Ar-Ram, Hizma, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Mon 19.1.09, Afternoon
I got stuck in traffic approaching French Hill and came late. I came via A-Ram CP where I saw only a few cars and no pedestrians or detainees. The road to Qalandiya via Beit Hanina was blocked by a huge truck so I had to go via Dahiyat el-Barid and A-Ram. In Dahiya Square, just before the gate in the Wall, work is being done on the road on the Jerusalem side of the Wall and, as a result, the Wall has been pushed eastward, biting off a considerable chunk of the Square. The road on the eastern (i.e. Palestinian) side of the Wall has been completely destroyed creating large potholes that have filled up with water and mud. It's very difficult to drive there and even harder to get through on foot.
15:50: The lines in Qalandiya CP were still very long. We phoned Mahdi (Commander of the Passageways Unit) who, unusually for him, actually answered our call. We reported conditions at the CP to him and asked him to help. He promised to see what he could do. Although he didn't open any other passageways, waiting time got much shorter - perhaps he told his soldiers to work more efficiently.
16:00: We went out to the Northern Square to see what was happening at the vehicle CP. We counted 7 buses waiting in the Square to enter the CP.
16:08: We returned to the pedestrian CP in the shed and got in line with the others. While we were waiting, a friend phoned us from Ramallah and told us that at this very hour he was participating in a large and impressive demonstration for peace that was taking place in the center of Ramallah. He estimated that there were about 10 thousand people there from all parts of the West Bank (including Nablus, Hebron, Qalqilya and Tul Karem), from all the political and NGO organizations and they were all demanding that the Arab leaders bring peace to the region. A young woman standing in line with us overheard the conversation and said that she too had participated in the demonstration. We guess that participation in the demonstration was the reason for the unusually large crowds at Qalandiya early on Monday afternoon. Interestingly, there was no mention at all of any demonstration for peace in the Israeli media.
In any event, at this time it took us only 12 minutes to pass through the CP and emerge on the Jerusalem side of the barrier. The lines behind us were now quite short. Traffic in the vehicle CP was moving as usual. From the distance we could see that the lines at Atarot CP were very long, stretching beyond the horizon (as usual).
16:30: We returned to the pedestrian CP. Two passageways were open (4 and 5) but there were almost no people waiting in line.
17:00 We left Qalandiya to return to Jerusalem via Lil and Hizmeh CPs. At Lil there are now command booths on both sides of the road (both on the lane going East and on the lane going West), but the soldiers were not interfering with traffic and there were no lines. The approach to Hizmeh CP was very crowded but lines were moving slowly and the wait was not long.