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

A heavy day in Qalandiya.

05.15. When we arrived, parking on the Israeli side, it was still dark. There were already many people waiting for transport. Two ecumenical volunteers were outside, and we met another inside the hut. There were long queues extending beyond the hut.  Five checking stations were open, and in the ‘aquarium’ were a soldier and policeman. At this stage, the queues moved in an orderly fashion and the few women arriving were allowed to fit in at the entrance to a cage.  An  elderly woman arrived with her young adult son.  One could see that he was obviously handicapped in some way, both physically and mentally. The mother said that he had an appointment at the American Consulate at 8, and that he could not go alone. We advised her to join the regular line and not wait until the humanitarian gate should open – and they did so.

At about 6 a.m. the lines were very long, reaching right into the parking lot, and many people were waiting at the humanitarian gate. A guard and 4 soldiers of the D.C.O. – 2 officers and 2 soldiers who were being trained. They were joined by the policeman who had been in the aquarium and a policewoman.  They began to allow  ‘permitted’ people through the humanitarian gate. Others were sent to the regular lines, older people had to wait until 8 o’clock. After a while, three of the soldiers left, leaving one woman officer.

By now the kiosk had opened, so we went to buy tea from Iman who, we were glad to see was back.

We chatted with the ecumenical volunteer who was here for the first time at this hour, and was in a state of shock.  We were telling him that today was relatively calm and reasonable, when suddenly the queues collapsed and a pile of people clambered around the cage entrances. As usual in such situations, older people drop out, and fill the benches to wait.  It took a while for the pressure to lessen and for lines to form again.

Today people who were sent back from the checking stations came back through a gate next to the turnstiles (we couldn’t see exactly where).  Among those returning were the mother and her son. She tried desperately to speak with the soldiers at the humanitarian gate, but to no avail. What did it matter to them that they had to be at the consulate at 8 o’clock and that the son couldn’t go on his own? The mother works without a permit (because of her age) and has to wait until 8.  The poor woman couldn’t control her tears. We tried to comfort her and recommend that they go anyway to the consulate, even late, and to explain that they weren’t allowed through the checkpoint earlier.  We hope that there they would get a bit more sympathy than from our ‘forces’ at the checkpoint.

Soon after 7, when the lines were short, we joined one and passed through in 20 minutes.