We arrived at Qalandiya a bit late. Soldiers were on duty in 3 of the passageways, but only the electronic sign over Passageway 1 announced that it was open, so people on their way to Jerusalem stood only in that passageway. We sent some of those waiting to the other open passageways to shorten the wait, but there were no announcements over the PA system.
In passageways 2 and 4, there were female soldiers on duty who frequently lost their temper with their Palestinian clients. Several times during the afternoon we heard loud shouts from these passageways. A family group of a mother, another female adult and four little children tried to enter Jerusalem through Passageway 2. The mother was holding the littlest in her arms. The children were all carrying packages. This apparently was the first time that they had crossed a CP and they didn’t seem to know what was required. The soldier on duty told them to put their packages through the x-ray machine and they did as told, but only after the soldier lost her cool and yelled at them. After that she had the family empty the contents of the packages one by one in front of her bullet-proof window. I understand that the soldier’s demands were justifiable, but for someone observing from the side it looked like a case of unrequited brutality.
There were some more incidents in passageway 4. A young Palestinian boy, about 12 years of age or less, was trying to return home to Jerusalem. He presented a photocopy of his birth certificate. The soldier refused him entrance and demanded to see the original document. We spoke to him after the confrontation and asked him what he would do, how he would get home. He told us that he would try his luck in another passageway after he phoned home and told his family what was happening and where he was. What do we want from a 12-year old? How will he get home? Isn’t there someone who could straighten things out? A trustworthy adult who could take responsibility and solve problems?
And then there was a Palestinian fellow, a resident of Chicago bearing a US passport. He had been in Ramallah and lost his Israeli visa (which was on a separate piece of paper in his passport). He wanted to return to his family at the hotel where they were staying in Jerusalem. Without a visa the soldier understandably was unwilling to let him enter Jerusalem. But the fellow claimed that a simple computer check could have revealed that the person bearing his passport had a valid visa. If so, why didn’t the soldier perform the check?
And last but not least was the story of the Palestinian fellow (M.) whose brother had a business dispute with an Israeli and went to file a complaint against the man in Moriah Police Station in Talpiot, Jerusalem on Sunday. The brother did not return home and the family was contacted only on Monday (from a secret phone number) when the police notified M. that his brother was being held by the police and would be brought to trial. M. was told to go to the nearest CP where he would be allowed to enter Israel and go to the Moriah Police Station (even though he had no permit). No such luck! No one at the CP had heard anything or knew anything. We made several phone calls and finally found the right police station. They arranged for M. to enter Israel where he found out that his brother had been arrested and was being held in the Muscovy Station and would be brought to trial on Tuesday. Right out of Kafka!!! Someone goes to complain to the police and finds himself in prison and facing trial. What a world! How do you deal with it?