Four stations were open when we arrived at 5:05 and the lines were moving fairly quickly despite the fact that the turnstile at the end of Cage 3 (the furthest on the right) was not operating at all (and was closed by a police barrier) and that the one at the end of Cage 1 was operating only sporadically. We could not establish contact with the soldier or the policeman inside the Aquarium to determine whether the turnstile in Cage 1 was faulty or whether the soldier was not operating it properly. A call to the Humanitarian Line / Headquarters woke up the woman soldier who was of no help whatsoever (“The faulty turnstile will be fixed sometime during the day”). When we asked to speak with her commander, we were told by the soldier that she is the one who deals with the public.
The soldier in charge of the Humanitarian Gate arrived at 6:05, opened the gate, and continued to open it thereafter, in his usual quiet and efficient manner, each time a group of people had gathered before it.
When we explained to him the problem with the turnstile in Cage 1, he immediately entered the Aquarium, pressed the button for that turnstile, and it opened – and continued to open without any problem for the rest of the time we were there. It thus remains unclear what the problem was earlier.
Because only one and later two turnstiles were in operation, they were opened for longer periods at each segment, and the flow was maintained fairly successfully throughout the morning.
The absurdity of the morning was a notice printed on A4-sized paper and tacked up by the police on a temporary cork board to the left of Cage 3. It announced that the parking lot would be closed that day until 9:30 p.m. and any car found within it during the day would receive a traffic ticket. There was no indication of this issue at the entrance to the parking lot or the entrance to the checkpoint, where someone might actually notice it. One had to get as far as Cage 3 inside the checkpoint (the one farthest from the entrance) and then look leftward to catch a glimpse of the sign. And Cage 3 was at any rate closed that day, so that hardly anyone got that far. It all seemed to us just another indication of the deep contempt in which the authorities hold the people who are forced to cross through the checkpoint.
Ultimately, when he emerged from the Aquarium, we asked the policeman on duty about the notice. He replied that he knew nothing about it and it must have been placed there by the municipal authority. That statement was actually the greatest absurdity of all, for it’s common knowledge that the municipal authority (namely, the Municipality of Jerusalem) does not function in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem located beyond the Separation Barrier, which is where the checkpoint’s parking lot is located. And the notice was clearly marked with the Police Department’s logo.
Anyway, we cannot say what happened to the cars (and their owners) after we left at 7:00 but we will try to follow up on this next week.