Qalandiya

Observers: 
Gili Kugler and Ya'ara Rafiah (+ 2 guests from USA); Translator: Louise Levi
Jul-9-2015
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Morning

 

05:05 All the check posts are open but the lines don't move forward. We speak to some of the people waiting in line. They are convinced that they are purposely being delayed because of the Ramadan.

A few examples of how the Ramadan affects the lines at the check points:

1. People don't carry anything with them, meaning that the soldiers at the x-ray shouldn't be very busy.

2.  The fact that some of the workers are supposed to arrive at work one hour early because of the Ramadan causes a lot of pressure.

3.  Anxiety and stress intensify around 7 o'clock when a huge number of people start arriving for the holiday prayers.

4. People don't smoke.

05:30  From the moment we arrive people stand quietly waiting in three long lines but soon the pressure is felt. A number of young people sit down on the benches to get ready for the fight. No doubt, the riot will soon break out. We call the DCO. They promise us to check the situation (maybe yes, maybe no).

05:40  And so it happens, the lines break up. The morning is destroyed. People are being pushed and trampled. (We notice a little boy and an old man stuck in the middle.) Shouts of pain are heard when people get injured on the fence, others find it hard to breathe. Those who do not push know that they won't reach work on time, or at all.

5:45 A policeman arrives. We beg him to make the soldier in the aquarium work faster – to open the fenced-off area more frequently. Some of the workers turn to him as well. He seems indifferent, says there is nothing he can do. He doesn't make the slightest effort, doesn't even talk to the soldier in the aquarium.  You feel quite helpless not having anybody to turn to.

Again we're being asked "what we can do to help, why we don't stand next to the soldiers asking them not to play with their phones, for example". They are right! Our presence has no effect. It's not enough!

06:05  However… The DCO officer arrives to open the humanitarian gate. He arrives on time ready for work! Everybody knows him and so do we. They know that he is one of the few ( if not the only one) who sees the people, who cares. He's the first person this morning to look at the rioting crowd and being concerned. For a moment there's a glimpse of hope.

06:10  While checking the permits at the humanitarian gate P. calls the workers asking them to stand in line and not to push. He uses the loudspeaker and closes the first fenced-off area where the worst pushing is going on. It takes some time, people are still pushing hard –it's hard to stop knowing that you have to arrive at work on time.

06:10-07:10 All this time, dozens of women (with children) have been sitting in the square waiting to go to the Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem. All of them have permits to cross at 8 o'clock but they try to cross earlier. The soldiers explain that it won't work, that it will only delay the others. Nevertheless, every 15 minutes they join the line trying to pass through, and each time they are told to move back.

07:10  We have to get out. The covered area is crowded, the lines might rearrange soon, but they will be very long. We turn to the humanitarian gate, even though we don't like it, and wait. After all the people without the needed permits have been sent away we enter through the humanitarian gate and join line 5.  It doesn't move. Through the loudspeaker, we hear a female soldier shouting at two women who want to cross "infiltrators, you're trying to enter my beloved homeland, my country!" She sends them back. We've never heard anything like it. After a few minutes, the DCO officer returns with the two women. He opens gate 5 and orders the soldier to let them through. They cross. Again, a sign of humaneness in this bad and relentless place.

07:30  And nevertheless – even after P.'s intervention the line doesn't move. We're standing in line together with 10 people in front of us. Nothing is moving. We shout and ask for an explanation and some attention (since we are privileged and can ask for it), and through the loudspeaker we're informed that the soldiers have gone to the toilet, all of them together…so what if people have been standing in line since 5 o'clock in the morning. Together with the workers, we feel anger and humiliation.

7:40  We are happy to see that two security guards arrive to open gate 5. They check our permits and "set us free". Evidently they realize that this has gone too far.

We leave for work. It's a bad feeling starting work after such a morning.

A final remark: It might seem ridiculous that we have devoted most of our report to a detailed description of the events that took place on our way out and not to the atrocities that happened while people were waiting in line, the pushing in the fenced-off areas, or the conversations with the people who don't push (even if they experience the same frustration – the daily humiliation, the dependence on their employers). But those are things we've written about over and over again.

Final remark (2):   Actually, the experience with officer P. who cared and expressed concern intensified the bad feeling this time. It illustrated the strength of the people in charge at the check points – strength that might be helpful or destructive. And yes, officer P. will be released from the army in October, so we hope for a caring and professional person like him to take over.  But it shouldn't be like this! As Israeli citizens being aware of the situation, we have to ask ourselves how we can change things and not only write reports day after day while feeling bad?? Might it be possible to demand that the army and the legal authorities of the state supervise the soldiers and the guards at the check points the way it's being done in other public institutions? Because neither is it enough to rely on individual soldiers' good-heartedness to prevent atrocities at the check points nor on our presence (short observations of an ongoing situation).