Qalandiya, Mon 4.7.11, Afternoon
We arrived at Qalandiya CP at 14:10. Only passageways 1 and 4 were open. Passage was relatively fast. In the vehicle CP we counted about 30 cars inching their way forward into the checkpoint. Although the examination itself was fairly rapid, just the thought of hundreds of cars every hour standing in the "endless line" gives you pause for reflection. But the drivers seem to have "adjusted" – perhaps we've all "adjusted" to all this injustice. There was quite a long line in the passageway for blue ID holders (residents of Jerusalem), but it dissipated over time. A lot has already been written about the filth in the "Terminal." This appears to be a
co-production of the Municipality of Jerusalem (which doesn't provide municipal services) and those using the checkpoint. The disgusting state of the Terminal only provides evidence of the contempt and anger that the CP arouses in those unfortunate enough to have to transit it. The benches in the northern shed are filled with people waiting for a lift to their village after their day's work and with children who have nothing better to do on their summer vacation than congregate at Qalandiya (perhaps there'll be some "action"). The kids peddling bottled water will do almost anything to make a sale (not always very pleasant).
Many people are now on their way to travel abroad. It is no mean feat for them to maneuver their large valises through the turnstiles – only fraying everyone's nerves even further. "International Terminal" they say? It's difficult to decide who is a better magician – the owner of the valise desperately trying to negotiate the turnstile or the one who decided to leave his valise behind because it was too large. Some way to start a summer vacation!
Many women with tired young children were returning from a day-trip. The woman we spoke with told us that they had all gone to the Sea of Galilee and the children had played in the water and everything had been wonderful.
Now, at the end of the school year, many students are taking final exams at the university. After the exam, waiting on line at Qalandiya, they compare their answers, gossip and flirt like students all over the world. For the first time in quite a while we noticed that there were quite a few girls without the traditional head covering among the students.
Another first: the children at the CP "attacked" us. Suddenly we felt all kinds of things raining down on us, thrown by a group of children from behind. The adults around us admonished the youngsters and resolved a very unpleasant situation.
At 3 PM there was a line of 4 women and 2 men in the joint passageway for the DCO and the Post Office. The Post Office closes at 3:30. But the soldiers were not paying attention and no one would open the turnstile. It took quite a few telephone calls (to headquarters, to the Passageway Unit, etc.) before the turnstiles were opened. What's the point of having a Post Office that is inaccessible to the public it's supposed to serve? There was almost no line for the DCO. The renovations at the Ramallah DCO appear to have been completed and pressure at Qalandiya has been reduced. (By the way, only later did we learn that the women had been waiting in line, quiet and uncomplaining, since 2 PM.)
A family of Americans from Chicago, Mom and Dad accompanied by 5 or 6 adult offspring, asked us to help them. Although the women of the family had been permitted to pass through the CP, the father had been refused passage. Both parents had been born in Palestine but had moved to the USA in 1962 (i.e. before Israel's occupation after the 6-Day War). Their children had all been born in the US. Everyone had a US Passport with valid visas for Israel. And of course, none of them had Palestinian ID papers (the children had been born in America and the parents had left before the Occupation). The soldiers couldn't cope with the anomaly – Palestinians without ID numbers? How could that be? The father, who comes to visit several times a year (entering either via Ben Gurion Airport or Allenby Bridge), has never had a problem visiting Jerusalem via Qalandiya. The family were astounded by the refusal – what was different, what had changed? The soldiers threatened to call the police, almost causing the family to retrace their steps to Ramallah. But after several telephone calls, we managed to bring a senior police officer to Qalandiya and he of course immediately confirmed that there was no reason to refuse passage to the Palestinian born parents. We took advantage of the situation to tell the family about MW and asked them to do some PR for us.
We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem at 17:10.