"I'll report this to my superiors" is the phrase we repeatedly hear in response to our calls to the Matak. There is no "Humanitarian" lane on Fridays and there is no one to complain to. And this is the most crowded day of the week with many women and elderly men wishing to cross over.
Arriving at 9:00, there were two lines already extending beyond the benches and progressing very slowly. A Norwegian volunteer from the EAPPI Organization told us that the crowding had commenced about quarter-of-an-hour before we arrived and the "Humanitarian" was closed then as usual.
Inside there were five open counters. We asked the maintenance people to open the Humanitarian gate but they explained that they were unauthorized to do so. Only two turnstiles were in operation. The soldier on duty explained that the third one was out of order and as for the turnstile, he could open it only when authorized to do so.
At 9:20 a policeman arrived but he refused to speak with us. We complained at the Matak and a soldier (girl) promised to check our complaints.
A person who supervises the taxi transportation outside and speaks fluent Hebrew – he picked it up during his seven years sentence in an Israeli prison – related that two days earlier the army had entered Qalandiya at 2AM and fired gas grenades. Another person, on line, told us that he has a permit often used in the past but at present was denied entry due to the "blurred print" of the permit (which was perfectly acceptable shortly before). Also, as an inhabitant of Azzun-Atme, he is obliged to pass through at Qalqiliya.
We called the Matak again: the girl soldier claimed that on Friday the shift ends at 8:00; so the shift had ended 40 minutes before our arrival, and the commanders had gone out on an excursion. She would update them on the situation.
A well-dressed man, holding a VIP permit and accompanied by an assistant, was hurrying to Gaza to his father's funeral. We phoned our girl-soldier to find someone to open up the gate for him. Her response was: "we have some more severe cases", though even these were not attended to and the "humanitarian" gate had not been opened up for them either. Friday is not a worthy day for the "humanitarian"! Throughout our stay in the area, we had not seen a Matak representative. Someone had come to pick up the man through the Hizmeh CP.
A query came up from the people on line: why are the toilets out of order.
We spoke with a Palestinian woman living in the US and here on a 3-month holiday. She spends $150 monthly for the renewal of her visa.
At 10:00 there was still a long line extending to beyond the benches. People were pushing and shouting. Two men, father and son came over to us. The father, employed in construction work these past twenty years, told us in his fluent Hebrew, that his son had been injured in a work accident and has 17 stitches on his stomach – he therefore is afraid to let the boy stand on line where pushing is the norm. The soldier said she would "inform her officer". We called three times to find out whether something had been done and were finally told that the son was not authorized to cross over. Indeed, he held a permit but it was for workmen, and since he was after surgery, he is probably unfit for work, and therefore denied the right to cross over…