A quiet morning at Qalandiya.
We arrived at 05:15. The lines to the pedestrian crossing stretched beyond the canopied area but were orderly. When we went inside we saw all five booths operating and people were going through reasonably quickly.
We saw a father with a son in a wheelchair whose leg was elevated (we’d already seen them before) standing at the humanitarian crossing. There was no congestion this time; we could talk to him. In addition to the boy’s leg injury, he requires dialysis. They must arrive by 6 AM; otherwise his turn will be taken by another patient and they’ll have to wait four hours. The father vainly tries to get the attention of the soldier in the “aquarium” regulating the crossing so he’ll open the humanitarian gate. The wheelchair can’t fit through the revolving gates even when there’s no congestion. We asked the father whether he’d telephoned the DCL, but it turned out his phone can’t make outgoing calls. We telephoned the DCL who told us they’d be there in a few minutes. A policewoman arrived but discovered there’s no key to the humanitarian gate. She left and returned after more minutes had elapsed. It took a total of 10-15 minutes until she opened first the humanitarian gate, then the gate alongside the revolving gate of the humanitarian crossing, then accompanied them to the third gate and finally to booth number 4 where there’s a gate that can be opened to accommodate a wheelchair. We heard her tell the soldier she’s going to take the father and son through. We hoped they’d arrive on time. When the policewoman returned she resumed the conversation she’d begun with a man who’d approached her when she accompanied the father and son. She seemed attentive but we couldn’t hear what they were discussing.
The regular lines had advanced quickly in the meanwhile so there was no congestion despite the long lines. It turns out that when all the booths open early and people go through at a reasonable rate those on line wait patiently and don’t rush to the fenced corridors whenever the revolving gates open. A man accompanying his ill father approached us. His father isn’t able to stand for long. We told him the humanitarian crossing opens only at 06:00, but since the lines today are orderly they could ask to enter the fenced corridor directly. And that’s what they did, and those on line allowed them to precede them, as they did women who arrived. Two young women nevertheless preferred to wait for the humanitarian gate to open.
At about 05:40, when the revolving gates opened, the lines grew much shorter and no longer extended beyond the canopied area. People continued arriving, but also went through reasonably quickly. H. approached us; he’d spoken to us before. He sends regards to our colleague, Ronny P. He tells us he works in the Mahane Yehuda market and must make a long detour to get to work from home; otherwise the trip wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. He says the crossing is operating well today not only because the five booths opened early, but also because of the soldiers’ attitude. There are groups of soldiers who work efficiently, like today, and others who work slowly, admit people one at a time, busy themselves with smartphones instead of inspections, treat people negligently, etc. Others on line hear what he says and nod their agreement.
The security guard arrived a little before 06:00, but by 06:05 the DCL soldiers still hadn’t come to open the humanitarian gate. One of the soldiers in the booths yells orders over the loudspeaker, but not even she is able to disrupt today’s peaceful atmosphere. People who ordinarily use the humanitarian gate – women, a father and children, elderly – all went to the regular line which flowed smoothly. Some moved to the humanitarian crossing when it opened, but in general the DCL noncom didn’t have much to do. When a few people had gathered he opened the gate, but there was no congestion.
06:15 The lines didn’t extend beyond the fenced corridors. We left.