Ina Friedman (reporting), 13 American guests who had been on a Birthright tour

An almost easy Ramadan morning

When we arrived at the Qalandia checkpoint at 6:30 a.m., all five checking stations were open and the lines through the “cages” were relatively short (that is, did not extend beyond the shed). Nevertheless, there was tension along the lines, which erupted into pushing and shouting at the entrance to the cages, undoubtedly because someone or a few people had attempted to jump the queue (which is the usual reason for such melees).

There was also a crowd waiting in front of the Humanitarian Gate, which had yet to open that morning. At first we assumed that it was not going to open because of the relatively short lines through the cages. But then we saw that the Civil Administration soldier arrived (late, as is her wont), and the gate opened at 6:35.

Because of the noise in the shed, we moved outside in order to brief the group of American visitors. But we glanced inside from time to time and saw that the pace of progress through the cages was smooth, so that long lines never developed. When we returned inside at about 7:30, however, the Civil Administration soldier was already gone and the Humanitarian Gate was closed for the morning. When a middle-aged man arrived with a surgical mask on his face, unable to walk without the aid of his companion, we called the DCO to ask that a soldier come out to open the gate for him. But after five minutes, when no soldier appeared on the horizon, the man and his companion lined up in a half-empty cage and we formed a line of 14 people behind him to ensure that no one would enter and possibly push him from behind for lack of appreciating his condition.

At 8:00 we also moved through a single cage as a group and moved onto the same checking station (so that I could be near the group at all times, lest a problem arise in the procedure there). It took 35 minutes until the entire group cleared the station, essentially because it was delayed for 20 minutes due to a problem with a couple – she and her child were allowed through, he wasn’t. We exited the checkpoint at 8:40.