A reasonable morning and an interesting convesation
We arrived at 5:15. Today as well, the parking lot was closed and empty; it will probably remain that way until the end of Ramadan. We continued on a little way; in the next roundabout, behind the fruit and vegetable stand, there is a paid parking lot. We parked there. The guy who runs the lot came out from a nearby car to take payment. We went up to the checkpoint by foot from the side, by way of the area at the entrance which has been set up as a prayer area on Fridays - they put cement barriers there, creating several lanes. People who are allowed entrance with go through from there.
When we approached the checkpoint, the lines had already started to flow over into the parking lot, which had no vehicles in it. Three long lines, well organized, stood quietly and waited. There are no traces of the riots which have been taking place in the territories which are reported, briefly, in our media. Because of Ramadan, the coffee stand is closed and the bagel sellers don't arrive. People also do not smoke during the fast, while, in general, everyone was smoking all the time. Today the area under the shed was also relatively tidy.
Only 3 booths were open when we arrived. After a few minutes, a policeman came. Usually, this is a sign that they are about to open more booths but, when nothing happened, we called the DCO. It took another few minutes and then they announced on a loud speaker that the 2 additional booths were opening, they opened the turnstiles and a lot of people went through at once. In fact, booth #4 opened only at 5:35, and #5 didn't open at all. The people waiting there began to get discouraged and move over to other booths. Only after 5:40 #5 finally opened, after another phone call to the DCO (which doesn't seem all that effective). About 10 minutes after they had made the announcement on the loud speaker. It's not clear why they announced the opening of the booth while it wasn't actually open. This only further frustrated those waiting in line.
Once in a while we heard irritated cries from the loudspeakers at the various booths which we could not decipher. At #4, the woman soldier announced again, in a relaxed tone, not a shout, "by threes, by threes" ("go through 3 at a time and not more").
At about 6 the lines started to dwindle to the area of the shed, and then only between the barriers. Later one, there were also moments during which there were no people at all in the barriers and the turnstiles finally were left open. When pressure built up again before the booths, the turnstiles were closed, but there were no longer long lines as there had been before. When the officer from the DCO arrived, a little after 6, with an armed guard, he had nothing to do because there was no need of the humanitarian line. Everyone went through in the regular line.
We left around 6:20. On our way back to the car, we met people going toward the checkpoint and some of them wished us "good morning" in English, Arabic and Hebrew. When we got to the parking lot, the operator was still sitting in his car, and there was another car next to him. The driver of the other car turned to us and started talking about the situation. He said that all that ordinary people want is to make a living for the family and live quietly. He asked what we could do so that our leaders would understand this. During the conversation, he took off his hat and identified himself to us as Aiman, who usually is selling coffee next to the checkpoint. Now that it is Ramadan, he has no income. He himself does not fast, he says because he isn't in the mood for that. He said that he used to work in Mahane Yehudah, and then in Or Yehudah, for a company that had a restaurant and catering service, and he had good relations with his employers. He showed us photos of his son, and said that he was expecting another child. He also told us that there were rumours that the kidnapping of the 3 boys did not happen. Even after they found the bodies, people claimed that they were killed in an accident and not murdered, and it was turned into a murder in order to justify the attacks against Hamas. He said that his uncle lives in Tira and works as a cook in Jewish homes. We exchanged phone numbers and parted, in the hope that, at least when we see each other next week, the fighting would have stopped.
Also this time we traveled by way of A-Ram and Hizme, and entered Jerusalem through Pisgat Ze'ev. It was quite empty along the way, even after the checkpoint, where Jewish-looking people like us pass without any checking. There was thin traffic and we got back to the center of town quickly.