'Atara, Hizma, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Mon 6.9.10, Afternoon
16:05, Qalandiya: Approaching Qalandiya on the road from Beit Hanina, we got stuck in a traffic jam about 100 yards before the Southern Roundabout. It took us almost 20 minutes to reach the roundabout where we found that policemen had detained several drivers who had tried to cut through the traffic by driving in the opposite lane. The detained vehicles were parked in one of the traffic lanes, further exacerbating the problem and enhancing the size of the jam.
Looking into the pedestrian CP from the northern shed, we could see that the three active passageways were full of people waiting and progress was very slow. We called headquarters and spoke to Yahav who transferred our call to Keinan. K. said he would check on matters and try to solve the problems. We entered the CP and stood in the internal passageways. People had been waiting a long time and most looked exhausted from the heat. Those we asked told us that the wait in Qalandiya generally took an hour every day. (One man complained bitterly that the night before, i.e. Sunday, he had had to wait on line for 3 hours before getting through the CP at 1 AM.)
16:40: We spoke with K. again. The traffic problems in the Southern Roundabout had been solved, the drivers had been fined and released. K. said that now he would try to solve the problems in the pedestrian passageways. It quickly turned out that the X-ray machine in Passageway 1 was out of order so that only people without bags and parcels were allowed through No. 1. The population of people without parcels at Qalandiya approaches zero. All women carry bags and all university students carry books and notebooks while most of the remainder carry packages of food for breaking the Ramadan fast. Only a very small number of men walk around with empty hands. Because the other 2 passageways were full to bursting, newcomers entering the CP immediately got in line in Passageway 1. There was no sign up announcing that Passageway 1 was restricted to those without parcels. This, however, did not make a difference to the soldiers on duty in that passageway who felt that people were annoying them by getting on line with parcels in hand. One of the soldiers shouted repeatedly into the PA system (which is painful to the ears) every time he identified some poor person standing on line with hands full.
16:50 - 17:30: Natanya and I got on line in Passageway 3. It took us 40 minutes to get through the CP.
On the Jerusalem side we saw that traffic heading north was flowing unimpeded. We returned to the northern shed. There were still only 2 passageways operating effectively (even though 2 soldiers were on duty in the aquarium in Passageway 1). We reported this to K. who told us that the soldiers at the CP had reported that they had opened 2 more lines (i.e. 4 active passageways). By this time there was also a long line (of about 40) waiting in the northern shed.
We remained in Qalandiya until 18:00. Only 2 passageways operated all the while we were there. We told this to K.
On our way back to Jerusalem we passed thru Lil/Jabba CP where traffic was flowing. The road to Hizmeh, on the other hand, was completely jammed in both directions. While we were standing in the jam, Sylvia phoned to tell us that the situation in Atara was even worse with hundreds of cars stuck on the road. Unfortunately there was no way that we could extricate ourselves so we reported the problem to the Humanitarian Hotline, not a very effective line of action.