A relatively slight traffic at Qalandiya – and news about a new pilot at the CP
We arrived at the Qalandiya CP at 4:40 and remained till 6:45, when the enclosures were already empty and people again (as between 4:40 and 5:15) entered freely by the open turnstiles at the end of the left side enclosure. During the entire morning the queues were relatively short and the soldiers in the aquarium mostly let many people enter each time they opened the turnstiles, so that sometimes there were long queues waiting to enter the checking posts, but the pressure that mounts when people wait for a long time to enter by the enclosures, wasn't felt.
Twice – before 5:00 and a bit after 5:00 – the soldiers at the checking post refused to let pass a man over 55 and then a woman over 50 who didn't have entry permits till 8:00. The man, at who the soldier shouted in Hebrew and in a nasty tone) joined another queue and probably passed, as we didn't see him return by the enclosure. The woman who had a summons at the consulate, sat on one of the benches, and we told her that when there would be few people in the enclosures, we shall talk with the soldier who would arrive later (a DCO soldier) and will ask him to let her pass, under his auspices, so that she would have to wait until 8:00. And so we agree at 6:40 with the girl soldier on duty.
Two DCO officers arrived at 6:15 but didn't open the humanitarian gate because only two women stood next to it – and these women left rather quickly and joind the relatively short queues through the enclosures. When we asked one of the officers – a pleasantly mannered man – whether he intended activating the gate, he explained politely that the gate wasn't intended for women on principle, but only for urgent humanitarian cases – men and women – during all hours of the day. We answered politely that his words amaze us as we are present at the CP in the morning hours since many years, and that this was the first time we hear this version. In addition, the DCO other people, for many years, let not only women in general but also men over 60, children, doctors, teachers etc. pass by the gate. At second thought he agree that during the peak hours in the morning the intention is probably to save women from the pressure in the enclosures – and went to ask some women who were already deep in the enclosures whether they would like him to open the humanitarian gate for them, and they waived the possibility. The gate wasn't opened at all as nobody went to stand next to it, and the officers left the place some short time before the enclosures became completely empty.
During a second conversation with this forthcoming officer, he asked us whether we could explain the relatively light traffic of people this morning, and then he shared with us a piece of very interesting news: this week a pilot will begin, about which we have heard already at the end of winter. Workmen will be allowed to pass the CP in special busses which will drive from a certain bus-stop before the vehicle CP of Qalandiya till the industrial zone of Atarot. We asked about the checking arrangements, the officer talked about "basic checking" probably in the bus itself. The busses will be of the East Jerusalem bus company which runs the regular lines in East Jerusalem. It wasn't clear whether the drive through the CP will involve payment, and if so who will bear the costs – the worker or the employer. In any case the intention is to relieve the pressure and shorten the passage time for all those who cross the pedestrian CP at the peak hours in the morning – without, so we hope, lengthening the waiting time of the private vehicles who pass through the CP at these hours of the morning. We shall follow this project and hope for beneficial results.