Qalandiya - Long queues and slow progress

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Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

Another slow, annoying morning - the new norm?

All five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. and the lines were relatively short because the progress forward through the three bar-lined passages known as the “cages” was well calculated by the soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles. But as the morning proceeded, the situation deteriorated. 

From what we could judge, this occurred for three reasons: a growing number of permits being issued (which is a welcome development); a growing number of people arriving at a relatively late hour during the rush-hour period; and the fact that the Humanitarian Gate did not open until 6:25 and the crowd that had gathered by it by then was allowed to pass through it all at once. This created a kind of “tsunami” effect, rather than the steady, slower flow that would not have blocked the entrances to the checking stations  -- and thus delay the flow through the cages, as well -- had the Humanitarian Gate opened earlier (for people begin to gather by it before 6:00).

Once the gate was opened, it was operated smoothly until the end of our shift. But the delay in opening it created damage that could not be repaired thereafter.

There was tension in the air during the morning. A few times we even feared that the line discipline would break, but somehow it held.

At 7:25 we joined the shortest of the three lines moving through the “cages,” and it took us (just like last week) 40 minutes to reach the checking station and exit the checkpoint.  Imagine people having to spend this amount of time to transit the checkpoint every morning on their way to work, school, etc.

What’s more, the problem persists of elderly people knowing that they can pass through the checkpoint without a permit but not knowing that they cannot do so before 8:00 a.m. Consequently, every morning there is a group of elderly men and women sitting for an hour or more in the cold waiting until they will be allowed through the Humanitarian Gate at 8:00. There must be a way to inform them of the 8 o’clock rule before they arrive at the checkpoint!

Last week two of our colleagues wrote they were told that the checkpoint’s new building would open on 15.12. A conversation we had with a policeman about a month ago led us to believe that it would take longer to consecrate the new building. But let us hope that by the end of this year we will be able to report at least on a swifter and easier passage through the checkpoint, as those responsible for it are predicting.