A morning of nightmare at the Checkpoint
Our last day of 2015 at Qalandiya was one of the worst. A short while after our arrival the lines collapsed and the place turned into a mass of people at the entrance. Only after over an hour the lines became orderly again. The humanitarian passage opened late and for a limited time.
We arrived to Qalandiya around 5:20 on a cold and foggy morning. After passing a large group of people praying at the entrance of the pedestrian crossing, we found long lines that stretched deep into the parking lot. Five checking points already were operating but the progress was very slow. One soldier was at the aquarium and after a short time a policeman joined him. Towards 5:30 a loud quarrel regarding the line started that quickly brought young men running towards the entrance and the collapse of the lines into a big mass of people pushing and screaming. The soldier and the policeman came out from the aquarium but didn’t do anything and went back quickly into the aquarium and reported the situation. Older people and others who didn’t want to be pushed moved back and the benches filled up. Based upon our experience we knew it will take a long time until order will be resumed. Some people took the time to pray. Women and others started waiting in front of the humanitarian gate which is supposed to be opened at 6:00.
H.. who arrived late, understood the grave situation and went to look for a taxi to take him to Hazeitim Checkpoint. He came back after few minutes – the taxi drivers refuse to drive him to machsom Hazeitim fearing they will get stuck in the traffic jams in Adam area. In the meantime H. spoke with a man who was waiting in the humanitarian line. H. told us that the man is his uncle and he has 3 wives – one in Syria, one in Jordan and one in Palestine. Now he wants to marry a 4th wife, a Jewish woman. Later H. apparently managed to get a taxi because he disappeared from the waiting area.
Many people complained about the situation. They fear losing a day work and maybe even getting fired. An older man (not old enough to be eligible for the humanitarian gate) told us that he has a heart condition and therefore cannot push his way in the lines. In spite of his medical condition he has been working for the last 40 years at the same grocery store in Bait ve Gan.
At 6:00 we called the headquarters to ask about the humanitarian gate and were told that they are dealing with it. At 6:10 a policewoman arrived and a while later the policeman left the place. At 6:25 the security guard arrived. At long last, at 6:20 the soldier (girl) from the DCO arrived. It took another few minutes and the humanitarian gate opened. Apparently the carousel behind the gate was not functioning so they opened the close by gate and let the people through, telling them: “one by one”. A group of people crossed but not all those who were waiting, and then they closed again the gate. At 6:30 the gate opened again and everybody entered, except men who are not eligible to cross through the humanitarian gate.
In the regular gates the lines start to become orderly but near the entrance there is still shoving and screaming every time the carousels are opened. Another policewoman joins. As usual, only the cats pass freely from side to side.
At 6:50 we went to buy a hot cup of tea. It is daylight already, foggy and gloomy. The vehicles gate is busy as usual. When we returned the lines were orderly again, long and spilling into the parking lot. Near the humanitarian gate many are waiting, losing patience and starting to call the soldier (girl) and banging the fences. At 7:00 she opened again the gate, together with the policewoman and the security guard. The security guard told us that Monday and Wednesday are the busiest days in the pedestrian gates. At about 7:20 we joined one of the lines. The soldier let in another group from the humanitarian gate and afterwards sent to the regular gates those who were waiting.
When we reached the check point only the soldier in the aquarium was there. The policewoman, the security guard and the soldier girl from the DCO left the place, together with the cats.
At 7:50 the older men who are not allowed to cross without a permit, couldn’t go through and were told to wait until 8:00.
The crossing took us half an hour. We reached the car before the rain. Because of the late hour we didn’t go to Shoafat.