Translator: Charles K.
11:30 We arrived at the Qalandiyya checkpoint. We’re from the Tel Aviv area and aren’t very familiar with the checkpoint. We go the wrong way and don’t take the left-hand crossing lane, which isn’t intended these days for Palestinians but only for security personnel, which is why it’s two-way. We enter through one of the open crossing lanes. We find ourselves literally in a cage. This is the next stop for Palestinians who’ve gone through the initial inspection in the outer parking lot where their crossing permits are checked and after they’ve waited in three narrow, crowded lanes. From the cage they’ll continue to the second inspection – parcels and IDs. Here traffic is one-way. A few minutes pass; we try to communicate with the soldier sitting in the shielded booth: we call his attention to a child who wants to go to the bathroom, and also ask how we get out of here. It isn’t easy to speak to him through the concrete wall behind which he’s sitting but, luckily for us, he’s used to reading lips. He speaks to us through a loudspeaker. Other than he, there’s no other representative of the checkpoint around to talk to. He says that there are no bathrooms here, and offers to make the revolving gate turn briefly in our direction so we can exit. But the lanes are very narrow, only one person wide. Why couldn’t they have been two centimeters wider, so people on line could breathe? But that’s obviously impossible.
We join the lines on our way out of the cage. We’re both jumpy. A feeling of pressure and anxiety caused by the unique architecture of this place: the high fences creating very narrow lanes, the revolving gates that turn only in one direction, the locks. The area is closed and locked. Those waiting on line tell us how long their morning has already been and their fear that ultimately, despite their efforts, and even if they get through, they’ll be too late for worship.
12:15 We came to the line of men in the parking lot. Most already crossed. There’s not much chance at this hour of reaching the Old City in time for worship, and the buses waiting beyond the checkpoint have already left. Few cross, some are turned back because they’re the wrong age (women must be over 40, men over 45). A shed has been added and a kind of fan that blows droplets of cool water. They help a great deal. It’s a significant improvement, compared to the terrible heat I remember from previous years.
12:50 We oved over to the women’s line. Some women are still trying to get through the checkpoint; most of the crowd waits for a worship service to be held here – that is, in the dirty parking lot. A few dozen people arrange themselves – men and women separately – on prayer mats. After prayer the “Olive revolution” group begins demonstrating, wishing to make the Palestinian’s voices heard in connection with the UN vote in September (we senmd our best wishes). They’re carrying national flags and a purple flag with the new movement’s symbol. They stand very near the soldiers, separated only by concrete barriers. What are they chanting? On the way back to Tel Aviv, Nora tells me that when she was a child they chanted “A Jewish state, free immigration.” They’re chanting their own versions of exactly the same slogan – I heard, for example, “Jerusalem, freedom, a free Palestine.” Their flags are literally in the soldiers’ faces. The soldiers are protected by full flak jackets, helmets, weapons. The demonstrators are exposed. It goes on for about half an hour. It’s clear that things will end with a tear gas grenade even though, momentarily, when the demonstrators announce over a megaphone that they’ll soon disperse, it seems perhaps that won’t happen. But nevertheless – a huge amount of gas is ultimately directed at the crowd. It’s huge because even if it wasn’t aimed at us, it makes our eyes and nose burn acutely. I see women bending over, covering their faces with handkerchiefs. We also flee. When we’re already at a distance we continue hearing tear gas being fired at the crowd. Some soldiers who also fled the gas cloud help each other cope with the pain and make fun of their incompetent response – “What kind of soldiers are we, covered in gas,” and “this is the last time; we get out in two days.” No sign at all of concern for what happened to those at whom the tear gas was aimed, whose pain is certainly greater
7:10 am, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: many are already gathered outside the checkpoint, cross and disgruntled because so many more are waiting on the Palestinian side. The soldier is not letting any one cross, the crowding and disarray are intolerable. They report the Humanitarian Centre says there's a problem with the metal detector. Meanwhile the line doesn't move. Four posts are open. There are no lines on the Israeli side, the pressure is all on the Palestinian side. We call the Humanitarian Centre once again.
7:30 am, Hussan
7:40 am, Al-Nashshash
7:55 am, Etzion DCL: peole are waiting. The military jeep arrives at 8:10 and collects those waiting (c.20). Today there is a policeman, and some approach him.
