Qalandiya - Extensive road-building works in progress

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

06.15. Now that the clocks are on winter-time, it was already light when we arrived. Around the square next to the checkpoint traffic was active, a peak time.

When we reached the Palestinian side we saw that the approach to the old checkpoint was blocked. The old shed remains and that is where some people would rest on the few benches remaining there. Apparently some new development is planned there. From the direction of the new checkpoint, the approach to the old checkpoint is blocked, too, except via the leftmost toilets. There are now 2 cubicles instead of 4, with no distinction between men’s and women’s.

The condition of the toilets could be better but this is all relative, of course. They are much cleaner than one might expect … and there seems to be constant attention paid to this.  No paper, of course, and no water in the wash-basin. We noticed water on the floor – there seems to be a small hose. In order to work it, one has to bend below the basin to turn some kind of screw tap.  At least we closed it so that water wouldn’t stream out.

Two weeks ago we had been told that the beigel-seller, Abut Ramzi, had been banished from his post on the sidewalk next to the checkpoint and threatened that he would receive a report. We were relieved to see him there again. He told us that at about 6.30 a soldier or policeman comes out to tell him to leave, which he does. At any rate, he leaves by 6.45 or 7 at the latest. At about 6.30 a policeman did come outside and stood up high on the eastern side, watching what was happening around, and then returned. He did not approach Abu Ramzi or say anything.

The three entrances to the checkpoint were open and the many people arriving from Al-Ram and Qalandiya entered quickly. Just before 7, we joined them. Inside there were short lines before the screening machines. In front of us were two little schoolchildren with their bags. Their older sister was behind us so we let her join them. We noticed in another line a further two young boys. It seems they were a group of 5 all going to school. The guards at the checkpoint joked with the boys until all had passed.  Passing through the checkpoint altogether took a few minutes.

Once through, we saw the children walking towards the buses, but the older girl (12-13 years old?) didn’t seem to pay much attention to the smaller ones, each one crossing the busy road on his/her own.  Let us hope that the new pedestrian bridge will soon be completed, as this road is really unsafe, especially for children.

Encouraged by our last visit to the D.C.O. Etzion toilets, we thought maybe there had been a general widespread program to improve conditions, so we checked the ones next to the public transport area at Qalandiya.  But no change here. We could not even draw near because of the filth and stench.