Jerusalem - North
Qalandiya at 6:30 and found hundreds of desperate people either pushing to get in to the cage or siitting on one of the benches that are still left, with a desolate expression on their faces When we arrived the Humanitarien gate was empty , but it filled up with a long line of students , women, older people and babies with mothers or fathers on their way to get some medical treatment.. and it stayed closed for over 25 min.
The lines moved very slowly and the pushing was unbarable. One youn woman almost fainted and had to be lead away and a small girl was squashed and started screaming and her father who tried to go through the Hum. gate and could not get there, tried calling the DCO officer, who did not listen ,told him to be quiet and a big fight with the policeman errupted. The atmosphere was tense, the waiting long, and it seems that the bottle neck was in the security
checking. I called the DCO man three times, he was very polite and tried to calm me by telling us he works slowly, but he has very little say in what goes on there and the police officer just does not care what these poor peole go through every morning.
Monday afternoon, 18.10.2010
15:30, Qalandiya: The CP was slightly more crowded than it has been for weeks. Unfortunately the crowding did not appear to be the result of more people coming to the CP but to inefficiency of the soldiers providing service. Three passageways were active almost all the time, but the soldier in the post in the northern shed kept tight control of the entrance turnstile, slowing down the flow of traffic.
A friend whom we met at the CP told us that the crowding on Monday morning had been unusually heavy and that workers trying to get to their jobs had been delayed at the CP for an hour to an hour and a half.
A man was waiting in Passageway 5, trying to get into the DCO offices. All his attempts to attract the attention of the soldiers in the "aquarium" were to no avail. We phoned the DCO from the northern shed and the man was admitted after a few minutes.
15:45: We entered the CP and got on line in Passageway 2. In front of us on line was a middle aged woman accompanied by a big boy. They managed to reach the examination area after a wait of 10 minutes. The soldiers in the aquarium refused them permission to enter Jerusalem because they had a problem with the 15 year-old boy's birth certificate. In the end, after an argument that lasted another 5 minutes, the two were allowed to continue on their way. Meanwhile a long line had formed behind us and the two soldiers on duty announced that they had closed the passageway, ordering all those waiting to go elsewhere. We phoned headquarters to complain, not so much for ourselves but for those behind us. Keinan intervened and after a few minutes the 2 soldiers went back to work and opened the gate. At the same time they turned on all sorts of electronic equipment that screeched and chirped so loudly that it hurt peoples' ears. However, after Natanya and I had gone through they stopped the punishment.
16:15: Leaving the pedestrian CP, we went to see what was happening at the vehicle section. There appears to be a change in examination procedures. Instead of checking drivers and vehicles in full view of people in the bus station, the examination is now taking place behind and between the checkposts in the vehicle lanes so that people can no longer see what is happening.
On our way back to the northern shed we observed that some of the biometric machines were not operating and that none of the Palestinians returning from work were using them.
16:40: There were 40 people waiting on line in the northern shed waiting to enter the CP. After several minutes one of the internal passageways was closed, exacerbating the problem of crowding. At this point there were many mothers with small children waiting on line in the shed as well as students. We phoned the humanitarian hotline and Keinan as well. Both promised to look into the matter but nothing positive happened.
17:10: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. The traffic was flowing at Lil/Jabba CP. Just beyond the CP a police car was parked on the road and a policeman was stopping Palestinian vehicles to check their papers.
The entrance to the checkpoint was full of dirt and neglect.
As costume in every terminal, "music" was playing in this one as well. It illustrated what was written on the shining sign welcoming those arriving and reads "Have a Nice Stay". Loud and grating voices came out of the speakers, they were incoherent, a mixture of Arabic and Hebrew, like a new language that neither those who spoke Hebrew nor the Arab speakers could make out.
At the everlasting traffic jam at the entrance to the checkpoint a new peddler boy was running about between the cars. It seems as though the minute a child like him learns to stand on his feet and just before he can stand for himself, he is sent to endanger his life on the busy and filthy road, so as to make a living for his family.
El Jib checkpoint:
A slow stream of people returning from a day's work.
The checkpoint wasn't designed to regulate the passage from or into the State of Israel. Its very essence is to protect the wellbeing of the settlers of "Givat Ze'ev" and "Givon Ha'Hadasha", so that those building or reconstructing the settlements, those who are the historic owners of the land on which they are located, could pass there for the purpose of work alone. Only the Palestinian men and women whose names appear on the list, "the clean ones" according to the GSS, pass through those fences and gates- about three thousand each morning pass there, and then head back to their homes/prisons when evening falls.
