Very busy morning in Qalandiya

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Chana Stein (translating), Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting)

05.15.  Dark and cold. Already as we approached from the Israeli side we could see lines stretching into the parking lot. The kiosk was already open. The beigel seller told us that already at 4.30 there were queues. Today workers returned after the closureinfo-icon that had started on Saturday night.

The soldier in the aquarium did not open all the turnstiles and people started shouting – which he heard in the end.

At the 6 o’clock ‘change of guard’, there also arrived guards, police and a D.C.O. soldier.  We tried to ask our acquaintances what exactly happened in the stabbing incident, but no one could tell us. The beigel seller had already gone outside and our other friends had passed either before or after the stabbing.

The humanitarian gate opened at about 6.10.  As there was such heavy pressure, the D.C.O. officer remained until after 8 o’clock. At 7.50 he began to allow in the older folk who are allowed to pass without permits, but after 8.At one stage, earlier, a woman arrived with a babyinfo-icon in a stroller and an older child. She had to take them for a medical appointment and showed documents to the soldier and guard. As far as we could understand, she had no permit as the D.C.O. was closed. By lucky chance, our forces were sensitive and, after consulting by phone, they allowed her to pass. The guard accompanied her to the checking station and arranged for the gatesinfo-icon to be opened for the stroller to pass.

On the whole the queues kept order, though now and again the left-most line collapsed. This line always lends itself to chaos:  the beginning is open, which makes it easy for women to insert themselves (which the men always allow them to do), but when people who are turned away from the humanitarian gate try to enter there, and when anyway everyone is tired and irritable from waiting in line, people start pushing and shoving, and soon the line collapses. Often this leads to the collapse of all three queues and we see the awful sight of bodies piled up on one another.  Today, only the left line collapsed each time.

We met our acquaintance H. He told us that he is at present in conflict with his employer of many years, in Mahane Yehuda.  In a previous closure he stayed at home and closed his telephone.  His employer was angry and said he could reach work in spite of the closure.  Since then they have not spoken, though H. of course continues to work.  Speaking to people at the checkpoint, we came across a few who, during the closure, had slept in Israel, at friends’ or relatives’ homes, so as to continue working.

It was only towards 8 o’clock that the lines began to get short enough to be inside the shed. We joined the left queue which now seemed to be moving fast.  But this turned out to be a mistake. Each turn of the turnstile allowed through only 4-5 people, while others moved faster. It is unclear if the turnstile itself was faulty, or if the soldier was doing this on purpose. The humanitarian gate closed at 8.20. The moment the D.C.O. officer left, a man arrived in a wheelchair. The police and guards who were still there were now inside the aquarium and it took a while until they noticed him – then of course they opened the humanitarian gate for him.

Our queue advanced slowly and it took us almost an hour(!) to pass.  It was only a few minutes before 9 that we finally reached the Israeli side, exhausted. Our luck – in contrast to the Palestinians – that we didn’t have a hard day’s work ahead of us …