Qalandiya Checkpoint - The queues are back

Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

A Small But Significant Change at Qalandiya

As we approached the entrance to the checkpoint at about 6:15 we were taken aback: For the first time since the opening of the new checkpoint last spring, there were lines at the three entrances to it (!!), some of them rather long. What’s more, the three lights above the entrances that serve as “traffic signals” were simultaneously red, and then changed simultaneously to green, which is a new development.

We greeted the bagel seller and asked him how long this situation has been going on. He estimated about a month, and indeed we had last been at Qalandiya three weeks earlier when the flow into the building  -- or at least into the slalom at each of the entrances -- had advanced freely. Two of the three lines now extended beyond the covered plaza to the bottom of the steps, meaning, had it been raining or snowing or even a clear day, those waiting on line would have been standing in places exposed to the strong winds that characterize this high, open area in the winter.  We also noted that the entrances to the adjoining old checkpoint, where elderly people wait on the benches until they are allowed to pass through the checkpoint at 8:00, were sealed off (though there was still access to the bathrooms there), and the elderly, too, would have to wait outside, combating the elements.

Nevertheless, no one approached us to complain or even comment on the new situation. And then we saw that the next time the turnstiles at the three entrances to the building opened, the lines were more or less swallowed up into the three outdoor “slaloms” that are protected from the elements, if not actually into the building itself.  What’s more, the turnstiles seemed to open more frequently, and the more time passed the shorter the lines became until, at about 6:50, the free flow into the building returned to the pace we have become accustomed to since the inauguration of the new checkpoint.

Until we return next month, we won’t be able to report how this new system works at the height of winter when standing outside is quite uncomfortable because of the strong winds. It would be well for whoever changed the entry system to take into account the local weather conditions in winter and adjust the system as necessary.

On our way back to our vehicles, we were humiliated – Israelis and Palestinians alike – by the piles of garbage on the sidewalks. Even if cleaning the streets is the responsibility of the Municipality of Jerusalem, and not the Jerusalem Envelope Authority, those responsible for the checkpoint should at least register a complaint with the Municipality about this disgusting situation.