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Chana S., Ronit D. (reporting); Translator: Charles K.

A nightmarish morning at Qalandiya checkpoint.


A particularly difficult morning at Qalandiya checkpoint.  Shortly after we arrived the lines collapsed and a mass of people formed at the entrance to the cages that reformed as organized lines only after two hours (!!!).  When we passed by at 8 AM the congestion hadn’t yet eased.


We arrived at Qalandiya checkpoint at 05:15.  We met a volunteer outside from the Ecumenicals, on the Israeli side, and two more within, on the Palestinian side.  The five inspection booths were already open and the Ecumenicals told us they were already operating at 04:30 when they’d arrived.  Nevertheless, the lines were very long and extended beyond the covered area far into the parking lot.  There were few people at the inspection booths, but the revolving gatesinfo-icon at the end of the cages opened only very briefly each time.  The Ecumenicals said they’d already telephoned the Humanitarian Office to complain about it.  We also managed to meet one of our acquaintances and say good morning to the bagel and cake vendor.  Very soon the lines collapsed into a huge mass of humanity, shoving and shouting.  As usual in such circumstances, elderly people and others who didn’t want to be crushed moved back, the benches filled and from experience we knew it would take a very long time until order was restored.  Women and others entitled to go through the humanitarian gate stood waiting beside it; it was to open at 06:00.


Many complained about the situation.  They said there was also congestion and long lines yesterday.  They’re afraid to miss a day of work, some even their place of work, because of the delays.  People photograph the scene, perhaps to show their employer why they were late.  Some ask that all the booths open already at 03:00.  H., our acquaintance, arrives, sees the situation and decides to drive to Zeitim checkpoint (even farther from his home in Bidu village and from his job in the Mahane Yehuda market).


Meanwhile a security guard arrived, and toward 06:00 so did the female Druze soldier from the DCL along with another female soldier, and began to open the humanitarian gate.  Women enter without inspection.  Men only if they’re entitled to use the humanitarian gate.  Others are sent to the regular line, which now means an even longer wait.  We also waited, sometimes sitting on the benches, suffering from the stench rising from the bathrooms and mingling with cigarette smoke, and occasionally we went outside for some fresh air, to warm up in the sun that had risen in the meanwhile and to drink tea.


Later an additional guard arrived, additional soldiers, and the policemen also rotated and M. came.  One of the guards told us there’s a plan to install new software that will make inspection at the booths faster.  It usually takes about an hour for the congestion to be relieved and for orderly lines to reform.  This time, even after orderly lines began forming behind the mass of people at the entrance to the cages, the congestion wasn’t relieved for a long time.  It took two hours!!!  When it appeared that the congestion had finally eased there were people at the entrance to the cages who tried to maintain order and the lines again stretched far into the parking lot – and then people again began running to the entrance to the cages when the revolving gates opened and again the lines collapsed.  This time order was restored after about fifteen minutes.  The lines finally had shortened when we joined them at approximately 07:40.  At about 07:55 the humanitarian crossing closed and everyone was sent to the regular lines.  It took us about 25 minutes to go through.