Chana Stein (translating), Ronit Dahan-Ramati (reporting)

A ‘reasonable’ day at Qalandiya.

05.15. A cold morning, still dark, with a strong wind – but on the Israeli side there were already many people waiting for transport. Usually on such cold days, people light little fires, but today it would be too dangerous. Instead they crouch inside their jackets or sweatshirts.

On the Palestinian side there were already queues stretching out of the shed, but each time the turnstiles were opened the lines shortened considerably. 5 checking stations were open. From time to time the lines extended slightly beyond the shed.  The kiosk was open and the beigel seller was there. At 5.30 a policeman joined the soldier in the aquarium.

A little before 6 a.m. two D.C.O. soldiers arrived and immediately started opening the humanitarian gate where there were already people waiting. After opening the gate, one approached the soldier in the aquarium to ask him to open the turnstile beyond the gate. The soldier and the policeman hadn’t notice the D.C.O. arrival (before the appointed time!!), and the policeman was surprised that they had opened the gate without protection. But soon a security guard arrived, and then another…

After buying tea to warm ourselves, we found inside an elderly man in a kefiyeh sitting on a bench. We had seen him in a line earlier, and asked him what had happened.  Apparently he works without a permit because of his age, and was told to wait until 8 o’clock. He complained (and this is not for the first time) that it’s only at this checkpoint that older people working without permits have to wait. In the past we did ask a policeman about this and he said that it was because of the particularly large number of people using this checkpoint.

Last week we noticed two special cameras on tall posts.  We were told that these were cameras of the ministry of transport, in order to measure the load and to plan enlarging the checkpoint. We wonder  why one needs special cameras, instead of getting data from the numerous cameras that are anyway there in the checkpoint…

At about 7 a.m. the lines were much shorter, inside the shed. We joined one at 7.20. Progress in the line was rather slow. After we passed the turnstile – it was already after 7.30 – we noticed that the policeman caught elderly folk who had joined the regular line and sent them back to wait till 8 . As a rule, soon after 7, when there is no pressure, older people get up and join the regular line. In the past we have never seen a policeman oppose this, and usually even the soldiers inside the checking stations let them through. In addition, next to the turnstile leading to the checking station we met a man who was prevented from passing, waiting till 8 o’clock….

Passage was pretty slow, taking us 35 minutes today.