Stinking, depressing and cold.
09:00 When we arrived at the terminal we met a volunteer from France. She told us the crowd had been sparse till now, but the terminal had begun to fill. Apparently the shifts had changed and the soldiers closed the checkpoint for a while. She noted the previous shift had been more pleasant. She also said a handicapped person had arrived and they immediately opened the humanitarian gate for him.
Two revolving gates are open outside and all five booths operate within.
A strong stench of urine in the air, more than usual, particularly at the eastern side of the lines, near the bathrooms.
From the soldier’s cage we hear him calling in Arabic. He runs the crossing imperiously and with the efficiency of occupation. He also calls to us: Who are you? He tells us to get on line “like everyone else” and when he realizes we’re there to observe he tries to get rid of us. We prefer to stand west of the line – the stench of urine doesn’t reach there.
From time to time those crowded in the first line must move aside to allow those refused entry to exit the inner courtyard.
Most of those crossing are older and elderly.
Cold, stinking and depressing.
09:20 The volunteer crosses to the other side and her colleague from Finland joins us. The Frenchwoman timed the crossing and told her colleague – 20 minutes from the time she got on line until she exited.
09:45 The line lengthens, stretches to the benches.
A man with a commercial crossing permit said that last Friday it was so crowded he chose not to stand on line and went home. He’s from Anata; the checkpoint there is closed. That’s why he must make the long detour to Qalandiya.
Two women are turned back. One is 45 – “too young” – and the other has been barred – she’d been in trouble with the army when she was young (as far as we’d understood what she said in Arabic).
We met an agricultural engineer who was born and raised in the Old City. His father still lives there. He lived and worked in Jericho for 30 years so he lost his blue ID card…Today he’s old enough to visit his father, but his daughters aren’t permitted to do so.
The line lengthens and shortens in turn.
A Jordanian businessman is turned back. Apparently his visa is good only for the area of the Palestinian Authority. The soldier told him, “You have to stay home.” He’s an elderly man who wanted also to see Jerusalem.
10:30 The line thins. We leave.