"Each morning I arrive here at 5:00 and I never pass before 7:00"- said Maher, a resident of Old Beit Hanina (on the Palestinian side of the wall), as we drank our coffee with him at the improvised diner. As his sipped from his cup he told us that his brother, who is married to a woman with a blue ID from New Beit Hanina, isn't permitted to leave his house, he can't step outside without a special permit which is granted only for medical purposes and is valid for only a couple of days. This brother hasn't seen his parents or Maher ever since the construction of the wall had been completed, closing all the Palestinian towns surrounding east Jerusalem and turning them into enclaves.
During the first half hour of our stay the soldiers communicated with us through the PA system. The speaker ejected noises. Mostly bits of words. Very few actual words. They referred to us in second person singular: "You! Don't stand there!... You, ruhi!.. Photos are forbidden!..." and then they went on with: "Hayyyyyyy... Hooooo...", and after that they began to whistle and drum with their hands in rhythm. When we didn't abide we heard the person speaking saying: "What can I do? - they won't listen to me..." and when that didn't work they turned the siren.
Towards sun down one of them found the courage to step outside and approach us in the area enclosed by the checkpoint fence- he was a security guard from a privet firm and was escorted by two soldiers who bore on their backs a print of a serial number (what for?).
The security man ordered us to stop taking photos, to refrain from approaching the fence and also: stay away from the red (?) zone. He carried on and made what can be regarded as childish threats: "I'll call the Bp and you'll be taken under custody..."and: "a police man will come and arrest the two of you..."
They wouldn't allow us to pass through the checkpoint and head home. "You don't appear on the list" said a BP officer as he waved some folio papers before us.
The soldiers at the checkpoint no longer try to send us away, but to have a chat with us. During the days that had passed since our last encounter, the soldiers had accumulated some questions, and once we parked our car some of them hurried towards us saying: "I have a question..."- they asked and talked and tried to understand. They also requested and received the card of the organization with the internet site: "To read what is written about us..."
During our conversation the soldier who had stayed to guard the area closed the checkpoint before the vehicles for a short while. His friends explained: "regulation: breaking the routine"
Translator: Charles K.
Summary of the afternoon at the Qalandiya checkpoint: long lines and crowding at peak hours, every single day, but who cares?
15:50 The coffee seller tells us that today, except for early in the morning, everything is ok and there are no delays. Three lanes are open. Now it's rush hour, when students and workers are returning to Jerusalem, and everything isn't ok; it depends who's watching.
Long lines form immediately.
The usual terrible traffic jam and chaos at the "red" plaza. The locked barrier forces everyone traveling from south to north to make a long, unnecessary detour.
16:40 There are still many people jammed in front of the three open lanes.
Between 16:00-18:00 it takes about 30-40 minutes to go through.
A woman who works in Ramallah leaves work at 15:00 and gets home at 18:00, if not later.
It also took us 40 minutes to get through, and at the end the female soldier yelled to Daniela, "Yes! to checkpoints
15:30, Qalandiya: There were very few people at the CP in the afternoon, the DCO shed was empty. There were three active passageways and lines were short. After half an hour we decided to cross to the Jerusalem side to see what was happening. We saw that a BP jeep had parked itself on one of the sidewalks and a "crew" of two-three soldiers were selectively stopping Palestinian buses coming from Jerusalem to check the papers of passengers. A young Palestinian man standing nearby told us that they were looking to arrest Palestinians without proper permits returning from Jerusalem. We stood to observe the procedure. When a bus was stopped, Palestinians with green IDs would get off and volunteer their papers to the soldiers while another soldier continued to check the papers of those who remained on board. After several minutes, all the BP soldiers got into their jeep and drove off.
16:15: The flow of people to the CP appeared to be increasing but transit was not impeded.
16:40: One of the passageways was closed, but the remaining two appeared adequate to keep traffic moving. Lines remained short.
16:50: We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem. At Lil/Jabba CP traffic was flowing. Lines were a bit longer at Hizmeh.
17:45: On my way to Tel Aviv I drove back by Qalandiya. On the road from Q. to Route 443
I saw that a BP jeep was parked so as to block one lane of traffic at the entrance to the roundabout leading to Atarot Industrial Park. Two soldiers were standing outside the jeep. I didn't see them stopping any cars.
