Virginia Syvan, Ina Friedman (reporting)

Apparently, we missed the “action”

On our way from the southern parking lot to the checkpoint,  just before 5:30 a.m., a man stopped us to report on the horrid situation in the checkpoint, today and essentially during all the previous weeks. Therefore, upon entering the checkpoint, we were surprised  to find the lines relatively short, certainly shorter than what we had expected. All five checking stations were open and the soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles at the end of the three bar-lined passages known as the “cages” let most of the people through each time he opened them. At 6:00, when we saw that the soldier had left the turnstiles open to all newcomers, we went outside for a chat with the beigale seller and the two men socializing with him. It was from them that we learned why this morning impressed us as being so smooth and easy. It turns out that the “action” – the collapse of the lines and the disheartening melee that follows it – had occurred an hour before we arrived (that is, already at 4:30 a.m.). And from this we understood the comment of the man who had stopped us on the road to warn us of the absolutely unreasonable situation inside  – a situation, incidentally, that’s been going on for months, not just weeks.

For now, we know of no forecast of when it will be possible to open additional checking stations inside the new building adjoining the present checkpoint. In the meanwhile, the comment of the Civil Administration officer who warned us, a year and a half ago, that things will be worse at Qalandiya before they get better is certainly being played out.

An innovation in the shed: A falafel stand whose operator is already frying his wares at 5:30. Unfortunately, the odor of the bubbling oil is suffocating. We have no desire to detract from the man’s income, but perhaps someone can gently request that he move his kitchen out into the fresh air, especially as when there is a collapse of lines and melee in the shed, that boiling oil can be a genuine danger to the crowd. And perhaps the same Good Samaritan will note that 6 of the 12 lights in the shed have burned out.

A Civil Administration soldier and a security guard arrived at 6:20 to open the Humanitarian Gate. But there really was no need for it because at that hour the turnstiles at the ends of the “cages” were open. And even when they were locked for a few minutes, the soldier in charge of them took care to empty the cages each time he opened them again.

Given this situation, we joined one of the lines going through the cages at 6:30 and concluded the security check in less than 10 minutes (even earning a smile from the soldier to whom we presented our identity cards and MachwomWatch tags).  In short, we had a good morning. For the Palestinians who had arrived earlier than we did, it was quite a different story.