Qalandiya - Frustrating wait at the checkpoint for vehicles and on foot

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

06.15. The Israeli side is already very busy with people waiting for their transport to work, as is the public transport area at the bottom of the pedestrian bridge , with buses waiting for passengers. There is even a private car parked under the bridge approach where we pass in order to climb up onto the bridge. This is situated close to the road where cars emerge from the vehicle checkpoint and the car is parked under the slope one can "choose" to use instead of steps.

From the bridge, we heard angry hooting below. We saw that the boom which stops traffic exiting the checkpoint had been lowered stopping traffic from entering the square. It was done apparently to control the heavy crowding in the square at this busy hour of vehicles waiting to pick up workers who have crossed the bridge on foot. But this seems to madden drivers who now have to face yet another obstacle after spending time in line waiting for checking.

On the Palestinian side, the situation was quiet.  From time to time the three entrances were closed simultaneously and then lines quickly formed but vanished when these opened again soon. When we ourselves passed through later we learned that those in charge would close the entrances until the inside waiting room had emptied entirely, and then would low allow entry until the room was once again totally full. It is hard to understand this policy, especially in Covid times.

We were happy to meet our friend Abu Ramzi after not visiting Qalandiya for almost a month.  There is a boy next to him selling pitot spread with oil and zaatar. Abu Ramzi suffers from the competition but cares for the boy.  But now there is more serious competition – a stall cooking falafel on the spot, with chips  and trimmings

The kiosk is on the sidewalk closer to the checkpoint, inside a transit car. This time we saw that they covered it with a kind of thatch made of dry date palms. Perhaps to protect against the dust created by the work that has recently begun adjacent to the eastern side of the checkpoint building on the one hand, and to the Al-Ram houses that are beyond the wall on the other.

Construction work has started recently in the area reaching from the eastern end of the checkpoint building to the wall separating off the houses of Al-Ram. The works are bordered by a white fence but when the gate was opened we could peep in. This is apparently what they call "the Qalandiya [hole?dip?]". It is unclear what is the plan and how it will relieve the pressure. After all in the end the cars will have to be checked, and anyway (almost) all the vehicles passing at Qalandiya have Israeli number plates and passengers with blue identity cards. This morning there were a number of schoolchildren. Palestinian schools had already opened during August. Once again we have the sight of children and youths having to pass a checkpoint on the way to school every morning, each one carrying a laminated birth certificate – the "Kushan".

נערות מבעד לגדרות הסלאלום

One boy arrived on his bicycle which he left to await his return. What luck there are so many fences for tying them to! He finds a hidden corner between the old checkpoint building and the new.

About 7.10 we joined a relatively short line but then we found we had to wait a long time inside the in-between waiting area until all passing through the package-checking machines had been cleared. This is frustrating. The process took us 15 minutes which is relatively slow in the new automated system.

מנסים להציץ ולראות מה קורה שם? למה לא פותחים?

On the way back on the bridge we watched those going down on the steps at its end and the work going on in the area of the airport.

On the way to our car, we had the usual view of trash at the foot of the bridge. A no man's land – neither those cleaning the checkpoint nor the municipality cleaners reach it.

יורדים במדרגות מהגשר