A brief and calm morning
When we arrived at the Qalandiya Checkpoint at 5:30 a.m. all five checking stations were open and the lines were contained with the mostly darkened shed, as only four of the twelve lights were working. Each time the turnstiles at the end of each of the three “cages” opened, the soldier on duty wisely let through a large amount of people, so that there were long lines leading directly to the five checking stations but no tension in the area of the shed.
At 6:10 we began following a man at the end of one of the three lines until he passed through the turnstile into the checking area at 6:25 -- 15 minutes on line, which is about one-third of the time it takes on a morning with heavy traffic through the checkpoint. But when we asked people on line about the previous morning, when we had no observers there, they said it had been very difficult. One man even showed pictures taken on his smartphone of the long lines going deep into the parking lot (similar to photos we ourselves have taken on previous shifts).
The Humanitarian Gate was opened from 6:10 to 6:35, when the Civil Administration soldier decided it was no longer needed due to the short lines leading into the cages.
At 6:45, when the cages had emptied, we also went through to a checking station, a move that took 10 minutes. Incidentally, for the first time we saw with our own eyes a soldier in the station engaged with his smartphone (not that we didn’t believe the Palestinians who have complained to us consistently about this over the years). When he finally lifted his eyes and saw who was standing before him, the look on his face betrayed his great annoyance at being caught in the act.