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

A cold, but reasonable morning; the humanitarian gate for some unknown reason closed early.

05.15. A very cold morning, with the ground wet from yesterday’s and last night’s rain. At the entrance (on the Israeli side) a group prayer had finished just as we arrived.

The lines were already long, extend a short way into the parking lot.  Five checking stations were open. The kiosk was open, but the beigel seller hadn’t yet arrived.  When the turnstiles were opened the lines got much shorter and were then within the shed. At first it seemed that this morning would be a short shift, as many workers had stayed home because of the weather. But gradually the lines became longer. Presumably people waited to see what the weather would be like and, when they saw that there wouldn’t be rain like yesterday’s, then decided to venture out. At one point, one man called out to the soldier in the aquarium “Open up.  We’re cold!” Surprisingly, this worked and she opened and let in many people.

Soon after 6 a.m., the blonde D.C.O. officer arrived and opened the humanitarian gate. A policewoman and guard also arrived. To our surprise the officer left at about 6.30, although there were people waiting in line. Every time men and women arrived at the gate, the policewoman and guard told them the gate was closed and that they should join the regular lines. This caused some confusion and we were afraid that the lines would collapse.  But two men took responsibility to keep order, and told those coming from the humanitarian gate to wait at the head of the regular line.  We phoned the D.C.O. to ask them to send someone to open the gate again.  The soldier answering claimed that they always close at 6.30, which of course is not so.

 A couple with a babyinfo-icon in her mother’s arms arrived. We advised them to wait at the gate and speak to the policewoman. And indeed, as soon as she was free, the policewoman approached them and let them in.  But only this couple and baby were allowed through; others were sent back to the regular lines. A man who had to get to a consulate was told that this would not entitle him to use the humanitarian gate, even with a D.C.O. officer. Later a woman arrived, with an 8-10 year-old girl apparently suffering Down’s syndrome.  Someone approached the policeman and protested to her that there was no humanitarian gate.  The policewoman asked what was his problem “You are not entitled, so don’t meddle in my work,” but explained that she would admit the mother and daughter. And in a couple of minutes they were admitted, together with someone who was accompanying them.  Once again, no others were allowed to pass.

At about 7.15, the queues were shorter and we joined one of them.  We passed through in 20 minutes.