Qalandiya - Last shift at the old facility?

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Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

The Last of These Scenes?

On the way from the parking lot to the pedestrian checkpoint, we could already see lights burning in the new building alongside  it, and we wondered how long it would be before it goes operational. It took us a while to see and receive translations of the announcements about this tacked up in the sleeves leading to the checking stations. But even before reaching there, the Civil Administration soldier responsible for the Humanitarian Gate informed us that the opening would be on the following day (20.2.19) at 11 a.m. Later on we walked outside to see what we could of the new building behind the tin walls preventing entrance to it. To our regret, however, we could not see much. We will report and take photos of whatever we can next week.

In the meantime, our last shift (or not) at the old pedestrian checkpoint passed as usual. Although all five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:25, the lines through the cages were very long and grew longer as the morning progressed because the movement forward through the cages – and most pertinently into the checking stations, which dictates the progress forward in general – was agonizing slow.  At 6:15, as we feared, the lines collapsed – precipitated by  a well-coordinated “operation,”  of sorts, by a group of young men who bypassed the lines, entered the shack, gathered alongside the cage on the left, and pushed to enter it from the side when the turnstiles opened. What followed was the familiar scene of a crowd of impatient men pushing to enter the cages, accompanied by whistles, shouts, and other signs of anger, for the better part of half an hour before the lines formed again. We hope that this is the last performance of this scene forever.

The Humanitarian Gate opened at 6:16 and was managed successfully by a seasoned Civil Administration officer and security guard despite the pressure (due to the mess by the entrances to the three cages) from men not entitled to pass through it. One of these men angrily demanded that we order the officer to open the gate to all comers (because of that mess). But when we replied that we’re not the soldiers’ “bosses” and can’t give them orders, he replied with a smile: “Good answer!” and seemed to relax a bit.

The Humanitarian Gate was closed at 7:15, after lines could again be seen entering through the cages, although no few women and couples with infants and toddlers were still expecting it to open for them. A bit later we saw that a number of the women had abandoned the gate and joined the left-most line through the cages, though not at the end of it, so that they were being crushed while entering the cage from the side and being pushed forward in it. This sight, which is very disturbing when it happens to men, is even more distressing when it happens to women.

We joined the shortest of the three lines through the cages at 7:20 (and afterward the shortest of the lines entering the checking stations), and it took us 30 minutes complete the exit procedure.

Naturally we are more than curious about the coveted improvement promised with the opening of the new building and about the fate of the existing facility, which shows signs of renovation work started in it.