Crowding and pressure for two hours. Another extremely hard day in Qalandiya
05.15. Dark, cold and wet. Already as we approached the checkpoint we could see long lines extending out of the shed.
Most of the time 5 checking stations were open, but progress there was very slow, and the soldier in the cubicle admitted few people at each opening of the turnstiles. The lines grew, as did the frustration …
We met our friend H. in a line. He and his friends complained about the long lines all week. H., who is still suffering pain in his leg, tells us that he is already 60 and wants to leave his present job for an easier one – perhaps fewer hours and less standing all the time. His boss refuses to fire him, so that he won’t have to pay severance pay.
05.50. Boiling-point approaches: the lines collapse and chaos ensues. The benches fill with people who flee the melee. People pile up at the entrance to the cages, climbing on one another in a desperate attempt to wriggle their way into the cages. The woman soldier still admits only few at a time. One man climbed right up on top and sat on a bar above the cage, by which time he was tired. Friends threw him a bottle of water for him to refresh himself.
The shed was full. After 6, there were already crowds waiting at the humanitarian gate. The guard and D.C.O. soldier who arrived at the usual delay entered from the inner side to open the gate. They let through groups of people after checking that they were entitled to use the gate. As usual when the lines collapse, many try their luck at the humanitarian gate. We usually stand in the space between this gate and the regular lines. Today the pressure was such that we had to withdraw so as not be crushed.
The pressure at the humanitarian gate lasted a long time. Women who had the right to use it had to squeeze their way through the men to reach it. When the pressure relaxed somewhat, the guard took the time to look around and instruct the woman soldier to open the turnstiles for longer times. A policeman appeared at one stage, but left after a few minutes.
The chaos continued for over an hour and a half. Then queues started to form again for the outer 2 cages. At the entrance to the cage closest to the soldier’s cubicle took longer. Only after 2 hours (!), at 8 o’clock, were there once again 3 orderly lines. After 8, too, older women who are allowed in without permits, were admitted through the humanitarian gate. But older men without permits were not allowed.