A reasonable day at the Qalandiya checkpoint, uncertainty concerning the opening of the humanitarian gate.
We arrived at the checkpoint approximately at 5.15 after parking on the Israeli side. Usually we arrive on Wednesdays. This week, we arrived on Monday, for personal reasons. We met 2 EAPPI volunteers, one on the Israeli side and the other on the Palestinian side. Their shift was from 4.30 to 7.30. M. from Brazil stood on the Palestinian side. Later they changed sides, which enabled M. to measure how long it took to cross.
When we arrived 5 control posts were already open although a sign indicating that they were closed (red) hung over most of them. Later they changed the color to green. 2 rather long queues welcomed us, they shrunk when the turnstiles at the end of the 2 enclosures, were opened, but quite soon they became long again. The baigel and cake vendors stood here as usual and the coffee stand opened at 5.30 approximately.
As time went by the queues changed size, but actually the load was not particularly heavy. A person whom we knew from previous encounters and had talked to from time to time, told us that yesterday, on Sunday, it was terrible. He said that yesterday was the worst day he had ever seen in Qalandiya. He arrived at work only at 7.30! (in comparison today he would have been there around 6.00 at the latest). A little later another man approached us to complain about what had happened yesterday. He told us that he and his friends simply returned home and had to give up the work day (probably they missed their transport, that had left without them because of the late hour).
At 5.45 the people waiting in the queue opened a third queue in the enclosure far from the aquarium in which the soldier on duty was sitting. That did not help them because the soldier opened only 2 turnstills and not the one at the end of their queue. Calls and whistling were of no avail. The people in the queue went back and tried to join the two existing queues. There was a little pushing but it did not result in a heap of people, and generally order was maintained. No policeman appeared but the soldier on duty functioned well and the pace of the opening of the turnstiles was reasonable. (Usually a policeman arrives around 5.30 and tells the soldier when to open the turnstiles and whether to open all three of them). This time no policeman was in sight, nor a soldier from the District Command (?) in order to open the humanitarian gate (usually someone appears at 6 o`clock or a little later).
At 6.20 people began to wait near the humanitarian gate. Till then the women who had arrived, joined the regular queue. We called the District Command and they promised to look into the matter, and really a few minutes later an officer from the District Command arrived, accompanied by a policeman. We are familiar with the officer and we also know that this is not his regular duty. We do not know the policeman. At 6.30 the turnstile close to the gate opened for the first time. After the people had passed the gate they did not open the turnstile, but instead the policeman opened the gate next to the turnstile. He also checked the permits for everybody, including the women. We did not understand why this was necessary since the permits would be checked again at the control posts. After some time the policeman and the soldier consulted with each other whether to open the gate. It was clear that they were not familiar with the issue. At a certain point they called the women and elderly men who were standing in the regular queue, to come to the gate. Their intention was to gather a few people near the gate and then open it, but in the meantime the turnstiles were opened in the regular queue that moved quickly. The people waiting near the gate saw this, went to the regular queue and passed.
At 6.40 we to joined the queue and passed in ten minutes.