-On the northern side (the Palestinian side) of the vehicle checkpoint was an ambulance trying to squeeze inside the line of cars that were glued together. Once the soldiers in the tower erected just above noticed this, a voice emerged: "Ambulance! Get back to the traffic circle!" cause the ambulance to push back.
The driver wouldn't stop trying. Again and again the ambulance advanced in violation of the local rule, approaching the imaginary line which can be passed only when the order the heard. The voice from above was more aggressive and shot then before: "Ambulance, get back!"
In hindsight we learned that the driver was trying to draw the attention of the commanders of the checkpoint to the fact that he had a yellow license plate: "I'm from Jerusalem". He had been driving back and forth for about an hour, and was sent away over and over again. Phone calls were made and eventually he was permitted to enter the checkpoint. Then they inspected the vehicle, the documents, the patient's privet possessions ("bad hurt condition") and the medical equipment to which he was connected. Anything to make sure they did impose a risk to the safety of the country.
Later on we met the ambulance driver again, this time he was bringing a woman who had over gone surgery on her foot, back to Ramalla. The ambulance from Jerusalem had to take the patient to an ambulance from the Palestinian side, everything went according to regulations, without any unusual detainments: the gurney was surrounded by many people who held it, the documents needed to identify all those involved in the procedure were inspected thoroughly, the woman was lifted in the air by four men while she was moaning from pain, she was taken off the gurney she lied in and place in another from the occupied territories, then she was taken into the Palestinian ambulance and driven home.
- Two policemen from the "motorcycle unit" were situated during the whole time at the bus parking lot. They were there when we arrived and remained there until sunset. They diligently inspected the condition of the tires on the vehicles heading to Palestine, and sent the drivers off only after having given them a ticket. - Quite a revenue for The Treasury.
-An armoured police vehicle with metal bars on all sides appeared out of the blue from the direction of Jerusalem. Three men with dirty/washed out clothes, evidence that they were labourers, were taken off the vehicle and had an armed police woman escort them to the Palestinian side, making sure they went in.
The three, who lived in the village Husan, were caught working at a construction site at Beit Israel neighbourhood without a work permit. They didn't get a chance to change their clothes and take their belongings. The "hunters" shoved them into the police vehicle while cursing them: "You mustn't be here... You sons of bitches... you liars...." When the eldest one among them tried to speak in their defence, saying they weren't terrorists, that they only wanted to make a living, he was replayed: "Shut up!" A younger man told us that he asked the policeman cursing them whether he spoke this way to his father as well: "He is almost sixty years old, he could be your father...", the attempt to compare the Palestinian to the his father was apparently more than the policeman could bear, so he bestowed upon the person asking more of his precious linguistic pearls.
"I have seven children..."- the man said over and over again, and after all that is the whole Torah...
Translation: Suzanne O.
It was the first Friday after the closure due to the Jewish Festivals. Many people cross in order to pray at the El Aqsa Mosque. At the roadblock about half the people hold the blue ID of Jerusalem residents and the other half are West Bank residents who mostly have prayer permits which are granted to men and women over 50 years of age. Hundreds of people crowd around each time, tens between the bars of the narrow cages and behind the turnstiles of the checkpoints, there is also much crowding in the car lanes; naturally the owner of the tea stall is very happy with the crowds, and the ending of the closure. Even the windscreen cleaner scuttles around with renewed energy.
It takes an hour in the pedestrian queue. We hear the miserable experiences of the roadblock and the exchanges between people, while orders and scoldings by the soldiers concealed behind bullet proof windows are heard over the tannoy system. Of all the impressions of standing in the queue the most painful is of a soldier, angry at someone for something trivial such as not opening a passport at the right page, ranting into the microphone. She is angry so she is offensive; she shames, humiliates, curses, scorns, and thus demeans the humanity of the Palestinian standing in front of her. In one case she consciously adds insult to injury by tormenting the other, the Palestinian, because she can and also because she enjoys doing it. I am using the term she because it is women soldiers who were present that day, I didn't hear male voices, and so it has been on most Fridays during the last few months.
In the queue, with a long wait, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem from the village Ekev, whose way to the clinic is barred by the roadblock, works out the time each turnstile opens, and whether the soldier will get annoyed and waste more time on hassling her, to calculate whether she can get to the clinic before it closes.
