A busy morning in Qalandiya and a visit by a team from the State Comptroller's Office

Chana Stein, Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting)

A busy day, and a visit by team from State Comptroller’s office.

05.15.  A large group was at prayer next to the parking lot on the Israel side, and at the café on the way to the checkpoint we were invited in for a hot coffee, but hurried on in the intense cold. At the Israeli side of the checkpoint itself, too, there were rows of men praying.

There were lines stretching out of the shed, when we arrived.  The beigel seller and the tea kiosk man sat wrapped head to foot because of the cold.

The beigel vendor and the guy from the kiosk
Ronit Dahan-Ramati

As usual lately, only 4 checking stations were open, the fifth opening at about 6 o’clock. Men prayed, either in groups or individually, and then returned to their places in the lines.  The lines were orderly, but advanced slowly. Women were allowed to fit in at the entrance to the cages, as well as an elderly couple who had been waiting at the humanitarian gate, with documents about their appointment for  medical treatment. At about 6, when the soldier in the aquarium was relieved, his replacement came together with an officer and we heard her say something about the State Comptroller, but couldn’t catch details. Soon afterwards, a policeman arrived followed by a guards and the D.C.O. officer who opened the gate at 6.15.

We went outside to check the length of the queues– they reached halfway to the road. From a distance, at least, the situation in the traffic lanes seemed ‘reasonable.’

Ronit Dahan-Ramati
Before moon set
Ronit Dahan-Ramati

Soon after we returned and bought our tea to warm up a bit (and we could really appreciate how bitterly cold it was for all those workers to be waiting in line outside), a large group of soldiers, policemen, Border Guards and civilians arrived. A friendly woman officer approached – from far she mistook Chana for Hanna Barag (both being tiny) with whom she is in constant contact. We reminded her of the request by teachers to be able to pass in public vehicles, and she said she had already heard this from Hanna Barag and had passed on the request for attention, but was doubtful if this would be possible. She said that the State Comptroller’s Office had examined the situation in the checkpoint and was following up. But the situation was unlikely to improve until the building was done.  According to her, conditions at Bethlehem are already somewhat improved and the building there is progressing faster. Meanwhile we also asked for the lighting to be fixed at last.  During the course of their visit, a couple of the visitors came to us, asked who we were and asked us about conditions there.  One man was surprised to see us standing on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint and asked if we weren’t afraid.  They also asked how long it took people to pass – and we calculated that today it was about an hour- a busy, but orderly day.  We also described chaos that follows when the lines collapse.  They also asked about the humanitarian gate, whether it opened for disabled, people with children, etc.  “Our forces” watched our conversation from a distance without intervening.  After about 15 minutes, the delegation left.

Shortly after 7 a.m. the lines became shorter, I.e., just beyond the cages.  We joined one and were out in 15 minutes.