00 the area beyond the initial revolving gates is full of Israeli police and DCO representatives of various ranks, but the latter keep quiet (except for one polite young man) and leave things to the police (?), in particular to an officer who refuses to speak to us and behaves superciliously – if not rudely - to everyone. Only one lane operating.
The police officer stands on the other side of the bars and screens those waiting. “Irja la’aura” [go back]!” he tells everyone who doesn’t meet this morning’s criteria. And there’s no appeal. Those turned back push through the ones waiting between the bars. There’s no humanitarian lane. The only crossing is via the screening lane - for old men and women, the halt and the lame.
A man with a permit, who’s employed as a painter and was supposed to finish a job for an elderly couple (who are living in the midst of the mess and are angry that the painter isn’t coming to complete the job as promised, and they can’t put everything back in place by themselves, and it’s Friday…) tried to go back (and perhaps even sneak in) through the congested line. His permit was confiscated. He’ll be able to get it back at the DCO, probably after a complaint is filed against him and he’s fined…
A polite DCO representative explains that many eyes are on the checkpoint today, that the orders from above can’t be altered. He hopes that people will be allowed to enter after 12:00 (after the consulates close, after losing a day of work).
People at the checkpoint are very angry. Some of the stories: about cement costing thousands of shekels scheduled to be poured today, and won’t be; about the Jewish owner of a flower shop waiting at the store for his worker, not able to understand why his colleague is being detained, particularly on Friday, when he’s even more urgently needed; about a university teacher from Italy, married to a Palestinian, who spent weeks assembling all the required permits to go to the consulate with her family (her son is leaving to study in Italy), and she’s irate, weeping, humiliated. “She’s not yet used to such treatment,” says her husband. She’s lived here for five years and still hasn’t come to terms with the arbitrariness and helplessness that is the lot of her new compatriots.
Dozens of people crowd at the fence, running back and forth, stretching hands with documents toward every approaching officer, pleading for understanding, for permission. “You want us to become violent,” says one man, a merchant who’s been refused to cross on business, “but we won’t succumb to temptation. And eventually you’ll collapse.”