Qalandiya, Sun 28.3.10, Afternoon
The eve of a closure- or- a situation report at the terminal
When (once again) the left hand (inspectors) doesn't make the necessary arrangements to receive the large amount of people with permit for Easter that the right hand (the one giving out permits) had distributed, the reality at the checkpoint since the early morning hours, so we had been told, and at least until the evening, while we were still there, masses of people had been huddled on the gates.
And the soldiers?- an old friend, an expert regarding the checkpoint: "If you get a racist inspector- your done for, if not- they also make fun of you a bit..."
As usual, when a gesture is made or god forbid, another restriction is inflicted, the Palestinians are the ones on the losing side.
At the parking lot at the inside, an elder woman was brought by an ambulance from the occupied territories, to be taken by another ambulance from east Jerusalem to be admitted. The procedure was done in 15 minutes, but the way from Jenin (where she lives) to Qalandiya, took the ambulance three hours- according to the medical crew. (photo on right)
-The long arm of a crane was moving some equipment into the checkpoint. The police officer that was in charge of the operation explained: "They are dispatching gravestones...- some people need burring... "- policemen humor...
-The southern side of the checkpoint, the Jerusalem side, was especially crowded: We split and each group took a different path.
Irit and I timed our path in 63 minutes (!). A Palestinian friend who stood near us and was in a hurry to get to work at east Jerusalem, once again, through no fault of his own, couldn't make his schedule.
He regards the uncertainty of his routine life with humor, as though it was his fate and not the arbitrary decision of man.
Perhaps people from his generation (he has yet to turn forty), that were born and raised under the occupation, this reality seems like fate?
Ronni and Natali took a different path and had trouble passing through the mass of people and reach the other side: crowded bodies shoving each other, babies crying, people shouting and fighting about their place in the line which didn't move, and loud voices which mounded on top of the orders that were given through the loud speakers, which were impossible to apprehend, understand or even make out the langue in which they were given, Arabic or Hebrew. Through all this they had to pass. Once they had decided to retrace their steps, because they have the freedom to choose to stay cramped inside or back up- the mass of people who become one bloc, kept pushing them towards the metal gates.
After more than an hour the four of us met in the waiting shed on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. Natali sighed and said: "It's so good to breath fresh air again..."
-Anyone who had been there knows that the air is hardly "fresh", it is dense with fumes of fuel and the stench of urine.
- A person from Nablus who works at the industrial zone at Atarot, and visits his home only on weekends because he can never be certain when leaving his home when and if he will arrive at his work place, asked about the terms of the Passover closure which was to stat at midnight. If the closure is to be inclusive and regard also those who work at Atarot, he would head home that very night. The DCO hot line informed us that they hadn't yet received the terms of the closure. It was nearly evening.
How do they make these decisions and when? They seem as though they are meaningless but they determine whether or not families will have enough food.
A person from the village Bidu (at the enclave of Bir Nabala) who works at Abu Gosh, told us that until recently it would only take him a couple of minutes to get from his home to work, using Ramot checkpoint. Since then new regulations had been put to place, they force the Palestinians from the occupied territories to use only the points which are called "border passages", this means they must make a large bypass using Qalandiya checkpoint.
-An elder man in a wheel chair on his way to Augusta Victoria hospital ( at east Jerusalem) arrived. The chair was too wide to pass through the human pines and go through the turnstiles. It has been years since the gates to the lane with the sign: "Humanitarian Line", could be open using the button at the soldiers' post. The elder man and two women who escorted him stood hopeless in front of the metal fences.
The answers that were given by the DCL hot line were the same answers given to any complaint or request: "We'll find out...", "we'll take care of it...", "we'll look into it....".
What (probably) finally got two armed security men to come over with a key was that one of the bags of the elder man had been placed by the fence. The soldiers watching the plasma screens in the back rooms suspected it might be a bomb.
Only then did the "Humanitarian Gate" open.
I would like to thank you again for taking me on your shift today.
Helping an old man crossing, chating with a fruit seller or a coffee maker, smiling at children and listening to people while standing for hours with them at checkpoints on your week-ends, will not have an impact neither on the occupation policy nor on some arrogant behaviours but a smile, a kind gesture, a real listening can give back a tiny little hope to the person receiving it. In his book "A long way to freedom", Mandela is talking about the visits he would get from the ICRC deleguates once or twice a year. He knew they wouldn't change anything but during those few minutes, he was feeling as a human being and not as a sub-human anymore and that helped him go through the 25 years he spent at Roben Island. You sure know these inspiring moments of humanity are priceless. And if sometimes you doubt ..well Murakami is here to remind you: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=8949398203&topic=7516 :) So, TODA RABA and take good care, Nathalie.