All five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. and the lines reached only half way up the path to the road. But we quickly observed that the progress forward was v e r y s l o w, really especially slow, so slow that we began to time with a stopwatch app how long it took to deal with four people allowed into the checking station each time the turnstile was opened in those stations we were able to see from our position at the Humanitarian Gate. The results varied between 1 minute and 16 seconds – which would be wonderful if it were representative – and 4 minutes and 29 seconds at another station and, immediately afterward, 3 minutes and 55 seconds at that same station -- suggesting that the pace there was not the result of an isolated problem that occurred just when we began timing the station but was characteristic of it this morning.
And this just two days after the soldiers in the checking stations worked very efficiently (see report of Qalandiya, 4.2.18) and were so pleased with themselves – and rightly so! On the other hand, inconsistency is characteristic of Qalandia – and perhaps all the checkpoints. No one can ever plan when to arrive in order to reach work or school or the hospital, etc., on time, since no day resembles the one before it or the one that will follow.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that the lines collapsed – actually relatively late in the shift, at 6:45 – the crowd rushed the entrances to the “cages,” and the usual mess (pushing, shouting, whistling climbing) continued for about 40 minutes. (The begele seller told us that the same had happened the previous morning.)
The only point of light was that the Humanitarian Gate was opened at 6:04, by a security guard – the DCO soldier turned up soon thereafter – and operated smoothly throughout the shift, despite the “event” taking place a few meters away at the entrance to the cages.
At 7:45, after the lines through the cages had reformed, we joined one of them and were through the security check 35 minutes later.