Qalandiya - A slow, aggravating morning

Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

A slow, aggravating morning

All five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. and the progress of the lines forward through the bar-lined passages called the “cages” was good, thanks to the alert and conscientious  soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles at the end of the cages, who took pains to keep track of the length of the lines entering the checking stations and open the turnstiles accordingly. At first, this situation continued even after the change of the guard at 6:00, when a new soldier took over.

But then, at about 6:20, there was a significant slowdown in the pace of work inside the checking stations.  And naturally this affected the situation throughout the checkpoint, as the lines waiting to pass through the cages grew consistently longer. A number of people told us that the situation had been similar on the day before. It was assumed that a new group of soldiers had begun a three-month shift at the beginning of the week and was still in learning mode. But that doesn’t explain why earlier in the morning the pace was much faster.

A security guard arrived at the Humanitarian Gate at 5:55 and opened it. At 6:15 he was joined by a Civil Administration officer, and together they operated the gate in good order at least until 7:20. After that, while we were on line, we lost sight of them for about 15 minutes, and when we were able to see the area of the gate again they were gone and the gate was locked.

At 7:20 we joined the shortest of the three lines leading through the cages and it took us 40 minutes to exit the checkpoint – and we were lucky, at that, because the people standing on line to enter the checking station next to ours didn’t move at all while we were slowly making out way forward.