A crowded and rainy morning at Qalandiya checkpoint.
We arrived at about 5.15, parking as usual on the Israeli side and passing by foot to the Palestinian side. A cold and rainy morning. Inside the 5 checking stations were open, but the lines were already long. There was only the soldier in the cubicle managing the turnstiles.
In spite of the rain and the crowds, the lines remained orderly. Sometimes it looked as if they would collapse because of fights, but this did not happen. People waited patiently, although the lines extended right to the parking lot and, some of the time, were rained on. The men always allowed women to enter.
In spite of the pressure, the humanitarian gate opened only at 6.34. Before that a policewoman and a security guard had arrived, but the guard explained that they had to wait for someone from the DCO to open – and this someone was not in a hurry. When she at last arrived, the gate was opened from time to time – but at 7 o’clock they announced that it was closing time! The DCO soldier departed and the gate was not opened again, although there were numbers of women and other people entitled to pass, and in spite of the terrible weather.
As we go for our ‘tea break’ we pass through many people who complain about the situation. They say that the whole week has been bad. A man who often talks with us, was turned back. His permit has been cancelled. He phones his employer – perhaps the latter hasn’t made some of the necessary payments? But no, the employer doesn’t know anything about this and is waiting for his worker! This man works for a gas company, travels around with the gas suppliers, he has a permit to enter all the Border Police bases in the area, at his word the drivers enter. He can’t be refused a permit , he says! But the policewoman checks and, yes, his permit is cancelled. He must wait till the DCO opens to check. Apart from this man we did not notice a wave of people whose permits were cancelled. But during the day we received reports by phone of mass cancellations of entry permits yesterday and today at Bethlehem checkpoint. From members’ reports it appears that the following day the phenomenon spread all over the West Bank, including Qalandiya.
Only towards 7.30 did the lines get reasonably short and we joined one of them. It took 25 minutes to pass. This time passing the checkpoint did not go smoothly. First, Chana surprised the soldier who apparently hadn’t heard of Machsomwatch. “What were you doing in Ramallah?” After we explained who we were and where we had been standing, she checked her computer, consulted her colleagues, and then allowed her to pass. When R. tried to pass, something beeped in the magnometer, even when she removed her coat. When she removed her shoes, that was alright. But, once again, “what were you doing in Ramallah?” She explains. Meanwhile the poor Palestinians hurrying to work