8:40 am, Beit Ummar
9:00 am, Nabi Yunis: some people approach us with various problems; we shall deal with them to the best of our meagre ability.
07:10 Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300:
four positions open. Only a few people waiting. The Palestinians say there's great congestion and confusion on the other side, long lines and the soldier only allows a few people through and then shuts down the crossing for 10-15 minutes each time. We contacted the humanitarian office.
08:00 Etzion DCL:
about 50 people waiting for the waiting room to open. There won't be any policeman here today. At 08:20 the first people were admitted to receive permits. People coming to receive a magnetic card are still waiting.
08:40 Beit Umar:
09:00 Nebi Yunis:
The usual problems; we try to help.
am 6:50 Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300
Tisha Be-Av - Rachel's Crossing. 6:50 am
the cars outside gave no indication of what was going on inside: only one post is open and operating.
People pass in a very thin stream. It turns out that only one metal detector is working, the rest are idle or in disrepair, with no one to fix them. After a call to a high-ranking police personage, 2 posts were manned. The soldier previously on duty left. Here and there lines formed, and someone told us that another machine was operating, but very slowly. Of course such a situation exacerbates the level of anger, and is accompanied by humiliation, as well as the occasional loss of a day's wages.
With respect to the partly idle machines: we reported last week. With respect to the unmanned positions, we suspect that tisha be-av has something to do with reduced man power.
Not a few of those inside direct their anger at us, and "advise" us to move to the other side and the middle room to see what is going on there. And we explain that we are prohibited from entering the other side, and are ashamed of our helplessness to change the situation.
In the rebuilding of the Temple we shall be comforted........
Reihan CP 6.00
The upper parking lot is full of activity. There are many workers and many Transits. Three seamstresses come running to a car which is full and waiting for them. They tell us that they spent about an hour in the CP. In the enclosed pavilion, trucks loaded with goods and passenger cars are being inspected.
6.10– in the sleeve leading from the terminal to the seamline zone, people going through are moving slowly. They tell us that inside there are many people, that the inspection is very slow, and that today, quite unusually, women were put into the siderooms for a very thorough inspection. Inside the terminal it is quiet.
6.20The detained women came out and told us that they were not required to undress. One of them is still in an inspection room and the driver waiting for her is very upset. He calls up somebody in the CP. When she emerges, at 6.30, she says that she was detained for inspection because the sleeve of her blouse was wet.
6.40– The workers emerge from the terminal at a reasonable pace.
Shaked CP – 6.55
Six soldiers 'crawl' to the CP and open it only at 7.10. About 50 people and a herd of sheep are crowded near the turnstile; the first of those going through to the seamline zone crosses the CP at 5.15.
On the side of the West Bank, a sick little girl is waiting with her mother to go through to the hospital in Israel . But she does not get any special treatment in going through the CP. Only after all the people have entered, and after the herd of sheep has gone through, and after a discussion between us and the soldiers – did they allow the car that brought the little girl to connect with the Israeli car that came to pick her up – to enter the center of the CP and to move her on from car to car. The little girl went on her way at 7.30. This procedure delayed all the activity in the CP.
Workers come out of the inspection pavilion very slowly. The Israeli who is responsible for the archeological dig, who has been coming here daily in the last two weeks to pick up workers, gets upset. His workers do go through in the end. As he puts it, 'The State of Israel loses points everyday in this way.'
7.45– The first worker for the dig comes out of the inspection room. Their bus enters the area of the CP and after a short conversation with the soldiers it is turned back. A loud argument between the Israeli responsible for the dig and the soldiers does not have any effect. The Israeli calls the DCO and hopes that something good will come of it. In his opinion, the soldiers are now 'showing him who is boss'. In the meantime, the workers tell us that when they used to go through the Kalandia CP on the way to similar work, they were inspected inside the bus.
8.00 Cars with passengers go through in both directions.
8.10 Finally, the workers' bus enters for inspection and goes through to the seamline zone. An hour of work in cool weather was simply lost.
Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300, 6:45 am: five stations open for checking. Only a trickle of people are going through the turnstile. Never have we heard such complaints. We call to Hamal and ask for help. Our calls to the soldier from the DCL go unanswered. Still many, many people complain to us as we stand there.
