Virginia S., Ina P. (reporting), Judith G. (translator)
In addition to the freezing cold of late December, a fog thick as pea soup covered Qalandiya and the nearby area when we arrived at 5:40 and only great luck prevented an accident in the unlit section of highway 45, leading from highway 443 to the checkpoint. However, despite the difficult conditions, there was a relaxed atmosphere, relatively, at the checkpoint. There was sufficient progress so that the lines, for the most part, did not spill over beyond the narrow passageways between the bars (commonly called the "'cages"). Already at 6:05 we noticed that the turnstile on the left was open most of the time, and those arriving passed through freely. Occasionally people greeted us with "Good Morning, how are you?" in Hebrew and English. Maybe the good spirits were connected to the New Year atmoshpere.
At 6:05 the DCO soldiers arrived who are responsible for the humanitarian gate, but those arriving at the checkpoint preferred to go directly through the turnstile which was open or, when the line did become a bit longer, to wait until the opening of the turnstile.
Before they entered the "aquarium" to escape from the cold, we spoke with one of the DCO soldiers and the guard on duty as well as with the responsible policewomen. We spoke with the men about the reasons for opening the humanitarian gate even when there wasn't pressure of long lines of people waiting to pass through the container - for instance, in order to protect the women from the experience of being groped while they were stuck in the containers. With the 2 policewomen, we talked about the dangerous situation caused by the lack of lighting on highway #45. One of them said that the police were certainly aware of the situation and had turned to the Jerusalem Municipality long ago about the problem. Since then, they spoke about it several times, but with no result. We asked that the police should lend it weight again to the problem, after our suggestion that the Israeli police should work together with MachsomWatch to put pressure on the Municipality aroused a weak smile on our interlocutor.