Qalandiya - Long queues, crowded cages and exhausted people
A bad start to the working week.
05.15. On arrival we saw very few people coming out of the checkpoint. This was already the sign of a slow checkpoint . Indeed, when we entered, there were three queues stretching from inside the shed all the way to the street.
All five checking stations were open, but we do not know at what hour they first began, and the checking procedure was excruciatingly slow. Although the soldier operating the turnstiles did so regularly, there was a limit to how many people she could add to the already long lines at each station.
The cages were crowded with people pushing forward at each turn of the turnstile, anxious to make as much progress as possible. At one stage the lines collapsed completely
It took almost an hour before they re-formed into almost orderly lines. You can see how people were grasping the wires at the entrance to the cage.
At 6.05, a replacement arrived for the turnstile operator, and a guard arrived and began preparations for opening the Humanitarian gate. He was followed at 6.15 by a D.C.O. officer together with two (apparently) trainees. Then there came another guard and a policeman. It seemed to be quite a pleasant event socially, but of course could not influence what was happening at the checking stations.
Many people chose to sit outside and just wait.
An unusual incident occurred: the guards seemed at one stage to be arguing with a man at the gate, and actually came out onto the “Palestinian” side to persuade him to move away. It is the first time we have seen Israeli staff coming out of their “safety zone.”
At 8 o’clock the D.C.O. staff closed the gate and departed with the guards, leaving the policeman. There were still people waiting so we asked the policeman if the gate was now permanently closed. He signaled us to wait, and finally at 8.23 opened it for quite a crowd who had by now gathered. He said it was then closed and everyone should join the regular lines. When we pointed out that there was a parent with a child, he said “tell that to your friends.”
Finally, at 8.50, the lines were short enough for us to join one and it took about 20 minutes for us to pass through. But the picture above shows the exhaustion of some of those who endure this daily.
During the morning we went outside and saw that the building works are proceeding quickly. There seems to be a circular paved driveway. The surroundings, however, are still very rough and it makes it difficult walking approaching the shed. We had noticed when we arrived that the elderly beigel-seller was absent and we wonder whether it is simply too difficult for him to make his way through, to reach the shed. Although we looked for him outside, we could not see him. When we asked about him the kiosk-seller said he was ‘sick.’ Also the renovations must make it very difficult for him to push his heavy load.