About 7:10a policeman comes out to the area where we stand. He immediately comes over to say hello. And so, of course, we tell him about the complaints. His answer is that everything is OK. He sees it on camera. There is nothing that we can say that will change his mind or that will cause him to go to the entrance to see what the situation is. No way. One man's permit has been taken from him by the girl soldier who is checking. We call for help, but no one answers the phone.
Finally, at 7:37 we go to the Etzion DCL. People still say there are many waiting to come into Jerusalem.
Etzion DCL, 7:55 am: at 8:05 the jeep comes out with the soldiers to open up. There are about 30 people waiting for a magnetic card. The soldiers display a friendly attitude to those waiting, answering questions with patience. The men have made their own list for entering. At 8:25 I call to see why they have not yet been invited in. I am told that there was trouble with a carousel. Now that it has been fixed, the people will be invited in. And so they were immediately asked to enter.
On the way home the telephone rings and it is the DCL soldier calling to see what we wanted. He said he was too busy to answer earlier.
Qalandiya, 15:50: As we arrived at the CP we first noted a Jerusalem ambulance waiting in the southern square and then its Palestinian counterpart parked in the center of the northern square. When we asked the Palestinian driver what was happening, he told us that the soldiers were claiming there was no "coordination" (but the driver said he had started out only on receiving coordination confirmation). We phoned headquarters and spoke with Karin who was polite and business-like. We gave her the name of the middle-aged woman in the ambulance who was returning to Gaza after being treated in Jordan and had permits for herself, and for the person accompanying her, to travel to Gaza on June 27. Karin promised to check-up on matters and within 5 minutes the ambulance was instructed over the PA system to proceed into the CP. This begs the question, perhaps the soldiers manning the CP don't have the telephone number of headquarters? If they did, they might be able to deal with matters by themselves and not have to wait until MW teams arrive to do their work for them.
We entered the CP at 4 PM. The flow of pedestrians was pretty weak, but despite that there was a line of eleven waiting before the turnstile in the northern shed and both active passageways were full. If they progressed at all, the lines were moving at a glacial pace (and not a glacier in the full June sunlight of the Mediterranean). We phoned Karin again to report on conditions and later to the Passageway Unit. Everyone promised to take care of things, but nothing happened. We got in line in Passageway 3 and spoke with the people around us. (One young man told us that Saturday afternoons were particularly difficult at Qalandiya because very few soldiers are on duty. He said that people can wait on line for hour
It took us 25 minutes to get through the CP. The two soldiers sitting in the "aquarium" in the passageway were not particularly hostile, but they were not very efficient either. They told us that their orders were to let three people at a time into the passageway and it sounded as if they understood this to mean that there was no need to exert themselves and keep the lines flowing. Perhaps things might improve if their commanders explained to the soldiers that they are "serving the public" and are expected to behave accordingly.
In spite of being forewarned, we decided to call Shmulik, the police officer responsible for the passageways at Qalandiya, when we emerged from the CP. When we described to him what was going on, he yelled at us in response that a 25 minute wait on line at Qalandiya in the afternoon was completely reasonable and that a crowd of 100 waiting on line was not to be considered a crowd.
However, when we returned to the northern entrance to the CP at 5 PM we saw that another passageway had been opened and the lines had shrunk considerably. There was no line at all in the northern shed.
ANGER AND FRUSTRATION AT DCL
Etzion DCL, 14:25 : as expected, there was a big crowd (of over 50) waiting to get magnetic cards. Why ‘expected?’ Because last week the DCL was closed on Monday and Tuesday so this week there was double the usual load. No provision was made to handle this situation, though the same thing had happened on Monday so experience should have prepared the authorities, if not prescience!
At any rate, we were immediately surrounded by crowds complaining about the treatment, many having arrived already early in the morning. Knowing that Hannah Barag had managed to negotiate on Monday that everyone would be received, I called her for help. After she called the authorities, she said that if there were already so many people still waiting at such a late hour there was no chance that all would be received, but that she had been told that ‘someone would come down to the waiting-room to see the situation.’ During our time there we phoned both the DCL office and the Moked a number of times to try to get relief and also to get this ‘someone’ to come to the waiting-room.
At 15.25 we heard a woman’s loud shouting in Arabic from the window – telling everyone that the office was now closed and that they should go home. The locals were all shocked by her (in their view) ‘coarse language.’ As official closing time is 17.00 we phoned to protest and some five people were then admitted.
