Qalandiya - A very slow, crowded morning.
05.20. Three long lines extended down the newly constructed metal corridor. It was still dark. As the winter will advance, no doubt it will get harder and harder to negotiate the barriers along the path. As the building process is likely to take a long while (first traces of activity are showing in the fenced-off enclosure - a bulldozer and piles of rubble), could we suggest that the authorities turn this into a smooth slope, covering and thus eliminating these steps?
Our friend H whom we met halfway down the line, said he had been waiting 25 minutes already.
All five checking stations were lit up as being open, but we noticed that anyone turning to no.5 immediately turned back, as if it was not functioning. Soon after, however, it seemed to open like the others, all of which had long lines in front of them. Throughout the morning there were crowds at each checking station which moved very slowly. This, of course, meant that the lines in the shed remained long - and irritable. It was a wonder that the threatened chaos did not occur.
Two guards and a policeman were present. The D.C.O. officer arrived at 6.15 – to find a line patiently waiting at the Humanitarian Gate – and remained there all of 12 minutes. One of the guards then operated the gate (we have seen him do this in the past), opening it at regular intervals to big groups each time. In fact, the gate was particularly busy today, with old folk hobbling on sticks and crutches, some families with little children. Just before 8 o’clock this guard disappeared, and the policeman and second guard sat inside the aquarium, seemingly paying no attention, and people did not know if the gate was now to remain closed, in which they would have to join one of the still long lines. But at 8.10 the policeman came outside and started checking and admitting those waiting.
We noticed a pile of carefully labelled luggage near the humanitarian gate, and later identified the owner as a woman from Gaza who had been in a Ramallah hospital. She was now on her way home but had first to call at the D.C.O. office which was to open at 9 (or 9.30, she said – being realistic?). We left her waiting patiently, when we joined a queue which by now was within the sleeve, at 8.20. It took about25 minutes to pass through to the Israeli side.
After we have commented for years on the stench coming from the toilets, today Natanya was forced actually to use one. She was so shocked by the filth that she immediately returned to photograph the place. The attached picture will give you some idea of the experience.