Since 2001 we have observed dozens of army checkpoints on paved and unpaved roads in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and along the Separation Fence; Civil Administration offices which grant permits to Palestinians; and military courts trying Palestinian prisoners. We stand at the checkpoints observing the behavior of soldiers and Palestinians without interfering, intervening only when soldiers behave offensively to Palestinians. Then we try to speak to the soldiers themselves or telephone...
Qalandiya, Mon 26.12.11, Afternoon
three kilometers south of Ramallah, in the heart of Palestinian population. Integrates into "Jerusalem Envelope" as part of Wall that separates between northern suburbs that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967: Kafr Aqab, Semiramis and Qalandiya, and the villages of Ar-Ram and Bir Nabala, also north of Jerusalem, and the city itself. Some residents of Kafr Aqab, Semiramis and Qalandiya have Jerusalem ID cards.
A terminal operated by Israel Police has functioned since early 2006. As of August 2006, northbound pedestrians are not checked. Southbound Palestinians must carry Jerusalem IDs; holders of Palestinian Authority IDs cannot pass without special permits. Vehicular traffic from Ramallah to other West Bank areas runs to the north of Qalandiya.
Click here to watch a video from Qalandiya checkpoint.
16:00: The day was already dying and, together with a sharp wind that was sending missiles of dirt in every direction, only added to the depressing darkness that pervades the CP. Three passageways were open, but as we arrived we heard the announcement (over the PA system) that Passageway 3 was closing. Those waiting hurried to grab a place in the lines in Passageways 1 and 4. The bone-freezing cold was growing greater.
We also got in line in Passageway 4. A family of four, mother, father and two young girls, stood ahead of us. They entered the passageway together and presented their papers. The mother was allowed to continue on to Jerusalem, the father and the two little girls were refused passage. When they returned to our side of the bars, we asked them to tell us what had happened. The father showed us his valid permit to enter Israel: it turned out that he was a merchant who was in and out of Israel all the time. The Christian family just wanted to take their little girls to prayer services in a church in Jerusalem. The father said that he had passed through the CP with his daughters just the previous day without any problem. But today, the soldier in the aquarium ruled that his daughters were not included in his permit and so could not enter Jerusalem with him. (And what about with their mother?) The mother apparently had had the requisite foresight to request the proper permit allowing Christians to attend prayer services in Jerusalem churches. The father had supposed that his permit covered all eventualities and didn’t bother – he was forced to return to Ramallah. This was the first time we have ever seen entrance to Israel refused to children accompanied by their parents, where the children are listed in the parents’ I.D. cards and are holding birth certificates. (The girls, aged about 8 and 10, looked very disturbed and frightened at what was happening and at how their father was treated.)
Only a few minutes passed before we were treated to another example of the new procedures. A Palestinian mother with two sons (aged about 13 and 8) was also standing in line in Passageway 4, just behind us. She entered the examination area together with us and went up to the aquarium window to present her permit – a work permit. I saw the soldier on duty contact his superior officer to ask what to do and, still on the phone, explain to the woman that she would be able to pass, but not her sons. The woman was persistent and explained that her husband was unavailable and she had nowhere to leave the children (the older of whom looked a bit disturbed and certainly unable to care for the little one). But the soldier was adamant. I tried to help, asking the soldier if he hadn’t seen mothers bringing their children to work in Israel during school vacations (a widespread phenomenon), but this made no impression on him. While the woman was still standing there I phoned headquarters and asked them to send an officer to straighten things out. In only a few minutes a policeman arrived and explained to the woman in Arabic that she would not be allowed through with her sons. This woman as well was forced to return home and lose a day’s work.
The policeman was still in the aquarium when Natanya phoned to say that a disabled person with a British passport waiting in Passageway 4 with two valises would not be able to pass through the carousel. In this case the policeman was actually helpful and opened the wide humanitarian gates allowing him to traverse the CP.
Only after all the “balagan” did we realize that my granddaughter Noa had never been asked to present her I.D. papers and that she had gone through the CP with no examination at all!
At 5:15 PM the lines in the CP had lengthened considerably, with more than 40 men, women and children in each of the two passageways. I phoned the Passageway Unit. The female soldier who answered was very polite and said they were aware of what was happening and would shortly open another passageway. We waited but nothing at all happened. At 5:20 PM we noticed that the two soldiers in the aquarium in Passageway 4 were preparing to finish their shift. At any rate, they were enjoying a siesta, sitting comfortably and having a quiet conversation while 40 people were standing outside in the cold and waiting. We phoned headquarters and were told that they would take care of things. When nothing continued to happen, I just began to bang on the plastic partitions, making a hell of a noise. This apparently produced results as the soldier suddenly opened the carousel and allowed 4 people to enter the examination area.
We left Qalandiya at about 5:30 PM, returning to Jerusalem via Jaba and Hizma CPs. Traffic was flowing undisturbed.