Ar-Ram, Qalandiya, Mon 28.1.08, Morning

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Neta E (video camera), Nava A (reporting)
Freezing morning, the car thermometer shows zero degrees outside. In the wind, we felt that it was below zero.

04:30 A-Ram Checkpoint

Dark, three soldiers in fleece coveralls stand in the centre of the road. No traffic, neither vehicles, nor pedestrians.

04:50 Qalandia Checkpoint

Three orderly lines of men snaking down from the turnstiles to the parking lot. Every few minutes, a green light goes on at the turnstiles, and men advance, with no crush, keeping the line orderly. Every few minutes a taxi stops in the plaza and its passengers join one of the lines.
Two young men from Sheikh Saad set out at 04:30, walked to Suwachra Sharkia (by the university), from there a taxi to Wadi Nar by Maalei Adumim, south to Pisgat Zeev, through Lil Checkpoint arriving at Qalandia at 05:15. Only at 06:15 are they through the outer turnstiles and into the checking line. They would have saved two hours and a lot of money if they were processed through Hazatim Checkpoint, but they are not permitted to pass there.
06:24 – individual women arrive and integrate themselves into the left line, close to the soldiers’ hut. A soldier announces over a loud-hailer "...for the last time I say, until the woman has entered her line, I don’t pass anyone..."
We don’t know what the soldier’s intention was, but the turnstiles lock, and no one passes.
06:30 – suddenly the three orderly lines break up all press forward to the turnstiles in a frightening mass. The noise is horrific, like an approaching tsunami. Individual voices can’t be heard, only the roar of all together.
From the line, which was orderly and spacious till now, are ejected the old, the weak, the women. They stand in the middle of the hut, frightened of being trampled by the massing crowd. Young and agile climb from the side onto the fence poles, arrive at a spot above tghe right hand turnstile and, when the turnstile opens, they simply land inside, on the heads of the men who reached the head of the line.

Click here to watch a short video of the events.

A 50 year old lives in Nablus and works in Beit Shemesh. Has also passed through three checkpoints before reaching Qalandia, and here he has been waiting an hour before the uproar began, and he was ejected from the line. He is embittered by the delay, scared about his workplace, knows that at best he will be away from home 16 hours, if he isn’t stopped at one of the checkpoints, whereupon he will lose a day’s work. His Hebrew is hesitant, yet his piercing words are certainly understood: : "What’s this? It’s like this all over the world? They want your children to die of hunger? Don’t know where’s the food? What to do? Terror strikes? Three hours on the way, half a day’s work gone, see people like this, one on top of the other, what do I do? Sit and wait till noon? Employer doesn’t want us late, what for? Why? Want a livelihood, not politics! I work in Beit Shemesh, what do I do? Go to work for Hamas? In the end everyone’s willing to work for Hamas, to kill people, they’ll give me money. Soon it will be like Gaza."

We ask them to take the women in from the side lane, the one which serves convicts’ families on visiting days, and they promise to do that in another ten minutes. Women, old people and the sick form a new line on the side.
A young woman holds a sick babyinfo-icon wrapped in a thin woolen blanket, both shivering from cold. The lane has indeed been opened, and all the women manage to pass in a short time. Youngsters who try to worm their way into the line are sent back and hide the needy who haven’t yet passed. "I’m being pushed in to the centre line, women and elderly shout to a policeman: "Don’t close! There are more women, more old people..."  {L}