Overburdened morning at the pedestrian passage in Qalandiya. Quite empty and quick passage at Sho’afat.
We arrived at about 5:15, after we parked on the Israeli side and passed through by foot. It was still dark and quite cold. Outside it was noisy with people and cars. We by-passed a group of people praying next to the pedestrian entrance and when we entered, in front of us were long lines. All five stations were already open but people said the passage was very slow with every opening of the turnstiles. They let the women mix into the line at the entrance to the pens. Some people said the situation was bad all week, but others (among them H., who we know) say that it was OK. Continuing, H. says that in the past, at the end of the day, he was a passenger to his home in Biddu, in the car of an acquaintance from Givat Ze’ev. Lately, the acquaintance refuses to take him. He apologized to H. and explained that his wife is afraid and forbids him to give rides to an Arab, even if they have known each other for years.
At about 6:00, several young women wait beside the Humanitarian Gate. We suggested that they mix in with the regular line because it is not clear if or when they will open the gate. They are hesitant because of the crowding. They explain that they are nursing students and have to get to Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. In the meantime, a policeman and two guards arrive. The guards walk around the Humanitarian passageway; one of them speaks with the young women waiting, but the gate isn’t opened and the guards leave. Another policeman and policewoman arrive and one of the policemen tells those waiting that the gate will open in a little while. In the meantime, the police took charge of opening the turnstiles and then more people enter each time they opened.
At 6:20 the guards return and with them a female soldier from the District Command Office and finally they open the gate. All those waiting passed through, among them an older couple, a couple with a child who had to have medical treatment and many women. They continued to open (the gate) another few times and entered those waiting. The regular lines also get shorter. At about 6:35 we joined the line. When we were in the pen we saw that they announced to people that they will no longer open the Humanitarian Gate and turned them over to the regular line. It took us a little more than a quarter of an hour to pass through.
We traveled to Sho’afat this this time we decided to check the condition of the pedestrian passage. Still outside, we saw that the transits of public transportation are standing empty in the circle outside and were waiting for passengers, something that says that they are not letting people remain in buses and pass through. Inside the neighborhood we saw that the line to the automobile passage isn’t large and everything looks really quiet. It was about 7:00. In addition, it looks like they cleaned a bit and picked up the large piles of garbage that were there three weeks ago. As yet there is still garbage on the streets, but much less than before.
We entered the passage for pedestrians and were surprised to discover that there are not a lot of people. The entrance to the building is from the door next to the turnstile and not through the turnstile. Inside there are two turnstiles but only one is working. On the walls there are signs on which it is written that the passage is only for individuals, so gird yourself patiently. In line are mainly women and young people. A boy arrives and passes to the front. The other young people reprimand him. He says he has an exam and worries he will be late. The youngsters make him go to the back, but after a minute, they call him and send him forward.
The turnstile indeed opens for the passage of one person all the time, at times, two. Many times 2-3 people are pushed together between the arms of the turnstile, in order to pass through more quickly. They pass through a magnetic screening and present their identity cards to the soldiers at the post but their bags are not checked. It is not clear if the X-ray machine is broken or if the soldiers are not demanding that every person place his/her bag for checking. We see that those ahead of us placed their bags beside the X-ray machine and gathered them afterward with no check; therefore we did likewise. The passage took less than a quarter of an hour. Outside the young people explained to us that today is the holiday of the Prophet Mohammad and that most of the schools are closed; therefore there are few people. The trip to the intersection of French Hill was fast this time with not many traffic jams.