Qalandiya - The humanitarian gate opens with a typical delay

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

Another hard day at Qalandiya; later we learn that it was also hard on the way to the checkpoint.

05.15.  Still dark. Groups at prayer both at the parking lot and at the entrance to the checkpoint (where we entered using the new passage so as not to disturb). Last week we cancelled our watch because of the dire weather warnings – which proved exaggerated in the end.

In the shed stood the falafel stand, the beigel seller with his wagon and, outside, the renewed kiosk. As usual, people come in via turnstiles at the end of three sleeves, and they wait in the route defined by low fencing towards the final 5 checking points. But at this time more and more people arrive and the lines extend beyond the shed. At 5.30 Mohammad, whom we are to take to Hadassah for treatment, phones to say that he is on his way from his village in the West Bank.

At one point the lines in the ‘slalom’ area shrink, there are few people even at each checking station, but inside the sleeves and beyond the lines are long. People there call to the soldier in his cubicle to open the turnstiles. When he finally does so everyone pushes forward – and quickly the lines collapse and we once again have the usual chaos of pushing and shouting.

Meanwhile many have gathered at the Humanitarian Gate, which opens late as usual. The crowd entering there had difficulty finding space in the lines already at the checking stations. They concentrate at station no.5, which works slowly.

When pressure at the humanitarian gate eased somewhat we went outside to buy tea at the kiosk next to the shed. Meanwhile the policeman, the guard and the D.C.O. officer come out of the shed. They spoke with the man operating the falafel stall, apparently having some objection. We could not hear their conversation, but it seemed to be calm. It was not clear if they objected to the presence of the falafel stand or only to having the frying done there. Nor did we know why they suddenly came – did people complain, or were they themselves disturbed by the smell of frying (as we, by the way, were)? The policeman warned that the next time he would issue a report against the operator of the stand.

Shortly after 7 o’clock the lines were once again established, but there were many people waiting for the Ministry of Interior office and the D.C.O. office. At one point towards 7.30, they were allowed in, and checking station no.5 began operating for those services exclusively. We waited in vain for Mohammad who did not arrive and did not answer the phone. We passed through the humanitarian crossing because we were in a hurry towards other commitments and could not make contact with him. Passage took 20 minutes. When we were already outside on the Israel side Mohammad phoned. He was still on the Palestinian side and hoped to get through by car. We brought our car close to the checkpoint and waited for him, meanwhile cancelling our other appointments…

Mohammad arrived after 8 o’clock, and told us that he had left home at 4!! All along the way were traffic jams. Fortunately the way to Hadassah was relatively clear for such a late hour.