We made a list of all those waiting in line in the hope that we could enable them to come next morning. During our time there, some of the people disappeared, either giving up - or managing to sneak in via the back entrance (apparently this is possible if you are agile enough!)
By 16.15 there were still seven people resolutely waiting. The woman officer I spoke to (it was she, apparently, who had done the shouting) refused to admit them, saying their office was full.
A little earlier a woman from Bethlehem had come for her card, after having tried yesterday. Her husband who was accompanying her, made a phone-call and they were admitted right away. Iit was an officer of the DCL, at an alternate phone number given us by the Moked.We phoned this officer and he said we should make a list of the remaining people waiting and they would be admitted first thing in the morning. This was the arrangement he had made for the Monday people. So this is what we did – and I gave my phone number to one of the men in case there would be problems.
This cool report does not begin to express the anger and bitterness felt by all.
7.00 am, Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300: we were amazed at the huge number of cars waiting to pick up workers. Then we understood: all the people complained about the slow treatment at the Bethlehem side of the checkpoint. A woman said the women’s gate was also slow. As a result everyone was exiting later than usual. Apparently the situation was bad also the previous day.
8.00 am, Etzion DCL: because the office was closed last week there was an unusually large crowd waiting for magnetic cards. The office opened finally at 8.20 (after a phone-call by Chaya at 8.15). We gave our phone number to two men in the queue to let us know about progress. One phoned us 9.15 to complain.
When we returned from Nabi Yunis at 9.35 we met a man outside who was number 71 in the list. As we wondered whether so many people would get their cards in one day Chaya phoned the Moked. The soldier there was trying to be helpful but obviously did not understand the procedure at the DCL. He was unaware even that there are particular days for residents of different areas. So Chaya phoned Hanna Barag who spoke to the commanding officer (of the DCL?) who assured her that ALL people would be admitted during the day. We informed the afternoon shift of MW so that they could check on this later.
8.35 am, Beit Ummar: a man and his nephew refused permits by Security. We referred them to Sylvia.
9.00 am, Nabi Yunis: a pre-arranged meeting on behalf of Sylvia to get power of attorney and payment.
Beit 'Inun: as we were early for this meeting we drove to Beit 'Inun and saw that it is even more blocked than before, on both sides of the road.
Translator: Hanna K.
You won't believe it – Huwwara CP is closed for two weeks but for good reasons.
06:25 Azzun Atma: A long queue of workmen. Nearly hundred people plod along patiently in the direction of the turnstile. The Palestinians say that they have been waiting nearly an hour. The soldiers on the site do not tend to talk to us. The wire gate is wide open, and from time to time Palestinians pass through into the village.
At the Shomron crossing there are blue policemen at the way out from Israel.
The entrances to Marda and Zeita are open.
07:00 Za'tara/Tapuah: There is nobody at the posts. There is an undisturbed flow of traffic. At the parking area a few border policemen group together.
07:10 Yitzhar/Burin CPs: Two military vehicles are waiting.
07:15 Huwwara CP: Big signposts direct those travelling to Nablus towards the Awarta CP and at the entrance to the Huwwara CP there is a big plastic barrier and a big sign No Entrance. As we were with a guest, we squeezed through the narrow opening and entered the deserted parking lot to explain to her what had been there before. Within a short while a young soldier arrived to find out what we were up to. He answered our question by explaining that the Palestinians were repairing the road to Nablus and that was why the the CP was closed and all the traffic went through Awarta.
Awarta: The yellow arm is wide open and the traffic to Nablus passes through it. We used the opportunity and visited the deserted parking lot of the "back to back" without any feelings of nostalgia.
We phoned the DCO to ask about the changes. The young woman explained to us that the work on the road would last about two weeks and after that the yellow arm would again be closed.
07:50 Beit Furik: At the entrance to the village there is work being done to enlarge the entrance road (a clear sign that there will be elections soon). There is no IDF presence at the CP and the traffic flow without hindrance.
0800 : Burin/Yitzhar: At the road margin one military vehicle remains and it seems that all its passengers sleep soundly.
08:15 Za'tara/Tapuah: A group of border policemen at the posts. Cars are being checked. When we asked they explained that they are patrolling. They make a round of the area and from time to time arrive at the checking posts and surprise the drivers.
At the Shomron crossing the checking at the entrance to Israel is cursory as usual.