Tension in town, as usual at the checkpoint
Despite the presence of President Trump in Jerusalem and riots near the checkpoint on the previous day, there was no closure today and it was a standard morning –the traffic even a little lighter than usual – at the checkpoint. When we arrived at 5:30 a.m., as we entered from the southern (“Israeli”) side of the checkpoint, we could not see any lines waiting to enter the shack and thought that perhaps people avoided coming through Qalandiya today because of the unusual circumstances in the city. But we quickly discovered that the lines were short because of the very wise policy of the soldier on duty to allow many people through each time he opened the turnstiles and to create long lines at the entrances to the five checking stations (all of which were operating). As a result, the lines in the shed never reached beyond the sidewalk directly outside it, and they began to grow a bit longer after the change of shifts just after 6:00. For most of the morning, the pace forward was fairly slow. We ascribed this to a presumably more stringent security check due to the U.S. president’s presence on the city. That was either so or not (see below).
Two Civil Administration soldiers arrived at 6:10. As soon as we saw that one of them was the veteran and experienced F. (whom we hadn’t seen in months), we knew that the Humanitarian Gate was in good hands. The gate was opened about five minutes later and thereafter each time a group of people gathered in front of it.
At 6:10 we began following a man at the end of one of the lines; it took him 25 minutes to reach the security check.
At 7:00 we too joined one of the by-now short lines and completed the security check 25 minutes later. The woman soldier on the other side of the window divided her time between us and her cell phone. Perhaps that was the reason why the pace forward into her station was especially slow.