Qalandiya - three-quarters of an hour delay in opening the humanitarian gate
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Five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. but one of them (No. 3) closed ten minutes later. In contrast to the situation in previous weeks, lines already existed at 5:30 and grew increasingly longer as one of the checking stations remained closed until they reached half way through the erstwhile parking lot. At 6:10 checking station 5 stopped working (though by then No. 3 had reopened), and the lines continued to grow.
People began to gather by the Humanitarian Gate beginning at 6:00 and by 6:35 there were some 25 waiting there, including mothers and young couples with infants and toddlers. All in all we called the DCO line three times to ask whether the gate would be operated today and, if so, when the soldiers would arrive. Unfortunately, we fell upon an impatient soldier who told us that someone would come to open the gate but when we asked, “When?” answered, “When they come.” One of the regulars who passed through the gate told us that he too had called the DCO line (after waiting more than half an hour in front of the gate) and received the same answer. At 6:45 we tried to make contact with an officer responsible for the checkpoint or in the ranks of the DCO without success. Just before 7:00 when people asked us to again find out if and when the gate would be opened, we explained that the soldiers in charge the gate usually arrived between 6:15 and 6:30 if that they hadn’t arrived by 7:00 one could assume that the gate would not be operated that day. Even without hearing that assessment, people began to move over to the lines going through the cages. But seconds after they did so, at 7:00, a Civil Administration officer arrived, opened the gate, and let everyone (including those who now ran back from the lines into the cages) through at once. We didn’t even bother to ask the reason for the three-quarters of an hour delay in opening the gate. The message was clear: complete contempt for the people who are forced to pass through the checkpoint – and that’s hardly new.
At the same time, incidentally, checking station 3 closed again.
In the meanwhile, the soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles at the end of the three cages has been trying to direct the flow into the passageways leading into the checking stations (“sleeves”) so that the five lines would be more or less equal in length. Time after time he announced on the loudspeakers that checking station number 5 was open, and when that had no effect he announced time after time that stations 1,2,3,4,5 were open. (For unknown reasons, there is always a long line into the “sleeve” of checking station number 1; on the other hand, people tend to avoid station number 5, for it has a problematic record.) At first we were impressed by the soldier’s effort to improve the flow through the stations by means of his announcements and hand signals he made (just like a traffic cop) standing in and outside the Aquarium. But when this went on and on without results, his behavior began to appear compulsive. It left us feeling uncomfortable – for him and everyone else.
Just after 7:00 we joined one of the lines moving through the cages and it took us 35 minutes to exit the checking station.