'Atara, Hizma, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, יום ב' 11.5.09, אחה"צ
14.28 Atarot. So as to avoid the traffic jams caused by the visit of the Pope I came in on road 443 and turned into Atarot. The line of cars reached the crossroads and it took me 14 minutes get through. The truck in front was stopped to be checked by the soldiers.
15.10 After I met Natanya we went back to Atarot and saw that the truck was just being freed. In other words it had been stopped for half an hour.
15.20 At Qalandiya there were 3 lines of pedestrians but hardly any people at the checkpoint. So too at the car lane.
In the parking area an Israeli ambulance waited for a woman in labour to arrive from the occupied territories. The drivers said that they had suggested to the soldiers at the checkpoint that they themselves should go to fetch the woman (as they understood that the birth was imminent) but where not allowed through. They had to call on a Palestinian ambulance to bring her to Qalandiya. The ambulance did arrive at 15.32 but had to wait 10 minutes to get permission to come through. 15.42. The young woman, frightened and in pain was moved over in the Israeli ambulance which went to the Mokassah hospital within 2 minutes. Her husband who had brought her was not allowed to go through with her.
15.50 Because there were no problems at Qalandiya we decided to the checkpoint at Atara.
16.30 At Atara we were amazed at the long line of cars on the road above Bira/Bir Zeit which went up the hill, about 80 cars. The unit which was made up of reservist soldiers who received us pleasantly and answered our questions. They had had arrived at the checkpoint 4 days ago. They explained that there is always a long line at this time of day. (From our experience this is NOT so....everything depends on how the soldiers are handline the checkpoint.) They said that they were checking cars randomly. But there randomness was very large it seems. While we were there they checked out three vans very carefully, 1 bus and a car of a travelling and private clinic. All the passengers had to get out and their documents were checked. Also their parcels one by one. Also a soldier opened and checked the engine and the baggage compartment. Each check took about 10 minutes according to the number of passengers. The soldiers said that they had no special warning about an alert.
But aside from the careful checking another check was done when a car stopped in the lane and the driver was asked to open the baggage compartment and then went on his way.
In the meantime the line at the top of the hill became even longer and we saw cars arriving from side roads in an attempt to bypass the line. And all this horrible story took place at the checkpoint which is meant for harrassement, a checkpoint between Ramallah and the surrounding villages in the heart of Palestine.
The question is if the soldiers at the checkpoint make their own rules. Atara should be visited more often.
We left at 15. 20 and went back to Jerusalem through Hizma where there was pressure but the traffic went through slowly but surely.