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Chana S. Ronit, D. (reporter)

A very crowded morning

A very crowded morning at the Qalandiya barrier, but at least the electricity was repaired (partially). "No to the barriers" young men shout reading the text on our logo on the bag. Will we  live to see the removal of the barriers? They don`t believe in it, what about us?


After the unfortunate "adventure" at the Jib barrier a week ago, we returned to Qalandiya. We parked  on the Israeli side and crossed to the Palestinian side. At 5.15 we already encountered long queues stretching out till outside the shed. 4 stations were open. We contacted the DCO to find out why they don`t open the fifth station. They said it will be opened at 5.30, but actually they opened earlier. Unfortunately this was not enough. In order to cope with the queues, they should probably have  opened more stations earlier.


Conditions in the toilettes are bad, as they were a week ago, only the women`s toilettes are open but without running water. At least the light in the shed was partially repaired. At present 2 of the 3 rows of fluorescents are active - the one next to the enclosures and the one far from them. The vendors of bagels and cakes now have light above their heads. (At the onset of dawn the queues shorten and they usually move away from the shed).


In spite of the crowding the queues were orderly and progressed slowly. A woman with a child waited near the humanitarian gate. We suggested that she join the regular queue next to the entrance to the enclosures. Usually the men enable the  women to enter the queue at that point and the

humanitarian gate was due to open only at 6 o`clock. She did that and the men enabled her and some other women who arrived, to enter at the entrance to the enclosures.


At 5.50 an elderly man, elegantly dressed arrived with two women in richly embroidered dresses, they looked as if they were going to a celebration. They went to wait at the humanitarian gate, where some people were already waiting. Ch. arrived and began to talk to us. He works in a bakery at the Mahne Yehuda market. Half a year ago or more he was hurt in the hand in a work accident. He tells us that he had been to a medical committee of  Bituah Leumi (National Insurance Institute) and was now waiting for its decision concerning the invalidity percentage that they decide to grant him. He shows us that the wounded fingers have already recovered, but he still cannot move them fully.


Around 6 o`clock the number of people waiting at the humanitarian gate  

is increasing. Shortly after 6 o`clock, P. from the DCO arrives and begins to let people pass the humanitarian gate. Today he does it most of the time alone without the attendance of one of the policemen or security guards, even though quite a few policemen and guards have gathered there. At a certain point a policeman in blue uniform, looking like a senior policeman, appeared, behind the humanitarian gate, holding a folder in his hand. We do not know exactly what his role was. We did not see him open the folder to write anything… anyway our "forces" apparently knew him. He remained at the site for some time.


In the meantime things continue as usual. Sometimes it takes a long time to open the turnstiles and the people waiting begin to lose their patience. At a certain point a loud quarrel broke out in one of the queues, and it seemed that in a moment everything would collapse and the queues would turn into heaps of people. Fortunately this did not happen today.


The humanitarian gate was opened by P. from time to time. At a certain point a man in a wheelchair arrived and P. opened the gate near the turnstile behind the humanitarian gate. Later the man and his attendant managed by themselves without any help at the passage at station 5. Apparently they are already trained and know whom to ask to open the gatesinfo-icon of the passage for invalids next to the turnstiles at the station.  (All those entering the "gates" of Qalandiya are required to pass 4 turnstills: one at the end of the enclosures, a second at the entrance to the security check before the meganometer and the scanner – into which 3-4 people are introduced each time, a third after the security check at the station and a fourth at the exit into the Israeli side of the barrier.


At a certain point a young man holding documents and X-ray photos approaches us. He has an appointment at Hadassah, but P. did not allow him to pass at the humanitarian gate (perhaps because of the time of the queue). We suggested to him to go to the end of the enclosures and enter the queue from there but we saw that he did not do that and instead went to the end of the queue. We tried to follow him and saw that it took him more than half an hour to pass. We hoped that he would not miss his appointment.


Another case we saw was an elderly man who looked very ill. He was supported by two people from both sides, one of them carrying a large bag. Apparently he is heading to a hospital. The people at the humanitarian gate noticed his condition and let him pass ahead of them. After that they overtook him and his attendants and advanced to the security check, but we noticed that even when they came last to the security check they were allowed to pass first.


Only after 7 o`clock the queues began to shorten, but there still were many people waiting at the shed and near the humanitarian gate. At a certain point a family with children arrived, one of the girls was holding a bunch of garden flowers in her hand.


At 7.25 the queues were confined to the enclosures only. We joined a queue at the edge of one of the enclosures and immediately we  saw that they intended not to open the humanitarian gate any more. All the people were sent to the regular queues that were shorter.


We passed the turnstile and approached one of the security checks. Two young men stood behind us. "No to the barriers" they read what was written on our logo on the bag, aloud. Would we live to see a time without barriers? They don`t believe in that, what about us?