Qalandiya - Opening of the new checkpoint

Liora Glatt Traub, Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting), Chana S (translating)
Soldiers briefing journalists on the new checkpoint in Qalandiya

This morning we did not come for a regular watch, for health reasons. It turned out that this was the last morning of the old checkpoint.  At about 11 o’clock the new one was to open. Liora and I had come to meet people who were appealing for permits, and decided to come on foot so as to see the wonders…

Already on the way to the checkpoint we saw groups of soldiers, journalists and photographers invited in honour of the occasion. They stood in the square in front of the checkpoint and afterwards next to the fence, where soldiers explained to them what was happening.

We entered via the old checkpoint and found it empty and deserted. At the kiosk next to the shed we met Iman, Muhammad and others moving its contents to the new kiosk they had erected at the entrance to the new checkpoint. A big notice proclaims the new checkpoint, and next to it another gives details of opening hours and services of the D.C.O., government ministries, Post Office.

Entrance to the new checkpoint
A sign directing to services provided near the new checkpoint

Journalists have arrived here, and received explanations, and took photographs.

The entrance is wide and good, and on the right hand side is a toilet building.  We did not check if it was open to the public (In the old checkpoint there was a filthy, smelly one – which had been locked for almost a year). The soldiers we spoke to later said that the toilets would be open. We will check next week.

Journalists on the Palestinian side of the new checkpoint
Soldiers and Journalists in the new checkpoint

At the start of the checkpoint there are a few entrances. One enters a short ‘slalom’ between perforated white metal walls to reach the first turnstile. On the right of the entrance is door through which one could enter. While we were there a man arrived in a wheelchair and the policeman opened the door for him.

The sign above the entrance says (translated freely) “Please keep the checkpoint clean, which has been erected for you and your convenience and to facilitate service.”

To the right a bypass door to the turnstile
Request to keep the checkpoint clean

After passing the turnstile one waits in line, which was now short, for another turnstile, and then one reaches the passage through the magnometer and screening machine. Between the stations there is a cubicle where soldiers sit, checking the screen. We gave them welcome greetings. Today everyone is smiling and satisfied – let’s hope it remains like this. Here, too, next to the turnstile there is a door one can pass through. A woman soldier let the journalists through it, and let us also pass. But we wanted to use the route where Palestinians pass, so we waited a little more at the turnstile. After the screening there is another turnstile. After passing it, one reaches the true “wonder” – electronic checking stations.

Electronic checking stations in the new checkpoint

We were told there are 20 such checking stations. Every Palestinian who has a magnetic card and permit can pass through them. He inserts his card, as one does a Rav-Kav on entering a train. A camerainfo-icon photographs him, thus identifying him and the turnstile opens automatically.

All the journalists waited with their cameras for a Palestinian to come and pass.

Whoever does not have a magnetic card passes a manned station.

Electronic Check for magnetic card holders
A manned post for those who do not have magnetic card

In honour of the opening all is open and full of soldiers, police, journalists and photographers. If we understood correctly, on normal days there is a division between the stations that lead to Jerusalem and those leading to the D.C.O. and various offices. After the passage there is a direction sign on the floor.

Direction signs on the floor

We went towards the left. There is an entrance towards the Ministry of the Interior and the Post Office. One reaches them via a bridge. Presumably here, too, there is a bypass.

Ministry of the Interior and Postal Services
To the D.C.O. by the bridge

The exit towards Jerusalem is via the old checkpoint, in the section after the checking stations, and we reached the final turnstile that we always used in the past (always open). The soldiers who exited with us were amazed to hear us say, that in spite of welcoming the innovations, the best would be to have no checkpoints at all…  Strange women, these!