Chana Stein (reporting), Deborah Lyssy (visitor)

A strangely quiet morning at Qalandiya.

05.15.  On arrival we met a number of workers outside on the Israeli side, and others coming out in groups.  This seemed to augur well as to conditions inside the checkpoint. (But because people are so uncertain as to how long it will take to pass any particular day, they sometimes come very early only to find that they then have to wait for their transport.  You just can’t win!)

Inside we found all 5 checking stations open, and lines extending only slightly beyond the shed.  Very soon they were short enough to be easily contained within the shed throughout our watch. At first, women arriving would join the men at the entrance to the cage, but later arrivals would simply join the regular lines which seemed short enough.

The soldier working the turnstiles did so regularly, in spite of his smartphone. He had ,we were told later, come on duty earlier than usual and so we did not see him being replaced.

No line formed at the Humanitarian gate – which was just as well, as no D.C.O. officer arrived to open it. But at 6.30 a guard arrived and at 6.40 he opened the gate ‘for women.’  Immediately there were almost 20 women who had been standing in regular lines, and were allowed through without checking.  While the guard was not looking, the women were followed a number of men who thought they would try their luck, but the guard found them and we saw them returning smiling sheepishly to their lines. The guard told us he did not understand why there was no D.C.O. staff.  He was joined by a Military Police woman officer, who knew we were from Machsomwatch and greeted us friendlily.  Soon after 7 o’clock a D.C.O. officer arrived.  By now women were going directly to the gate.  We saw a couple of men returning via the gate, but do not know why.

We joined a line at 7.15 and were through at 7.41.  But waiting in line at the checking station itself everyone was disgusted at the behavior of the soldiers who seemed to be having a hilarious time. We passed the check without problems. But waiting for the final turnstile to open (there almost always seems to be a delay at this stage), I was called back, only to confront a hefty woman soldier who had something nasty to say about Machsomwatch (I caught the tone, but not the actual words), standing and wiggling her hips at me!

Returning by bus we were caught in a traffic jam from Atarot on. Apparently there was a ‘temporary’ police checkpoint. We could not see it, but were told by people in the front seats, and were happy when it disappeared.

As to the state of the shed, our guest was horrified by the litter – and I had to admit that we have seen worse in the past – and also the stench coming from the lavatories.    On the positive side, there seem to be a few more benches, if I am not mistaken.