Qalandiya - Men were blocked even though they had a permit

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Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

When we arrived separately at the checkpoint around 6:00, we discovered that (in part due to the roadworks) there was no place to park on the Israeli side. The pay-for-parking lot we have been using for the past year or so is no longer allowed to accept cars, only trucks. Therefore I drove through the checkpoint to the Palestinian side and kept going until another parking lot came into view. The problem was that the drive up to it, on an unpaved path, is so steep that I was wary of trying (it was already raining) until one of the lot's attendants spotted me and encouraged me on until I reached the top. I then called Virginia, told her where I'd be standing, waited by the side of the road until she found me, and we took that menacing path up together. Once there, however, we were told of a less daunting (lower) exit from the lot. The problem remained that at the end of the shift, in order to return, we either had to join the end of the traffic jam of cars and trucks waiting to drive through the vehicle checkpoint or take the roundabout road to the Hizmeh checkpoint, which is also crowded. We left at 7:00. It took me an hour to reach the exit from Route 60 at French Hill (and another hour home from there). Virginia faces a day's work in her office after she leaves Qalandiya. This situation is problematic, to say the least.

The flow of people into the pedestrian checkpoint was quick and smooth throughout the time we stood there. But close to the end of the shift we were approached by a group of men who complained that although they had had no problem passing through the checkpoint yesterday, today they were blocked at the final stage of the process (scanning their entry permits). The soldiers in the security-check hall could not provide any explanation. A few of the men showed us their documents, including their vaccination certificates, which seemed to be in order. We recommended that they wait until 8:00 and then go to the DCO (which is in charge of issuing permits) to ask what the problem is. We also took the phone number of the man who volunteered to represent the group and told him that we would try to clarify if there had been any change in the Covid rules as a result of discovering the Omicron variant in the country and, if so, would be in touch with them.

When the representative called to report that the men had received no explanation or solution to their problem from the DCO, I consulted with Hanna B. and Sylvia and sent him the phone numbers for contacting Sylvia's team together with Sylvia's instructions (in Hebrew) to send it various documents via WhatsApp, so that our women could investigate the issue. Afterward, with the aid of a translation by one of Sylvia's contacts, I was also able to send the phone numbers and instructions in Arabic both as text and a voice message. Since then any number of stressed-out people have called me asking for help, but I tell them they are better off talking to their representative, who has important information and can relay it in Arabic. We only hope some solution can be found soon.