A difficult morning at Qalandiya
We park on the Israeli side and pass through the checkpoint on foot. The pedestrian passage on the Palestinian side is quick, no checking and no delays. We arrive at about 5:15 and see long lines. Only 3 check posts are functioning. This time the screens above all the check posts are lit; green indicates that the check post is open, red that it is closed. 4-5 are closed. This time too, the passage through is very slow. The turnstiles open at long intervals and for a very short time each time, so that only a small number of people mange to pass through. Time passes, additional check posts do not open and the pressure in the line increases. We worry that people will start pushing and that a large crowd will gather at the entrance to the fenced-off areas. And that is exactly what happens at about 5:30, when we go to check where the line ends in the parking lot. Then a police woman arrives to open check posts 4 and 5, one moment too late.
Just as we have seen many times before, when the pushing starts and the lines gather into one big crowd, the old people (and others who do not want to be pushed) move backwards. They sit down on the benches to pray, to drink coffee and to wait for things to calm down. Women cannot remain in the line any longer so they and anybody else who has a permit walk over to the humanitarian gate which is supposed to open at 6:00. In the meanwhile people approach us to talk. They claim that the soldiers do not work effectively and that is why there is such pressure, and of course, the fact that they do not open all the gates at an earlier hour. They tell us that at the checkpoint at Zeitim everything works smoothly, there are less people, but it costs money to get there. Others tell about the checkpoint at Maccabim which is operated by a private company and works more effectively. Even at Qalqiliya, the situation is better. They go on telling us that yesterday at Qalandiya, the situation was even worse, because until 6:30(!) only one check post was open. One man says that he kept waiting from 5 o'clock until 9:15! They also complain about the fact that there are no toilets for those who have to wait for such a long time.
At 6 o'clock, in addition to the soldiers in the aquarium, there are two police women and a security guard. Later on another security guard joins them, but the soldier from the DCO has not arrived yet to open the humanitarian gate. There are at least 50 people waiting already when finally P. arrives to open the gate at 6:25. A large group of people is let into the space between the gate and the turnstile where officer P. and one of the police women check the people, who then move over to check post 5 where they are let through. It takes a long time for all the people to pass and in the meantime more and more people gather at the gate. In the regular line there are still a lot of people waiting at the entrance to the fenced off areas. They push with all their might each time the turnstiles open. Behind them three lines are beginning to form. It is now 6:45. It has taken over an hour for the crowd at the entrance to the fenced off areas to get through!
We decide to go and check the line at the vehicle check post. It appears that the people waiting there are going by public transportation. The bus is allowed to drive forward to a certain point where the Israeli residents get off to go to the check post. The bus moves on to the lane for public transportation and collects the people on the other side of the checkpoint. When we try to approach, the security guard starts shouting at us telling us to move away. We explain that we only want to understand how the system works. We may get on the bus waiting for its turn to drive on to where the passengers get off or return to the regular pedestrian check post. We decide to return.
At the pedestrian checkpoint there are hardly any lines any longer, only in the fenced off areas themselves. We pass and go over to check post 4. It appears to be a bad choice. The female soldier is working very slowly. Just a small number of people are let in each time and she makes them go back and forth instructing them to take off their shoes and their belts, to show their ID cards again, to put out their cigarettes etc. When, at last, it's our turn, she orders Ya'ara (in Arabic) to take off her shoes and put them in the machine. Then she claims that we took our ID cards back to quickly so she didn't have enough time to check them. We show our cards again wondering what exactly she has to check, since we're Israeli residents. It appears that she herself does not know. She enters the numbers of the cards into the computer (we do not know what she expects to find), speaks on the phone, consults with the soldier standing next to her (while eating a sandwich), and then they have "a brilliant idea": Are you from Machsomwatch? Only after we confirm that, yes, we are from Machsomwatch do they let us through. Meanwhile, the Palestinians waiting behind us give up and move over to other check posts ….. it's already 7:30 when we leave.