A calm morning at Qalandiya.
We parked in front of the checkpoint. Freezing cold at this early morning hour. A group of Palestinians warm themselves at a small fire they lit on the side of the road. At the entrance toward Qalandiya we met a Swiss ecumenical who counted those crossing and told us her colleague is on the Palestinian side. We made our way through a large number of people engaged in morning prayers.
At about 05:15 we were happy to see all five booths were open and there was almost no line. The Australian ecumenical we met told us that all five were already open at 04:30. At one point we noticed that booth 5 was in fact closed and people weren’t going through, even though the sign above it had a green V (meaning open). We telephoned the DCL and were told it will open only at 06:00, but then opened it right away and people began to go through. Later the sign changed to a red X (meaning closed), even though it was open…
At 05:30 a policeman arrived, and apparently at his instructions the soldier opened the revolving gates and let many people through and the line became much shorter. At 05:45 H. arrives and talks to us. He says yesterday was also good, and he and his friends draw the obvious conclusion: When the soldiers choose, everything works as it should. He tells us that yesterday there were also representatives from Human Rights – Blue and White. “The students,” he calls them. H. knows a lot about Israel and is aware that the group belongs to the Israeli right. He says he spoke with them about what it’s like on worse days. He told us he needs an operation on his finger which he injured a few months ago in a work accident. He keeps inviting us to visit him at his job in a bakery in the Mahane Yehuda market. Ask for me; the whole market knows who I am.
As time passed the lines lengthen because many people continue to arrive, but they remain orderly. We went out to have tea and see the end of the sunrise. When we returned about 06:00, P., the DCL noncom, had arrived with a security man and soon began to open the humanitarian gate. Then the blonde policewoman came followed by the black cat who today was busy taking lording over another one…
Meanwhile we spoke to the Australian ecumenical who’s coming to the end of his stay in Israel. He’s a high school teacher at home. We usually don’t meet ecumenicals at Qalandiya because they have no Wednesday shift. Today they changed their schedule because of the Christian holidays. When four tourists asked us about the crossing we told them that as far as we know, as bearers of foreign passports they’re allowed to go through the humanitarian gate, and they did. Although, the ecumenical was uncertain and told us that last week he wasn’t allowed through the humanitarian crossing here at Qalandiya. He also told us that two men from their group, from Colombia and from Sweden, were detained at Ben Gurion airport and not allowed to enter Israel. Others were interrogated about their plans while in Israel, were detained for a few hours and permitted to enter. He went through with no problems and wasn’t detained or questioned. Since P. is on duty today, we assumed the ecumenical wouldn’t have any problem going through the humanitarian gate, and he didn’t. He crossed without any problems and waved goodbye while waiting to be inspected at booth 5.
As 07:00 approached the lines became much shorter. We also went through the humanitarian gate and were out in ten minutes.
Will 2015 be a better year at Qalandiya???