Qalandiya should be called Balagandiya

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: Natanya Ginsburg, Chana Stein (reporting)

05.15. On the Israel side, many people had already come through and there were groups at prayer. But already from afar we could sense the crowds.  And, indeed, three queues reached all the way to the street. Officially all 5 checking stations were open, but they seemed to work very slowly. The soldier working the turnstiles opened them quite frequently, but letting few in at a time.  People waiting in line got very frustrated and at 5.55, the lines collapsed entirely, and people crowded round the entrances to the cages which were themselves packed tight. This, of course, made it very hard for women to fit themselves into the cage, as they sometimes do, making the opening of the humanitarian gate urgent.

When no D.C.O. officer had come by 6.05, we phoned and were told that this would be seen to. At 6.15 she did arrive (either coincidentally, or as a result) and after a couple of minutes’ attention to her smartphone, began attending to the crowd at the gate.  There was still the chaos at what should have been a queue which gradually re-formed.  Later, there was another collapse which, too,finally ended .

Again, people who could not cope with the struggling mass, dropped out to await quieter times. The scarcity of benches made some resort to sitting on the edge of rubbish bins or water fountains.

At 7.05 the D.C.O. officer left, leaving at least a few women still waiting at the humanitarian gate.  We phoned Hanna Barag for help and, maybe thanks to her intercession, a guard came at 7.45 to manage the gate once again. (We have noticed in the past that this guard seems to be authorized to deal with the job. There now seems to be some control of the gate from inside the cubicle: he would call instructions to the soldier who would then release the catch – no hunting for the keys any more?)     He was very strict about older people’s waiting until 8 a.m., and sometimes well after. There was one man on crutches who had to wait uncomfortably for a while (though we do not know the reason for this.) The guard left at 8.33, announcing that the gate was now closed. Anyone still waiting had to join the regular queue.)

It was only at 8.50 that the queues were as long only as the cages themselves, and we joined one. It took us 20 minutes to pass.

There is inadequate lighting on the path leading from the street to the shed, which makes crossing the steps left over from the previous parking-lot even more difficult in the early hours.

Also, inside the shed at least one lamp is not working.  The beigel seller works in almost complete dark.