As we entered the checkpoint at 5:30 we could see that the lines were relative short for that hour of the morning (they hardly extended beyond the shed), and so they remained throughout the shift.
The Humanitarian Gate was not opened due to the lack of crowding and the pace of the movement forward to the checking stations. When we asked a few people what the situation was like earlier in the week and during the previous week (of the Passover holiday), they said it resembled the situation this morning. The journalist interviewed a number of people on and off camera, while his cameraman also took general shots of the checkpoint (including the bathrooms, whose condition left them appalled).
Toward the end of the shift an officer from the Jerusalem Envelope arrived and turned to us, through the bars, to solicit our impression of how the checkpoint was functioning today. He said that the powers that be were encouraging the soldiers to work more efficiently, and we stressed in return that the presence and supervision of officers at the checkpoints is very important, to say nothing of the need to expand the facilities at Qalandiya to accommodate the number of people who might arrive on a standard morning. There is enhanced interest in Qalandiya in recent days, both because of the Finance Ministry’s announcement that it is budgeting tens of millions of shekels to improve the situation at the checkpoints and due to the incident last week in which a 23-year-old mother of two and her 16-year-old brother were shot dead by security guards near Qalandiya’s vehicle checkpoint. Hence we had the impression that the Defense Ministry and the army have been upping their efforts at public relations. The officer also chatted with our young guests from abroad and answered their questions.
We entered one of the almost-empty “cages” at 7:15 but were held up at the entrance to the checking station because of a family of American tourists. The husband and children were allowed through on their American passports. However, the wife, an American citizen but apparently born in the West Bank, did not know that, as such, she had to obtain a permit to enter Jerusalem. From what we could hear from the other side of the turnstile, it seemed that the soldiers explained to her and her husband, in English, that they would have to go to the DCO at 8 a.m. for her to obtain a permit. But the woman chose to return whence she had come, furious and holding her passport in the air while explaining to those of us who had been delayed that she is an American citizen and they won’t let her through! It was easy to sympathize with her frustration. Due to the delay we exited the checkpoint only at 7:40. That was the only “action” the journalists witnessed this morning.