Qalandiya, Thu 22.9.11, Morning

Hanna Barag (reporting) and a photographer

Translator:  Charles K.

This report should be titled, Outrage at Qalandiya

We arrived at the checkpoint at 04:50.  The line stretched far beyond the parking lot.  Even at this early hour we could hear from all directions the “roars” of the frustrated people waiting.  When we came closer we saw unbearable congestion.  People climbed over one another, and were so crowded in the pens they could have suffocated.  There was such confusion I couldn’t even see how many inspection booths were open – but even without being able to see them it was clear that inspections proceeded at a maddeningly slow pace.  The area between the revolving gatesinfo-icon to the pens and the revolving gates to the inspection booths was jammed with angry people.  Younger men find horrible ways to bypass the line – it takes your breath away to see them.  I stood watching them helplessly and in complete despair.  Conditions continued to worsen until 06:00.

At 06:00 the DCO representative appeared and opened the humanitarian gate.  A flood of people burst toward it – and went through.  For a moment it seemed the line had eased – but that was only an illusion.  When I complained they told me they’d increased the number of soldiers at the inspection booths – which, of course, I couldn’t see at all.  It didn’t change anything.

Meanwhile, the shift changed at the vehicle checkpoint.  If they could have done it any more slowly, they would have.  There’s no reason to hurry, you know – they’re only Palestinians!  And at the same time a friendly conversation goes on with “the hidden voice” from the pillbox above – God masquerading as a soldier.

06:35  The schoolchildren start arriving.  Many turn on their heels – they glimpsed the situation, understood they’d be late for school and there was no point trying to go.  Suddenly a young man appears, gathers the pupils together and offers them a ride to school via a different route.  A few are tempted, but most are afraid and decide to sit on the benches and wait to see what happens.  I was very relieved!

At 07:00 I gave up and decided to telephone “upstairs,” but nothing changed and the lines only got longer.  I have no words to describe the shouts that arose from the line.  At 07:45, the courtyard holding the lines was still overflowing.  Many simply gave up and left – and lost a day of work.  But who cares?!

Meanwhile we talked to the pupils who were sitting on the benches, waiting for things to improve – it will take more than a generation to overcome the hatred accumulated every day at the checkpoints!

The clock ticks, it’s already 08:00, and now 09:00, and there are still masses of people on line.  The only bright spot was an unexpected meeting with the two teachers who work in Jerusalem and appear in Neta Efroni’s film about Qalandiya.  And the black spot – that the man repeated today the same harsh things he’d said in the film!

One man, very angry, took his frustration out on me.  “You must be getting paid to write things down in your notebook,” he announced.  The shame I felt at what I was seeing silenced me.  What could I say?  That I’m one of the privileged “lords of the land” who, although I observe the checkpoints, spend my evenings at concerts and the theater?

At 09:30 we had to leave – despite the awful situation that was still contining.  I decided to return through the vehicle checkpoint, where the line had become shorter.  What a mistake!  I stopped for inspection, took out my privileged ID card.  The female soldier didn’t know what to do; she asked the security man if she should apply the procedure she uses for diplomats.  And then I heard who and what I was:  “What are you talking about?  She’s that leftist bitch.”  I was shocked into silence.  But that was only the beginning.  The photographer’s passport was inspected and then they told me, “Why did you bring him here; take him to the Banias (another occupied area, in case anyone forgot), show him how lovely the country is (he’s right – it is lovely).  We ought to treat you the same way you treat the soldiers who protect you, and sacrifice themselves for you.”  I cursed him with words I didn’t realize I knew, and left.

The filthy surroundings have already been written about numerous times – and they weren’t any cleaner today than they had been in the past.

Another morning at Qalandiya; more desparation and helplessness.