Long lines until after 7:00 a.m.
We arrived at the Qalandiya Checkpoint at 6:00 a.m. to find lines extending deep into the parking lot on a cold, windy morning. The lines continued to extend beyond the protection of the checkpoint’s roofed area until after 7:00. At 6:30 we began following a man who had just joined one of the three lines in the parking lot. It took him 30 minutes to reach the turnstile leading into the checking area.
At 6:00 people were already beginning to line up by the Humanitarian Gate. When the woman soldier who had done the night shift was relieved and left the booth called the “Aquarium,” one of the Palestinian men asked her whether the Humanitarian Gate would be opened today. When she replied that it would not, we asked her how she happened to know that – especially as there were very long lines at the checkpoint. And as soon as we asked, a policeman sitting near the door to the Aquarium began shouting at her, “Don’t talk to them!” Either she didn’t hear him or she chose to ignore him, for she again stated that the gate would not be opened.
In any event, her information was wrong. At 6:10 we called the DCO to ask when the soldier responsible for the gate would arrive, and a polite soldier told us that she was already on her way. Indeed, she arrived within minutes, opened the gate at 6:15, and continued to open it each time a handful of people stood before it until about 7:00. Then she disappeared into the Aquarium and no longer opened the gate. New arrivals did not know whether or not to line up before the gate and began going back and forth between the it and the lines leading through the “cages.” We tried to get the soldier’s attention to clarify the situation, but to no avail. Too bad. People were confused and put out quite unnecessarily.
We gave the number of our team that works with blacklisted Palestinians to a woman who asked for our help. Through a translator recruited from among the men standing on line, she told us that she works for the European Union and had her entry permit confiscated on the grounds that her small children had thrown stones. She told the officer with whom she spoke at the Ofer army camp that she has no small children, and if the Civil Administration wants to punish her grown children, it should punish them, not her. Nevertheless, she passed through the Humanitarian Gate, and if she was sent back, we did not see it (though we kept an eye out for this possibility). Perhaps she made her way to the Qalandiya DCO in an attempt to solve her problem there.
At 7:20 we passed through one of the “cages” to the checking area and exited the checkpoint within 10 minutes.