A morning that started very badly, but ended (relatively) well at Qalandiya.
5.15 Already as we approached from the Israel side we heard noise and shouts and people coming out indicated that the situation was bad. Inside a pile of people were crowded over the passage entrances. Others, to avoid being pushed, withdrew and sat on benches, prayed in groups, or wandered about the hut. The bagel and cake sellers said that this situation had been going on for 15-20 minutes. Sorry to say, we are used to this phenomenon, but have never seen it happen so early. A man with his arm in plaster and a few other elderly folk already approached the humanitarian gate which was due to open at 6. In the background we could also hear shouting from loudspeakers inside the checking stations, which we could not understand.
At one stage two women arrived with little girls and a baby. In the beginning they apparently tried to fit in and were squeezed into the heap. This caused a loud argument that almost turned into a physical fight among the men .The women turned to the humanitarian gate. We advised them to sit and wait till it opened. The woman soldier in the ‘aquarium’ (who controls the turnstiles) kept announcing that checking station no.5 was open and empty. But she opened the carousels for a very short time, allowing only a few people to enter at each opening.
After 15 minutes when conditions began to quieten, an elderly man arrived, who spoke good Hebrew. He called to the soldier to allow more people in. He said, confirming what we well know, that in front of the checking stations themselves people on the whole wait in an orderly fashion, so it is advisable to let in as many people as possible. The soldier replied (often reaction is simply to ignore), but said that she was doing what was necessary. Then a few young men appeared who asked the soldier to open the carousel in the opposite direction so that they could return. She told them to relax and called for help on her telephone. Meanwhile the queues began to re-form.
The older man together with a few others helped organize, and helped the women with the children, the man with his arm in plaster, an invalid with a cane, and an aged man, to enter the regular line to enter the carousel lane. A security man whom we know to have a decent attitude to people, arrived. He saw to opening the carousel in the opposite direction so that the young men could get out. He said that they were drunk and had caused problems at the checking stations and that was what the shouting was about. Just then the women were about to pass through the carousel – which stopped exactly when the oldest (probably the grandmother) with one child had passed, and the mother with the other child and baby was stuck behind. We asked the security man to get the carousel opened to let them through, which he did.
By now there were 3 orderly queues. The soldier came out of the aquarium to talk to us and even offered us cola. Then a policeman arrived and in general the mood became calmer. But the lines extended right out to the parking lot. Our acquaintance H. who works in Mahane Yehuda said that yesterday there were many people. But as soon as they heard of the attack in Rehov Salah al-Din in east Jerusalem, the market immediately emptied out.
At 6.15 the DCO officer arrived and, with the help of the security man, began to open the humanitarian gate, where many were already waiting. At about 6.30 the lines were shorter. We joined one line and passed through within 15 minutes. Outside we met people who told us that lately the situation has been particularly bad. Yesterday someone fainted in the line and had to be taken away for treatment. We told them about today’s situation, as they arrived only after the queues had been restored.