Qalandiya - schoolchildren stand in long lines

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Chana Stein (translating), Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting)

A crowded morning in Qalandiya.

06.15. On the Israel side, there were many people coming towards us as we crossed the road towards the pedestrian bridge. Then the flow suddenly ceased when we descended the steps at the end of the bridge. When we reached the Palestinian side at 6.20 we found long – but orderly – queues. We had the impression that entry was irregular and somewhat erratic. There were many schoolchildren.

We did not leave the building as we knew that the beigel seller would not be present today because of Ramadan. We did not see any "Ramadan Kareem" notices, as we have done in previous years.  But we saw later strings of bulbs along the pedestrian bridge, which presumably are lit at night.

People told us that on Fridays only vaccinated people are allowed to pass to pray at Al-Aqsa. In the past, most people did not don masks until they had to enter the building. Now, just when we in Israel are permitted to be without masks when outdoors, we saw far more people wearing masks even before entering the building. Apparently, by now mask-wearing has become more habitual.  Because of Ramadan there was no eating, drinking or smoking.

At about 7 o'clock the lines became shorter and soon there was no line extending out beyond the entry passages. We joined the middle one.  Though the turnstile opened, entry was slow. When we entered, we found that lots of people had simply been allowed through so that the hall between that turnstile and the turnstile leading into the main checking area was densely crowded. It was hard to see what was going on, but it seems one of the checking machines inside was not working so that people were moving from one queue to another. A security man appeared in the gallery above to observe. The turnstiles feeding this waiting area stopped – presumably causing lines to form again outside, which we could not see – and the people waiting inside advanced slowly, resignedly through the turnstiles to the package-checking machines.

   After these machines, there were 7 electronic document-checking positions open in a central batch. Only one 'manned' position was open for examining blue identity cards and pupils' birth certificates ("kushan"), so quite a long line formed there. Many people coming into the hall from the eastern entrance had to break through this line to reach the electronic machines.

Nevertheless, passage was quick and from entering the building to passing all the way through took us 15-20 minutes.