We arrived at Qalandiya at 3:45 PM.
As usual, it was filthy and very few people were there. Two passageways to Jerusalem were operating along with the DCO passageway (where no one at all was waiting).
After a short tour of the CP, we returned to the parking lot to “schmooze” with the peddlers and one of them pointed to two elderly women sitting on the ground near the CP wall. The peddler told us that they had come to the CP on Sunday (yesterday) after one of them had been released from the hospital where she’d been treated for cardiac problems and were trying to return home to Gaza. But they had not received the necessary permits and had been forced to spend the night in the local mosque in Qalandiya Refugee Camp.
They returned the next morning (today) to the CP to wait for their permits (which had arrived in the meantime) and continued to wait for another two women to receive permits and join them in their taxi to Gaza. Concerned for their health and comfort, we decided to call Headquarters and ask to speak to the DCO Representative who assured us that she would speed the other 2 women on their way.
The 2 emerged with permits in hand just as we hung up the phone (so that there was really no need for our intervention). All 4 women had to pass through Qalandiya CP on foot, but the taxi driver said that he would take all their baggage through the vehicle CP so that they wouldn’t have to carry it themselves. He filled his small car almost to the bursting point (where would he put the women?) and drove into the vehicle CP. Meanwhile, we noticed that one of the active passageways was empty and directed the women there, entering the examination area and telling the soldiers who they were and asking for speedy treatment. They agreed and helpfully dispatched the women through the CP and out the Jerusalem side. We returned to the Palestinian side of the CP just in time to see their driver make a u-turn, returning as well. He had been refused entrance to Jerusalem. The driver told us he would try his luck at another CP (Hizmeh) and set out on his way. We took it upon ourselves to tell the women (now waiting on the Jerusalem side) what had happened and to reassure them that all would be well. (Unfortunately, in our haste we had forgotten to take telephone numbers both from the driver and the women and so we had to cross the CP to reach them.)
I walked into the enclosed CP entrance and just as I reached the turnstile the soldier on duty in the entrance booth locked it against me. When I asked what the problem was he told me that I had been a nuisance, that I had wandered around the CP and that “someone” (who?) had decided to deny me the right to enter Israel. Not only me, Natanya as well was refused entry! We were astonished. In all our 12 years at Qalandiya, nothing like this had ever happened to us. Not that we felt threatened or that our lives were in danger. From our acquaintance with the Palestinians, we knew we could rely on them! But how could the residents of the aquaria, protected all over from head to toe, who walk around in pairs to ensure their safety, “abandon” Israeli citizens in such a manner, denying them their civil rights?
The solution to our problem was pretty easy – I walked over to the western end of the CP, to the passageway for people traveling by bus, got on a bus and traveled 50 yards (for free) into Jerusalem and got out “in our own country.” I sat down with the women and explained what had happened, but they did not seem at all worried. Several minutes later, our peddler friend got the driver’s telephone number and Natanya called him and learned that he had gotten through Hizmeh CP and was on his way to us. After 10 minutes more he picked up the women and set out for Gaza. All’s well that ends well (except the Occupation and trampling of civil rights)!