Qalandiya - high economic distress in the days of Corona

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Ronit Dahan-Ramati Chana Stein translating.
May-12-2020
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Afternoon

During the corona pandemic, we have remained in touch with A., the bagel-seller at Qalandiya, who sells bagels, boiled eggs and large falafel balls. He arrives at 4.30-5 and leaves 6.30-7, after he has sold all his wares. This is how he supports his wife (they are both elderly, with health problems), and also in his home are his daughter and her three children. Their father, according to him, is a no-good, who spends his earnings from the little work he does on drugs. Every time we came on our early morning shifts we would meet him and chat. He speaks Hebrew and a little English, and we, a little Arabic.

During the pandemic, his source of income has dried up, as workers were no longer coming daily into Israel to work. In addition, Ramadan was approaching, involving greater expenses. In telephone conversations, he told us that they were healthy, staying carefully at home, but that the financial strain was very harsh. So those of us who go regularly to the checkpoint mornings decided to give him some money as a Ramadan present. After some effort, I succeeded in arranging to meet him at 3 p.m. at the kiosk next to the checkpoint area on the Palestinian side. I decided to go through to the Palestinian side by car, returning to Jerusalem via Hizmeh.

On the way, I heard there was a stabbing attempt at the checkpoint. A Palestinian had tried to stab a security man, was shot and wounded and taken to hospital. I thought this might cause problems at the checkpoint, but the only problem was the traffic jam. This was the hour when workers return home, especially early during Ramadan.  While moving forward in the slow traffic towards the checkpoint, I saw people walking on the new pedestrian bridge that leads to and from the public transport In the direction of Ar-Ram there was a cloud of black smoke.

There was no sign of the earlier stabbing event, except for a group of journalists with a camerainfo-icon in the spot on the Palestinian side where there had been a traffic circle in the past.

The place was full of fruit and vegetable stalls – but this is typical in afternoons, not just Ramadan. The traffic was jammed on the Palestinian side, in both directions. I crept along until the kiosk (at the east of the checkpoint) and found a parking spot next to a fruit stall.  Meanwhile, the black smoke had disappeared.

A. arrived in a mask, as I was, too, of course, (with gloves). He looked well, thanked us very much and sends warm greetings. After Ramadan he will return to work each morning at the checkpoint. We don't know when exactly we will return.

On the way back, the heavy traffic continued eastward. There were many stalls, for both food and toys and discs. Some of the people wore masks, but not all, while people crowded around the stalls. The traffic was very aggressive – but this is not unusual. Most of the traffic was in the direction of Ramallah.  Thus, in the direction I was following (via Ar-Ram southward to Hizmeh and then Jerusalem), traffic was lighter till the entrance to Hizmeh. The pressure begins before the checkpoint in the Jerusalem direction. The Jaba checkpoint was not manned.