Chana S., Ronit D. (reporting), Yemuna and David, guests; Translator: Judith Green
We got to the checkpoint at about 5:30, after parking on the Israeli side. We got here relatively late today,after we picked up the guests who joined us: Yemuna, from India, and David, from Germany. Both of them are here on internships. Yemuna, for the second time already. This time, she is working for a newspaper and she might publish something about her visit at the checkpoint in the early morning hours. The previous time she stayed in the country, she took part in one of our tours and wanted to see how the checkpoint looks during the hours when the workers go through. David has a Palestinian father and has family both in Israel and in the West Bank.
When we arrived, there were already 3 lines outside the shed. The 3 turnstiles at the end of the "cages" were open. In the covered area, there were already a young man and woman from the Blue and White Human Rights organization. We haven't seen them here for a long time. At a certain point, our friend, K., arrived, greeted us and came over to speak to them. He had tried to get their help in order to be included in the list of those allowed to go through the J'ib checkpoint, near his home. But they couldn't help him. He told them that he had also tried the officer whom he knows and asked for help. The officer checked and told him that only those who worked in Giv'on and Giv'at Zeev could get permits to go through J'ib. But K. has worked in Mahane Yehuda for years now and needs a permit for Jerusalem. So, he must continue wasting time and money every day by going through the Qalandiya checkpoint.
At 5:30,the policeman left. At about 6 there was a change in shift of the soldier in the aquarium and also a policewoman arrived and, a little after her, a guard. At about 6, people began to wait next to the Humanitarian Gate and now are complaining that it isn't open. We called the DCO and they said that they are dealing with this. The policewoman also said that she had called to check. People complained that the lines reached the road. This was certainly an exaggeration, but there were indeed lines that spread into the parking lot. At 6:15, there were a lot of people next to the gate, among them a couple with a sick baby. We called again and they said they were dealing with it. The guard claimed that they were waiting for a representative of the DCO to come and open it. Meanwhile, another guard arrived and then another policeman. We noticed that the guard had a key to the gate and began preparations for opening it.
Only at about 6:20 they finally opened the Humanitarian Gate. The guards and the policemen operated it, without waiting any longer for the DCO representative. Humane behavior at least. Thus, for example, an elderly couple who can enter without a permit because of their age showed their papers stating that they had to arrive for an operation before the hour of 8:00. They were allowed to go through. We also met a father who goes through every morning with his 3 children. Recently, we haven't seen him, because the children were on vacation; now they have returned to their studies. They went through the Humanitarian Gate, but the father didn't go with them today. He looked worried for a minute because the children didn't approach the inspection area and he called out to them. The guard suggested that he enter and accompany them, but there was no need. In the end, the guard told us that yesterday the arranged had started according to which workers from certain factories go through in buses which bring them in and they don't need to come to the inspection at the checkpoint for pedestrians. The buses themselves are inspected and guarded. This is a special arrangement with the employer which is intended to lessen the crowding at the checkpoint. The guard said that also some of the students go through in organized transport, through the vehicles checkpoint. It didn't seem to make any difference in the level of crowding today.
At a certain point, a verbal argument developed between 2 people in line. Others intervened and separated them. Older women without permits were not allowed through the Humanitarian Gate. They were told to wait until 8. It was explained that right now the workers are going through to work. They pulled back, except for one of them who was very persistent. She went and called to her friends to join her in line at the entrance to the "cages". But the men waiting in the regular line did not give way this time and they told her that the workers should be allowed to go through first, they were hurrying to work. She tried to convince them again to let her through the Humanitarian Gate, but was denied; in the end, she succeeded in any case to get into the regular line. Her friends went to wait at the end of the regular line.
At about 7, the DCO officer finally arrived and now he is operating the Humanitarian Gate with the guard. At 7, the lines were quite a bit shorter. When the women arrived and approached the Humanitarian Gate, they were told that they were not opening it any longer and that they should go to the regular line. However, when a student arrived, they did open it anyway and the women hurried out of the line and toward the Gate. At 7:15, we joined the line and went through quickly.