Qalandiya CP: checking process was excruciatingly slow and the humanitarian gate opened late.

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Chana Stein (translating), Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting), Joshua (visiting German student)

Beginning well, but ending with total collapse of queues.

05.30. We arrived after picking up our visitor at Augusta Victoria. This gave us a chance to give an impression of the wall and how it cuts between Palestinian homes. On arrival we were pleased to see that the lines were extremely short. All five checking stations were open, although it was not clear if all worked the whole time. At any rate, passage was quick.

We went outside and to the refugee camp to see the graffiti on the other side of the wall. There was the usual traffic and pedestrian chaos there.

Now queues began to get longer, though not much.  The soldier who replaced his colleague in the aquarium at 6 o’clock let in very few people at each opening of the turnstiles, and also checking at the stations slowed down. Our acquaintance, a teacher who speaks German fluently and usually chats with us at the humanitarian gate, chose to join the regular line and enjoyed a conversation with Joshua. Meanwhile, we tried to help a man who has been passing through for a month on his permit yet was told today that he does not appear on the computer. He has another permit, for another checkpoint, in order to visit his son in prison. He signed a permission form for Sylvia to check, but also said he would return later to enquire at the D.C.O.

After 6 a.m. many people were gathered at the humanitarian gate. Some women joined the regular lines and were allowed to fit in at the entrance to the cage. A phone call on our part as usual did not help.  The checking process was excruciatingly slow. For instance, though Joshua shook farewell hands with the teacher who seemed to be approaching the cage, progress was so slow that they could continue their conversation at the edge of the cage.

Suddenly the soldier indicated to people at the humanitarian gate that it was not going to open! The people there then tried to fit into the lines at the entrance to the cage. This of course infuriated people who were waiting in line and they started to shout. From experience we recognized the sign of imminent collapse, and quickly extricated Joshua at the very moment that the soldier opened the turnstiles, seconds before the queues collapsed. A second phone call by us was answered angrily, but we were trying to understand why the soldier had said that the gate would not be opened. And just then… a guard and soldier appeared to open the gate, about half an hour late. Women and others entitled to use the humanitarian gate rushed over, but it was too late for those who were already in the middle of the melee.  Of course, there were also those who simply retreated to the benches to wait out the chaos.

At 6.45, we received a call from Muhammad, the patient we were to take to Hadassah, who was waiting on the Israel side (having passed in a vehicle).  Ronit went immediately through the humanitarian gate where there was no line at this point, and she passed through checking in 15 minutes.

Chana and Joshua remained at the checkpoint.  The situation continued to be difficult.  Fortunately, though, the humanitarian gate remained open and at 7.40 they went through, as Joshua had an appointment in west Jerusalem, and with the slow-moving queues he might not have managed in time.  They passed through in 15 minutes – it may well have taken an hour in the regular line – especially when the older people would join at 8 a.m.

The one bright spot this morning was Muhammad whose condition seems to have improved. His hair has begun to grow and he no longer wears a cap.  Ezra Nawi, who usually brings him back, is abroad, and so Ronit gave him money for a taxi.  The next time we will ask the organization “Be-derekh le-hahlamah” to see to his return transport until Ezra’s return.