Morning beginning quietly, becoming crowded
05.15 We parked in the parking-lot which was quite full. There was a long line of cars outside waiting to pass the vehicle checkpoint.
Inside, all 5 checking stations were open and there was no queue. The turnstile nearest the ‘aquarium’ (where the soldier operating the turnstiles sits) was open and people entered directly and advanced to one of the checking stations. Later, as a queue developed, the turnstile would close from time to time and finally 3 lines were formed, as usual.
The D.C.O. woman officer arrived at 5.30. At this point there were few people waiting. She photographed the (absence of) queues, greeted us, and left after a few minutes. The lines gradually got longer. It seems the work of the checking stations was particularly slow today. At about 6 o’clock the D.C.O. officer returned and began to open the Humanitarian Gate. She seemed to be less strict and sometimes just asked if a person had a permit, without demanding to see it – although, indeed, this applied to familiar faces. Later she was joined by a policewoman and a guard.
The slow checking continued, aggravated by the fact that now and again one of the stations would close altogether. Naturally, people got very angry, having to move from station to station. The D.C.O. officer and the policewoman spoke on the phone. We asked the soldier why the checking was so slow. She replied “we have dealt with this,” but we did not see any significant result. The queues were by now extending beyond the shed and well into the parking-lot. When we went outside to buy tea at the kiosk we had to cross three dense lines.
We noticed that, after passing through the turnstiles, people were not going through the zig-zag fenced path to reach the checking stations. The gate was open and they could go directly to wait at the stations. At one stage the policewoman and guard went in and we thought this was to close the gate, so that they could admit more people into the fenced path and relieve the queue outside. But they returned to their sterile area outside the aquarium and the gate remained open. The lines remained long. Only at about 7 o’clock did the queues get short enough to fit inside the shed. The D.C.O. officer left.
At about 7.20 the queues were short enough to fit inside the fenced corridors before the turnstiles. Older folk who had been waiting on benches because they are permitted to enter only at 8, got up and joined the short lines, and we left.
We drove to Jerusalem via A-Ram. The checkpoint next to A-Ram was manned, but most cars passed unchecked. We quickly reached Jerusalem through Hizme checkpoint.