Atara, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Sun 26.10.08, Afternoon
15:30: Atara. On arriving at Atara we saw a line of about 20 vehicles winding its way to the top of the hill from the direction of Bir Zeit. There were no lines into the intersection from other directions. The vehicles were moving slowly but steadily up the hill because the soldiers manning the barrier, all 6 of them, were busy joking and fooling around and showed no real interest in what was happening around them. We could hear loud music coming from the MP player of the soldier sitting in the concrete watchtower near the intersection. We assume that he will be deaf pretty soon if we could hear his songs together with him while standing one floor below him. We spent about 40 minutes at Atara during which time the traffic continued to flow with almost no interruption.
16:30: Qalandiya. A group of 5 Palestinian men approached us in the parking lot to complain about the terribly crowded conditions in the mornings as hundreds (thousands?) of people desperately try to pass through on their way to work. They told us that there had been many problems on Sunday morning. They also complained that after waiting for hours they had been turned away from the DCO offices and sent home with instructions to return the next day.
Two passageways remained open during the length of our shift (until 17:30), with the exception of several short breaks. Contrary to the report of the MW team on Sunday morning, the two passageways served both Palestinians and Jerusalem residents. Lines were not long and there was no line in the northern entry shed. The northern carousels remained open all the time and were not locked.
A little before 5 PM we met a man from Nablus who was denied entry to Jerusalem because he had no permit. The man, who was 70 years old and whose son was imprisoned in Israel, did hold a permit to visit his son in jail and was on his way to meet a lawyer in Jerusalem. We phoned the DCO and asked them to send the DCO representative to deal with the problem. An officer called Kabalan appeared after a fifteen minute wait and spoke to the man. He explained that he had to request a permit which, he assured him, would be granted with no problems, and that then the man would be able to go to Jerusalem. The man accepted the explanation and returned to Nablus.
17:00: We passed through the pedestrian CP on our way to the vehicle CP. From afar we could see that the line of vehicles at the internal (Jeruslaem) Atarot CP reached as far as the horizon. At the Qalandiya CP traffic into Jerusalem was moving with no special problems but the traffic to Ramallah was continually held up by 3 policemen who were selectively examining the papers of vehicles and drivers. (The policemen also tried to chase us from our observation point by the fence, telling us, to no avail, that this was a "sterile area"!) As a result of the delays caused by the policemen, the line of cars going to Ramallah lengthened until it went all around the square and back down the road to Atarot (where, as we said, the line continued on back to the horizon and beyond). It seemed to us that the police would stop their examination of papers when they realized that the line had grown too long and the truck drivers began to honk impatiently, so we concluded that their role served mainly as an irritation. We can no longer see the length of the line of vehicles approaching Qalandiya from Ramallah because the road is now hidden from view by the concrete blocks erected during the Ramadan.
17:30: We returned to the pedestrian CP and saw that the lines remained short and passage was relatively rapid. We left Qalandiya on our way to Lil.
17:40: Traffic at Lil was flowing freely but we saw that 7 young detainees were standing in the CP next to their transit bus. Before the soldiers managed to shoo us away, the men told us that they were being detained because one of them had a problem with his papers. After waiting one-half hour in the cold and dark (and who knows how long they waited before we arrived), 6 of the men were released and drove off leaving their friend behind.