Qalandiya, Tue 30.7.13, Morning
The lines extended deep into the parking lot when we arrived at 05:45 and the pace of opening the turnstiles – and thus of the advancement of the lines -- was agonizingly slow. A bit after 06:00 patience seemed to run out and the lines dissolved, as people rushed into the shack, creating a mass of people beyond the three “cages.” But other than a temporary release of tension, nothing changed. We twice called the Humanitarian Line, first to call for a DCO soldier or officer to open the Humanitarian Gate and secondly to suggest that an officer appear to see the situation and manage the pace at which the turnstiles were opened and the number of people allowed through each time.
Close to 06:15 a Civil Administration soldier came out and opened the Humanitarian Gate, repeating the process about every 10 minutes until 7 o’clock. At about the same time, the policeman who had been present all along, seated inside the “aquarium,” came out of the booth but did not appear to address the situation in any way. Closer to 07:00, more people were allowed through the first turnstile each time it was opened, so that by 07:15 the “peak” had passed and the lines no longer extended beyond the cages.
When the pressure had lessened, the Civil Administration soldier talked with us, reporting that the situation had been so bad on the previous Sunday that the CA actually filmed it (for its own purposes). He also suggested that the relatively large number of people jamming the checkpoint stemmed from the granting of family-visit permits for Ramadan, and around 7 A.M. we did see a few groups of women arriving with children. But we found it hard to believe that this was the reason for the long lines and slow pace from 05:45 to 07:00 or so, when then the overwhelming number of people entering the checkpoint were workers. If however, the Civil Administration’s analysis is correct, the irony deeply embedded in the willingness to enable Palestinian families to celebrate Ramadan together and thus sweeten their lives had the opposite effect of making the lives of the Palestinian workers who must pass through the checkpoint every morning more difficult. Granting a large number of family visit permits should naturally mean expanding the facilities to accommodate them, or at least limiting the hours during which they can be used to after 8 A.M.