A quiet morning at Qalandiya checkpoint and an interesting conversation with a policeman
We arrived at about 5.20, parking as usual on the Israel side and walking to the Palestinian side. Inside the 5 checking stations were open. Queues extended beyond the hut, though the stations themselves were rather empty, but very soon the carousels opened and, as a result, the queues became much shorter. We greeted the beigel seller, and the ecumenical volunteer (one on the Israeli side, one on the Palestinian side). The few women who arrived were allowed by the men to enter the enclosed lanes from the side. We wondered if there were fewer people than usual or if the checkers were unusually efficient. Usually we come on Wednesdays – this was Thursday. Was it generally a calmer day?
Our acqaintance H. waved to us from the line – no time to chat as the line moved so fast. The kiosk did not open today. At about 5.45 two policeman arrived. The humanitarian gate did not open, but there was no need for it and no one waited next to it. When the policemen came they allowed more people into the area of the checking stations themselves, with the result that the lines in the hut became even shorter. Apparently the checking stations were working very efficiently today.
At about 6, when we thought to leave, one of the policemen came out of the booth (from which the carousels are controlled) and came to speak to us. He said he has been working here many years. He lives in the north near Rosh Hanikra, and travels to Jerusalem twice a week, 4 hours in each direction. According to him, they check the waiting times and generally achieve the times they are obliged to in terms laid down by the law courts. Compared with Ben Gurion Airport, they are much quicker. He says that some days are less busy, as some people work shifts and do not arrive every morning. He says that he regularly studies our reports and that they read what is written and check the situation reported, by means of the pictures they have filmed. We were happy to hear that he sees his role to be giving a service to the public passing through.
At 6.15 we joined the queue. Unfortunately at the particular checking station we chose, the computer broke down and was closed for a few minutes. While we waited, a man standing near us told us that the situation at Jib checkpoint has been very bad lately. Although very few people pass there, according to a fixed list of names, it takes hours! So he prefers to come to Qalandiya.
Meanwhile the station was working again. Altogether within 15 minutes we were outside and could reach the centre of town before the morning traffic jams.