A quiet morning – perhaps because of the rain forecast for the day.
05.15 A wintry, but not unduly cold morning, and the forecast rain has not yet started. We did not see the usual groups of men praying, on the way to the shed. Inside the queues were very short and the cages emptied each time the turnstiles opened. All 5 checking stations were open. The beigel seller said it was the quietest morning of the week. We wondered if this was because it was a Thursday (we usually come on Wednesdays), or because of the threat of rain.
People arriving all smiled and greeted us happily because of the absence of queues. From about 5.45 the turnstiles were left open altogether. At about 6 a guard arrived, soon followed by a D.C.O. officer and policeman. The soldier had no work, as it was not necessary to open the humanitarian gate.
At 6.25 we joined the short line and passed through within a few minutes. And, thanks to the early hour, travelling home was quick, before the morning rush hour.
Two days earlier, I visited Qalandiya with Liora and her partner in the late afternoon, in order to get the signature of a man refused entry by Security, for an appeal to Court. At this hour Qalandiya looks very different from early morning. More people are returning from Jerusalem than those wanting to enter, more women and children. Stalls are open near the checkpoint. In the square and near the parking lot are stalls selling vegetables, fruit and other goods. We made the mistake of coming through in our car. At this hour, exiting in a car was no simple matter. There is heavy pressure around the square on the way to the checkpoint. WAZE showed that also at Hizme there was heavy pressure, so there was no point trying that route.
While we were moving at a crawl from the parking-lot to the square, we noticed a group of reserve soldiers entering the square. They crossed it and looked in the direction of the refugee camp. It is not clear what brought them. After a short while they turned back towards the car checkpoint. Then they suddenly noticed us. A smiling officer approached and signaled to us to open our window. He is worried about our safety, wonders if we have lost our way and if we know where we are. We reassured him, and told him we had come intentionally and were on our way back to Jerusalem.
We continued to advance slowly around the square on the way to the checkpoint, bombarded all the time by peddlers offering us carpets, cushions and other goods, and children offering us pages of prayers. We finally reached the “killing area” in front of the vehicle checkpoint. Here there are no longer peddlers. Any Palestinian approaching on foot is liable to be shot. Also this week we heard that a woman who approached the checkpoint was shot, although at least this time she was only lightly wounded (which shows that it is possible to shoot without necessarily killing…). In a car with an Israeli number-plate one could draw close. A check of documents and baggage, and we were through.