Qalandiya - slow passage, long lines, freezing wind

Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

Routine Morning

Five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30. It was 6 degrees C. outside (and inside, as well, where it was also pretty dark, as only 4 of the 12 florescent lights were burning), and the lines reached outside the shed into the strong and freezing wind. When we entered from the southern side of the checkpoint, we saw that the lines in the “sleeves” (the short corridors leading into the checking stations) were very short. Nevertheless, the turnstiles at the end of the “cages” (the three narrow, bar-lined passages situated near the entrance to the checkpoint) were not being opened by the soldier responsible for the flow of traffic through the cages. We thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep. But he was quite awake, and after we appeared he began to open the turnstiles for longer periods during each round, which helped to rescue more people from the wind outside.

This situation continued until 6:05, when his replacement began operating  the turnstiles and, for whatever reason, failed to open the one furthest from her, at the end of the cage on the right, a number of times in succession. Because we could not establish communication with her inside the booth, we called the hot line and asked them to inform her of the situation. When that failed to transpire, we caught her attention through the booth’s window and with hand movements tried to explain to her that Turnstile #1 (on the right) was not opening  – but to not avail.

Fortunately, at 6:15, just as the line on the right was beginning to collapse  – as it had remained stuck while the other two lines had repeatedly moved forward – a Civil Administration soldier and security guard arrived and saved the day by entering the booth and opening all three turnstiles at once. Afterward, the soldier responsible for the flow forward took care to let through a large number of people each time she opened the turnstiles, so that most of the people waiting on line were standing inside the shed.

The Humanitarian Gate opened at 6:15 and operated without incident until just before 7:00, by which time the lines through the cages were short. In a brief conversation with the Civil Administration officer, we learned that the new building is slated to open in March (!) and the security check for Palestinians with biometric  cards is expected to take mere seconds. When this transpires, we will be delighted to report it.

At 7:00 we joined one of the (by now very short) lines going through the cages and exited the checkpoint 15 minutes later.