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

A strange morning, beginning with Border Police outside and empty inside; later queues lengthened and collapsed; the humanitarian gate opened late and closed early.

When we arrived at 5.15 we saw on the Israeli side many blue lights of police cars that blocked the entrance to the parking lot. We entered the parking lot via a side road. There, too, was a Border Police car and a few Border Police were holding a youth who stood with his arms raised on the car. As we looked at them with our torch (it was still dark), one policeman thought we were photographing and told us not to do so; another one said ‘let them photograph.’  When we asked what had happened, they said ‘it’s none of your business,’ and then another said that it is a ‘checking area’ and we must keep our distance. A large group of Palestinians stood nearby, immersed in their morning prayer. On our way to the Palestinian side, we passed a group praying. We found the shed empty, apart from one man praying and the beigel seller.  The place was even – relatively – clean.  Few people were at the checking stations which were all open. The turnstiles were open and the few people who arrived, passed through quickly. Later they were closed and lines formed.

For the season, the weather was not unduly cold but now and again there would be a hard shower, bringing people rushing into the shed. The soldier in the aquarium was alone, without any police or guard, also when another soldier came to relieve her. Towards 6 a.m. our acquaintance H. arrived. He lives in Bidu and explained that, because of activity of the army and Border Police in the area, the road was blocked and people couldn’t get from Bidu or Katana earlier. 

At 6 a.m. the D.C.O. officer had not yet arrived and, indeed, there was no need yet to open the humanitarian gate. We bought our tea and sat on one of the very few remaining benches, and chatted with an elderly lady who proudly showed us on her smartphone a picture of her granddaughter born that night. At 6.15 the D.C.O. officer arrived.  By then lines had formed.  Because of the army action and the blocking of roads, people were arriving only now. In addition, the rain forced everyone to rush into the shed for shelter.  The soldier managing the turnstiles couldn’t handle the situation, and the queues collapsed.  Meanwhile guards arrived, followed soon by police, but there was already chaos.

Unfortunately, today as well, even before 7 o’clock, the D.C.O. officer left, although the humanitarian gate was still needed.  The guards and police also vanished and when children or sick people came, there was no one to open it. (A few women squeezed into the regular lines at the entry to the nearest cage. A man with a little child gave up and left.) We phoned the D.C.O. and they said they were checking, but as usual nothing helped.  Gradually orderly lines formed again. By 7.40, they were short enough for us to join one of them.  With us were a number of older people who are allowed in without permits at 8 a.m.  Although it was already so close to 8 by the time we were at the checking station, they were told to wait. The woman soldier shouted at one of them (on her loudspeaker) that if he came once more a minute before 8, she wouldn’t let him through at all.

We passed in half an hour.