'Atarot, Qalandiya, Mon 15.6.09, Afternoon
15.40 The traffic is flowing fairly smoothly but the line of cars waiting is very long. From where we stood we counted 20 cars (and after them was a long line). The 21st car arrived within 4 minutes approximately. The checking was random. (seemed to be every third car). A truck was at the side of the road in the line of traffic as were all the other cars. One must note that in the route leaving Ramallah in the direction of Jerusalem is a checking post with electric sockets but without any other gear and without a shade. It is not manned.
16.00 2 checking posts open and about 10 people in each.
16.10 Two vans with Israeli license plates are parking the taxi area. A short clarification elicits the fact that this is a family, a father of 9 children) who had been driven out by the Palestinian Authority. He had worked for them for 10 years but had been fired and ordered to leave the West Bank. The family tried to get permission to move to Jordan but were also refused and therefore had to make their way to Gaza. Their last refuge. The family had permits permitting all to pass the checkpoint but the two vans which had their worldly possessions had been delayed in the carpark since
15.15. One driver said that in the past he had gone through the checkpoint with a loaded van a number of times but this time the soldiers had refused to check and said that they they to go through the Betunia checkpoint. The father spoke to the lawyer who had sent up their permits for the passage.
16.20 The policeman, Babian, came to find out why they were parked in this area which was not meant for such cases. When he had listened to the story he ordered the soldiers to check the baggage and to let the family go on their way. But after he had gone they ignored the instructions and just stood and laughed.
16.22 In our first conversation with the humanitarian center we were asked to phone in a few minutes while they checked what was happening.
16.30 The policeman, Doron Cohen, came and told the drivers that they could not go through the checkpoint and that they had to go through Beitunia. The drivers explained to him that the cars with the baggage also had passengers and that the permit for the latter was only until 19.00 that night. They asked for the baggage to be checked at the post. The policeman, Cohen, refused to listen and said that he had been working for two years at Beitunia and only there was it possible. He suggested that one car take the family to Gaza and that the other try to take the baggage through either the next day or the day after and that they make the coordination with the Erez checkpoint. When the father explained that he and his family had not prepared for such a situation and that all their things, clothes, toothbrushes, etc were packed Doron said that they could do so now and take whatever necessary. One of the drivers again asked that the soldiers came to check the cars and the policeman said rudely, " I will not give you even half a soldier. I don't work for you."
While this exchange was taking place we made another call to the humanitarian centre which put us through to the DCO at Qalandiya. There they said that they and the operations officer were dealing with the matter and the drivers should stay where they were. The policeman, Cohen, argued by phoned with someone at the DCO and afterwards left the area. The lawyer of the family was speaking to the other captains at the Erez crossing.
16.40 There is great pressure of those returning home through the checkpoint. About 40 workers stand before the turnstiles and one can hear shouting and pushing. They say that they are ordered to pass the magnetic card through the device which is not working properly and that therefore they are being delayed. There is a pressing problem as the women returning to Ramallah because there is not separate humanitarian line. Some women wait at the side so that the men should first pass. We reported this to the humanitarian centre. After some minutes it seems that the machines are again working and the line begins to move.
16.50 Another call to the centre and they promise us that the problem of the family is being dealt with and that in the next few minutes a DCO representative will come. While we were talking he arrived, captain Ron who speaks excellent Arabic. We wish to say that he really did try in all earnestness to find a solution to the problem. After speaking to the father and the drivers an arrangement was made by which the family would wait at the Israeli side of the checkpoint and that all their goods would be put onto one car which would be sent back to the Palestinian area where it would go through the x-ray machine. He promised that after that the family would be able to go on their way. He said that there was no other way and that that was the maximum that could be done to help. We spoke to the centre again but they also said that that was the only way. One of the drivers takes out a bag and the contents are emptied on to the ground. He again asks sergeant Ron to check in the parking area but Ron refuses. He does however say that only the boxes and the suitcases will have to go through and not sheets. Carpets and blankets which could be checked there. The family, mother and 7 daughters, hurry out and put everything back into the bag.
Everything is put into the one car and the family stay on the Israeli side of the checkpoint. The father and one of the drivers go to the Palestinian side to have everything checked. Now the passage is free and we go back quickly to the Palestinian side.
17.30 The vans are now on the Palestinian side and stop next to the kiosk of coffee. They begin to unload and take the baggage to the other side. Some people there offer to help and we specially want to note that Waji , the coffee vendor who immediately understood what was happening did everything that he could to help.
All the gear was put at the side entrance. Sergeant Ron opened the gage and from there the goods were taken to the x-ray machine at the entrance to the DCO and sent through. From there is would again be taken to the Israeli side and to the parking lot where the family was waiting. Sergeant Ron was in command of the entire procedure and kept his promise.
18.00 The loading of the goods on the Palestinian side finished and then began on the Israeli side and everything went through.
Our shift was nearly over but it seemed that the troubles of the family were not yet over.
Epilogue. 22.20 A conversation with the driver, Mr. Ramadan gave us to understand that the vans had arrived at Erez and that the family were being checked through.
On Tuesday morning we learned that the family and the vans had arrived and that the family had passed the inspection. Mr. Ramadan was told that we were writing this report about the incident.