Ar-Ram, Qalandiya, Mon 3.1.11, Afternoon

Observers: 
Natanya G.and Phyllis W. (reporting)
03/01/2011
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Afternoon

The extent of the mess at Qalandiya became apparent to us only slowly.  It seems that nothing was working properly.  The new western facility for people arriving by bus had been opening and closing intermittently all day long, driving people crazy.  As a result, the pressure of crowds in the old pedestrian passageways rose considerably but nothing was done to relieve it – on the contrary, the soldiers on duty continued to open and close passageways with no consideration for the numbers of people and the time spent waiting on line.  At the end of our shift, as more and more people were returning from work and studies in Ramallah, there were only two passageways open, one of which was only for those who were not carrying bags and parcels.  This constitutes clear discrimination against women who are always carrying something in their hands. 

The CP was like an island in a sea of traffic jammed up in every conceivable direction.  As a result, the buses from Ramallah have stopped trying to drive through the CP, they don't even come close (because then they would be caught in the jam), but discharge their passengers back up the line where they can still make a u-turn and beat a retreat.  Consider what this means for the handicapped and for mothers with small children. 

Later on we learned that there were changes in the traffic situation all over the area.  On the road from Qalandiya to the city of A-Ram vehicles were stalled bumper to bumper because of roadwork.  The 2-lane road connecting to "Highway" 60 has become one-way and one-lane, going west to east one-half the distance and east to west the other half.  This must be somewhat confusing for anyone trying to get from "Highway" 60 to Ramallah – we still haven't figured out how it's done.  Back in the northern square of Qalandiya, one of the vehicle lanes exiting northward has been blocked by concrete blocks.  This forces cars going to Ramallah to travel east (out of their way) for about a kilometer where they reach a roundabout and join the traffic jam going north.  In short, "balagan" hardly begins to describe the situation and no one seems to know when it will be solved.

 

16:15, Qalandiya:  When we reached Qalandiya, there were two active passageways, when one was closed another was opened.  The poor folks standing at the head of the line in the passageway that was closed were, of course, the last to reach the line that formed in the passageway that had opened and were forced to wait twice as long.  Suddenly a new line was opened, but this, unfortunately, was exclusively for those who were not carrying bags or parcels, i.e. for a limited number of men only. 

The situation at Qalandiya is difficult.  Even our friend the coffee vendor has given up in despair and taken his stand to another CP.  I hope he's making a better living there.

We went outside into the northern square to see what was happening in the new "bus" passageway.  We found that the passageway was closed.  The gatekeeper told us that for the last two days this passageway has been opened and closed intermittently, four or five times a day.  Buses have stopped driving to the CP because of the long wait in the traffic jam.  He told us that on Sunday morning (2.1.2011) the children arriving by bus had not been allowed through to get to school.  They had been delayed at the CP for two hours.  When they realized that they had missed their school day, they all returned home.  Contrary to past practice, the children were not allowed to use the "Humanitarian Gateway" in the old part of the CP.

Traffic was jammed up in every direction.  A taxi driver sitting in the jam swore by his children that he was waiting for 1.5 hours already.  It was easy to believe him.  Others told us that they had waited yesterday for 2 and even 3 hours in the traffic jams around Qalandiya.

17:00:  There are two active passageways in the old CP.  One of them is crowded with men women and children (about 50 in all) while the other is almost empty (this is the line for people without bags).

17:15:  We left Qalandiya and were immediately swallowed by the traffic jam.  When we reached A-Ram we found that the road had become a one-lane one-way track going east.

Mid-way to Adam Junction, this road became a one-lane one-way track going west.  All those travelling to Jerusalem were diverted to a detour through the city of A-Ram that eventually rejoined the old road at Lil/Jabba CP.