Her neighbour in the queue is also occupied with the same calculations, this time concerning the post office in Sheikh Jerrakh.
A father with two children is busy keeping them under control so that they do not run about between the people and, having run out of ploys, tries to frighten them by telling them that the Jewish soldier will not let them through because they are misbehaving.
A young couple with a small, disabled child are in the queue; others in the queue ask them: "Why didn't you get the bus, you could have crossed via the car lane while being seated?" They reply: "Only the mother and not the father could have crossed and the child would not be parted from him".
Those with prayer permits from the West Bank noted that they wished to go to Jerusalem not just to fulfil the religious commandment to pray but also to demonstrate the political standpoint that Jerusalem also (at least also) belongs to the Palestinians and what right do the Jews have to decide who can go to El Aqsa, and when. This conversation has recurred time and again when I am at the queue at Kalandia on a Friday and I thought, how logical and just are the arguments heard between the bars.
Qalandiya at 6:25am, The lines for both cars and trucks were backed up and the building was unusually crowded, mainly with men sitting on the benches. We were curious about the passivity of the people sitting around and one person explained to us that since in the past, so many people had been injured while standing in line, they felt it was safer to sit down and wait for the gates to open.
We learned, in addition, that there had been a power outage at 5:00am but unfortunately, the people in line had not been told. To add to the confusion, one x-ray machine was not functioning. People without bags were invited to go to this line.
For the most part, we continue to find the soldiers' behaviour acceptable but one security guard today, was especially rude to a man holding a sick child.
Soldiers are unable to view the situation in the outer area which creates unnecessary hardships, especially with the Humanitarian Lanes. We were finally able to get the attention of one soldier who was thus able to assist in two cases with very sick children.
Anata at 8:15, we noted that the construction was continuing and that for the most part, the traffic was flowing well.
-"If he is from a M.G then he can't stand here!"
The security guard at the vehicle checkpoint made this statement while trying to send away our guest, Golan, who stood with us on the pavement near the inspection post.
When we asked him what he meant by M. G, he explained: "Oh, M. G stands for Minority Group".
-"If they, the settlers from "Adam" and from all the other settlements in the area, weren't here, we wouldn't be here either..."
That was the conclusion of the checkpoint commander at Jaba as to why the checkpoint and soldiers had been posted at that spot, on the road leading to Ramala.
-"Everything has a price in Palestine. The cheapest thing is human life"
Said a heartbroken friend whose father had pass away at a hospital in Nablus due to medical negligence.
On the eve of the end of the "Settlement Freeze" and perhaps of negotiations with the Palestinians.....
15:15, Qalandiya: Borders with the West Bank have been shut for the Sukkoth holiday. Passage through the checkpoints is only possible for bearers of blue ID cards (citizens and residents of Israel) and Palestinians of recognized "family unification" status. There were very few people at Qalandiya in the afternoon. The peddlers near the northern shed told us that there had been very few people all that day. Only two passageways were active. In the "aquarium" between passageways 4 and 5, a lone female soldier was dealing with applicants to the DCO (of whom there were none at the time).
By 15:30 the flow of people coming from the direction of Ramallah to Jerusalem began to increase and the lines in the two active passageways began to grow longer. I phoned headquarter and they apparently arranged for the opening of another passageway, No. 4.
The three of us got in line to cross the CP. Liat was first to enter the examination area and, when she presented her ID to the soldier, he refused to let her through and began shouting at her that she had been in Area A (the area controlled by the PA and out of bounds for Israeli's) which was, of course, untrue. Only when Tamar arrived and explained to the soldier what we had done (pointing out that he had no conception of the map of the area), did he relent and open the passageway.
We left Qalandiya at about 16:30 and drove down Highway 60 to see what was happening in the territories. On our way to Atara CP we saw no unusual activity or preparations - there was no heavy machinery on the roads. The soldiers at the CP descended from their pillbox to warn us not to take pictures (even though photography is permitted by the IDF). They told us that they had been in their outpost (at the northern exit from Ramallah/Beir Zeit) for 4 days and would shortly be relieved. They also told us that they only set up a road block in cases of terror warnings (which isn't always the case).
From Atara we drove back to Adam/Sha'ar Benyamin (an Israeli settlement). We drove around the settlement for about 20 minutes, but it was pretty late and people were no longer at work so we saw no building underway and no preparations either.
We returned to Jerusalem via Hizmeh CP.