Virginia Syvan, C. (guest from Germany), Ina Friedman (reporting)

Classic Qalandiya 

The Qalandiya checkpoint is neither built nor equipped to accommodate the number of people who may pass through it on a standard morning on their way to work, to school, to a hospital, etc., and so the passage through it turns into a daily punishment.

All five checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30, and the lines directly before the entrance to them were short. We immediately saw that the soldier responsible for the turnstiles at the end of the three cages waited a relatively long time between opening them. On the other hand, he allowed a large number of people through each time, so that the lines immediately before the checking stations were long (which proves to be positive) and each time the lines through the cages moved forward, there was a feeling of real progress.

However, after the change in shifts at 6:00, which took a relatively long time, the new soldier adopted exactly the opposite tactic and allowed only a few people through each time he opened the turnstiles, leading to frustration anger, and many complaints. We called the DCO and asked the soldier on duty to contact the soldier in change of opening the turnstiles and tell him to change his tactic, because it was causing problems, rather than doing good.  And nothing happened as a result of this call, until …

At 6:15 the woman NCO in charge of operating the Humanitarian Gate arrived, took in the situation, and told the soldier to allow many more people to flow forward each time. Nevertheless, as happens repeatedly when the soldier in charge of the turnstiles fails to function properly, by the time he or she is corrected,  the damage has already been done – both from the standpoint of the length of the lines and of the tension that reigns at the checkpoint.

Conclusion:  It’s either necessary to better brief the soldiers in charge of the turnstiles on how to conduct their mission successfully or to send out people who can guide them – police, security guards, DCO officers, et al. -- much earlier in the morning in order to direct them on the spot. