'Anata-Shu'afat, Qalandiya

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Chana S., Ronit D. (reporting); Translator: Judith Green

A quiet morning in the pedestrian lane at Qalandiya.  Crowded, but not unreasonably, at the vehicle crossing in Shuafat.



We arrived at about 5:15, after parking on the Israeli side and walking.  It was still cold and dark.  Outside, there was already a hoard of people and cars - particularly transporters and buses from East Jerusalem.  Inside, 5 stations were already open and the lines were short.  Women were allowed to join the line at the entrance to the enclosures.  Later, every time that the turnstiles at the end of the enclosures opened, the lines at the enclosures shortened.  H., our acquaintance, and others reported that on the other days of the week until now, there was a lot of crowding at the checkpoint.  Today, the birds were energetically singing and everything was quiet at the pedestrian crossing.  We could hear impatient honking from the vehicles checkpoint.


At about 6, no lines.  Everyone who arrived went in and through the turnstile that was still open.  We wondered if this was a result of the events of the night - according to media reports, there were arrests at night in the Qalandiya refugee camp, during which there were 2 car ramming attempts which ended in the death of the Palestinians and the injuring of 3 soldiers (apparently from friendly fire).  Maybe this caused some people to stay home from work today.


At 6 there was a change in the shift of the soldier at the aquarium.  Two policemen came with the new soldier.  We joined the line next to one of the stations, through the open turnstile at the end of the enclosure.  We went through in a few minutes and decided to travel to Shuafat to see what was happening there.



Since we finished our morning shift at Qalandiya so early, we traveled to Shuafat and decided to check out the situation at the crossing with our car.  We got there about 6:25.  When we approached, we saw a Border Guard with a dog approach the checkpoint.  We went in and went around the traffic circle in order to join the line of vehicles which were leaving.  There are vehicles, particularly motor cycles, which travel against the line of traffic in the circle.  At the entrance to the traffic circle, towards the checkpoint, there is someone trying to organize the flow of traffic.  It seems that the school buses at this hour have not yet entered the traffic.  We saw the buses standing on the side, apparently the students hadn't arrived yet.


After the traffic circle there is the line for the checkpoint.  The rules here forbid the vehicles to approach the checkpoint.  There are 2 lines in each one of which there are 3 lanes which change to one lane at the checkpoint.  The cars are head to tail and proceed very slowly.  Then they stand at a distance and are allowed to proceed only after the vehicle in front of them has gone through.  Every once in a while, motor cycles arrive and go in front.  There are 3 inspection stations in operation.  When our turn arrived and we began our approach, a bicyclist went past us.  He approached the checkpoint with his blue ID in his hand.  The Border Guard asked us to move back and wasn't satisfied with our moving just a little.  We were forced to go back to the place we were supposed to be waiting.  Only then did he finish his inspection of the document of the bicycle rider and we were allowed to move forward.  When we got to him, he said, "I understand that you are not from here.  Here, you wait at a distance."  To our good fortune, he "forgave" us for this serious breach of the rules and was even satisfied with checking only one of our IDs.


While we were waiting, we looked in the direction of the pedestrian line.  We didn't see any lines that were stringing along outside, but it was impossible to know from outside what was happening within the building (our experience from a few weeks ago taught us that the situation there is harsh).  Next time, maybe we will try again to go through on foot, in order to observe if there is any improvement since the meeting of our colleagues with the officers there.


Beyond the checkpoint there are a lot of people and cars.  The passage through the checkpoint in our car took about 15 minutes.  It seems as though we arrived before the rush hour (at Qalandiya at that hour it would have taken us longer in the car).  The traffic jam afterward, until we got through the junction at French Hill, took us longer...In any case, it was a reasonable morning and we returned to the city center at about 7:30.