A particularly miserable morning at Qalandiya
When we arrived at 05:00 we could already hear the angry voices when we were still at the parking lot and saw hundreds of people sitting and walking around the covered waiting area. We saw immediately that only one of the five inspection booths was open, nor was it clear whether that one was operating or whether those on line at the revolving gates to enter the inspection area weren’t simply stuck there. We telephoned the humanitarian office/Qalandiya Operations Room to find out what was happening. The soldier on duty said only that “there was an incident and someone had been injured” (this was the day before Yehuda Glick was wounded next to Begin Center in the western part of the city). We said they should tell the hundreds of people waiting at the checkpoint when it would reopen but received no indication that was on their agenda. We then spoke briefly to the soldier in the aquarium who had a completely different version: there was a problem with the transport of the soldiers manning the stations, which is why they can’t open them. Later we saw sleeve number 1 was in fact open but only one open station is worth nothing at this hour of the morning.
At 05:30, as tension increased, and after an additional discussion with the Operations Room that led nowhere we telephoned Chana Barg, hoping she would succeed where we failed. The answer she received from the Operations Room was that only one of the five sleeves was open because of a “security incident.” What was strange is that during this entire time the checkpoint’s vehicle lanes operated normally. The “incident” (of which there’s no shortage in Jerusalem) affected only people crossing on foot, not on wheels. At 05:45 the remaining four sleeves opened simultaneously. Who knows what the real reason was for the 45 minute delay at this particularly sensitive hour of the morning.
The DCL officer arrived at 06:10 and opened the humanitarian gate for the large crowd waiting there, including men who certainly (based on their appearance) weren’t entitled to use it. The crowd was held in the inner courtyard near the gate while the officer inspected permits and sent back men who weren’t supposed to be there. There was great congestion at sleeve 5 (intended only for people going through the humanitarian gate) and it operated pretty slowly compared to the others. At 07:20 it closed and those waiting were sent to the lines at the cages, which were already shorter.
We left at 07:25, when the lines no longer extended beyond the cages.
Many people approached us during the two and one half hours, asking whether we knew what was going on, requesting we do all we can to fix things, and expressing their opinion that not opening the lanes was an example of collective punishment. Why shouldn’t they feel that way? No one bothered to explain to the hundreds of people on their way to work, school, hospital, etc., why they aren’t able to reach their destinations and when would the checkpoint operate normally. Simple, ugly contempt for this large crowd. Whoever thinks that will make the eastern part of the city quieter should think again.