05.25. There were already long, but orderly, lines. As usual lately, only 4 checking stations were open, the fifth one opening after 6 o’clock. Lines advanced slowly, but allowing women to fit in at the entrance to the cages. Groups and individuals would pray and then join the line. Our friend H. told us that yesterday there were checkpoints on the way to his home in the Bidu area, checking that those returning have permits. Because of this, even going home is a lengthy business … and the checkpoints themselves are of course not effective. He said he told this to the soldiers – “after all, we know already when we are at work that there are checkpoints today, so a person without a permit won’t go this way!”
At 6, there are already people waiting at the humanitarian gate which is not yet open. After ‘changing of the guard’ in the aquarium the replacement soldier started opening the turnstiles less frequently and, sometimes, not all three, which of course led to people in the cages to shout at him. The situation improved when the policewoman arrived – she opened the turnstiles and, thereafter, instructed the soldier when to open them. She apparently also spoke to someone in authority, which perhaps is why checking station no.5 opened soon after. The humanitarian gate, however, opened only at 6.25, when the D.C.O. officer and guard arrived.
While waiting, we spoke with two men we have met previously. They are teachers and, therefore, entitled to use the humanitarian gate. But the long wait there really hampers them. They would like to be able to pass the checkpoint in the special bus that transports doctors, or in public transport which is used by people with blue i.d. cards but live outside the wall. They suggest that their permits could have a special stamp so that when passengers are checked, they can be easily identified. We have passed this request to Hanna Barag who will check if this is feasible. (While chatting, they told us about the schools they teach in, and that tomorrow they will be starting their Christmas and New Year vacation.)
We went outside to check on the non-progress of the building works, and to show Illit how Qalandiya has changed since her time. Returning, we were happy for a moment to see that the lines outside had disappeared – but then learned that this was because the lines had collapsed. As this happened relatively late in the morning, when there were not so very many people, it did not take long before the lines re-formed. But each time the turnstiles opened, there was pushing and shouting. We saw the guard speaking with people in the cage, but couldn’t hear them.
Soon after 7.30 the lines were short, and we joined one. At this stage the humanitarian gate was closed and the soldier, guard and policewoman left. It took us 25 minutes to pass. Thanks to the Hanukkah vacation, there was no traffic jam and we quickly reached the city centre.