One more unbearable morning in Qalandiya.
5:20: The lines extended far into the parking area and progress was painfully slow. Only four checking booths were operating and a fifth opened up at 5:40, after we had phoned Operations (HAMAL) and described the serious situation. At 5:30 an officer in charge of staff-placement, along with two trainees, had approached us and the EAPPI volunteer, who was there since 4:30. We complained about the harsh conditions at the CP on mornings, which have been going on for some weeks. The officer (polite and courteous, even mentioned Hanna Barag – meaning that he had read her complaints) responded patiently and in a serious intent, that the Palestinians themselves created the crowding problem by reaching the CP too early in the morning (!!!). Had they arrived more towards 6:00 AM - when all five checking booths were already operating - passage would have been faster. We responded that all five booths should have been operating at 5am and this was the direct cause of the lines reaching the parking area, the tension and the difficult scenes at the CP. Furthermore, they were compelled to reach the CP at early hours, knowing that crowded lines lay in store for them with the slow progress there. Our officer reassured us that all would be well by 6:30! We suggested that he return to our stand but he declined our offer… Not merely at 6:30 were there extensive lines – but even at 7:00 (when most workmen are long overdue at work) these extended into the parking lot and were supplemented by the long line at the Humanitarian lane.
A DCO soldier opened the Humanitarian gate at 6:10 and then at intervals of ten minutes, but the people were also delayed for some five-ten minutes in the inner yard, and then at the humanitarian Gate 5. At 7:40 the soldier closed Gate 5 and sent those waiting there – mainly women and school kids - to the three narrow pens, which were still full. In short, it is evident that the Matak soldiers lack any understanding of the situation and of the policy of their job.
At 5:40, there was a total collapse of the line system and people were pushing and skirmishing their way through into the pens. The scene was appalling. Adult men hesitate to approach the pens because of the apparent violence (we were told of a man who broke his leg, another whose glasses were shattered). The resentment only intensifies. At 7:00, while photographing the mess, a man approached us coaxing us to photograph and suggested that we compare the photos to photos of Jews in the forties. Another man mentioned that in the past, when he lacked a permit and sneaked into Jrslm, he always reached his work on time – now he is being punished for crossing through with a decent permit. All this is intentional – they treat us as a herd.
Our friend from the EAPPI crossed through on one of the lines at 7:05 and reported that it took him 40 minutes. They also took notes from the Palestinians crossing through: an average of 40 minutes, and 45 minutes at 6:15-7:00.
We left at 7:45 and people were still waiting in the three pens. Despair.