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Natanya Ginsburg, Chana Stein (reporting)

05.20. Three long lines extending to the end of the parking lot. (On the lot are piles of building materials, but not sign yet of building activity). The soldier in the aquarium opened turnstiles frequently, but allowing only few through each time. Her replacement at 6 a.m., on the other hand, let through large groups each time.  Both of them announced now and again that the first of the five checking stations was open only to those without packages.  Apparently the machine there is again out of order.

The lines remained long.  A few times there were the beginnings of fights at the entrance to the sleeveinfo-icon nearest the aquarium, but people (often more mature ones) calmed things down.

At 6.02 a guard with two D.C.O. women officers arrived and immediately opened the humanitarian gate, which they continued to do at intervals.  But big crowds collected at the gate; many people were seniors who were told to wait until 8 o’clock. We are not sure when exactly the D.C.O. personnel left, but by 8 there were still crowds at the gate. There was an organised group of youth with supervisors, from Taibeh, on their way to a bus tour which would include Haifa.  They had been told to wait until 8.

But at 8 the policewoman, who had earlier arrived with a soldier, announced that the humanitarian gate was closed, and everyone – except for a man in a wheelchair – was directed to the regular lines. Everyone was very frustrated by this. The guard had told at least one woman to wait at the gate until the pressure at the checking stations (which was indeed heavy) lessened, so they were confused about what was really happening.

For us personally, the rewarding feature of all this was time to have an interesting conversation with a woman from Ramallah who told us of her Jaffa family’s wanderings after the Nakba.  Though she herself was born in Ramallah, she has a longing for the sea, and she was on her way to enjoy a day at the beach in Haifa. Also, we could tell a number of interested women about Machsomwatch and our website.

It was only at 8.20 that the lines were short enough in the shed for us to join one. We found ourselves at checking station no.5, where a number of people were waiting also for the D.C.O. to open, they were told, at 9 a.m.

We finally left  at 8.57. But we don’t have to face an ordeal of this kind daily!