A crowded morning
We reached the checkpoint at about 5:15 after having parked on the Israeli side. We usually come on Wednesdays, but this week we came on Monday again. We met 2 ecumenic women, one was standing on the Israeli side and the other on the Palestinian side. Their shift lasts from 4:30 to 7:30. When they left they measured the time it took to cross.
When we arrived there were 2 long lines. The 5 check posts were open already, but the checking was very slow. One of the ecumenic women said that she had called the DCO at 5:45, and only then did they open all the check posts. The pace was very slow. She said that she had called a number of times to ask that they speed up the checking, but in vain. The lines were getting longer. In the end they opened all 3 turnstiles, but the lines were already long reaching the parking. So far, everything was quiet and a woman and also a young man with a child were let into the line to the fenced-off area.
As usual, we met the men selling beigels and cakes. At 5:30 the coffee stall opened as well. From one of the check posts the loudspeaker was heard but it was hard to understand what they were saying. Later we heard somebody being told that he had to come back at 7 o'clock in order to be let through. We measured that it took 20 minutes for people to cross.
Ay 5:45 check post 3 was closed for some reason. The lines already reached far into the parking. H. waved to us from one of the lines. The pace was terribly slow. People waiting started to lose their patience. At check post 5 somebody called: "Soldier, speed it up…". We called the DCO. They promised to check. In the meantime you could do nothing but wait. At 5:50 the women started waiting at the humanitarian gate. One woman chose to wait in the regular line. It took her half an hour to get through.
At 6:00 a police woman arrived. She spoke to someone on the phone and check post 3 opened at once. But at check posts 4 and 5 nothing moved even though they were open. And then it was announced that no. 5 would close for 5 minutes…at least something started moving at no. 4. And after a few minutes they announced that no. 5 was open again.
At 6:10 an officer and a soldier arrived to open the humanitarian gate. The officer, whom we hadn't seen here before, asked us how things were. We said "bad, things are not moving". He entered the aquarium and when he came out he said that he had asked them to speed up the checking. He went to open the humanitarian gate. When the police woman came out the people waiting at check post 5 complained saying that contrary to what had been announced the check post wasn't working. The police woman called and it opened. All the check posts were working but the lines were still very long. The ecumenic woman arrived from the Israeli side and reported that it had taken her friend 45 minutes to cross.
The waiting people were fed up. Somebody asked the officer: "Soldier, what's going on. The line goes all the way to Qalandiya." Only when people started shouting did they open the turnstiles. Through the loudspeaker it was announced that check post 5 was open. The problem was that the checking was so slow that people gave up and moved over to other check posts. We told the officer who answered that he had asked them to speed it up three times already….
6:35 A policeman arrived and went up to the waiting people. We don't know what he did, but the checking became a little quicker. At 6:45 the lines still reached the parking but it was possible to see where they ended. Evidently, they were less strict at the humanitarian gate today. (The officer allowed an old man to cross with his young son, he called his son to come over from the regular line; the officer let him pass.) But old women without permits who were asked to wait until 8 o'clock went to sit on the benches.
At 7 o'clock the lines were shorter and remained within the covered area. At check post 5 we heard a female soldier shouting "go home" at somebody. The officer and the guard went there. Evidently, the man didn't understand what she was saying to him and she kept on shouting "you understand very well". The man went out to the officer but was sent back through the humanitarian gate. We asked the officer what had happened and he answered that the man had shouted and been rude to the soldier. After a few moments the man returned. He turned to us showing his permit and magnetic card which are valid until 2018. He said that he had called his employer who confirmed that his permit is valid. He didn't understand why he wasn't let through. We spoke to the officer trying to help, but he insisted that the man had been rude and delayed the line. We suggested that he try to cross at another check post. The fact that there was such a large crowd was helpful this time. He went to the line which was furthest away and evidently he managed to cross, since we didn't see him return until we left.
Meanwhile, a boy at most 10 or 11 years old passed through the humanitarian gate. He showed an Israeli birth certificate to the officer. It was clear that it wasn't his first time but nevertheless, it's a heart-rending sight.
At 7:30 the lines moved at a slow pace reaching the parking again in spite of the late hour. The heat was oppressive. For a relatively long time the turnstiles at the end of the fenced-off area hadn't been open. In the end, when they did open, people started pushing and shouting but luckily, things calmed down and the people waited in line again.
7:45 There were less people. The lines were still long. It wasn't clear if they would open the humanitarian gate again. Shouts were heard at check post 5 again. We joined the line and a woman standing next to us started talking to us in English. It appeared that she manages a women's center in Beit Hanina. She told us that she had visited the "Women Wage Peace" tent outside the Prime Minister's house. Some of the women were fasting to mark that one year had passed since "Operation Protective Edge". She expressed her support for Israeli and Palestinian women acting together. It took a longer time than usual to cross, but at last we passed through saying goodbye to the Palestinian woman.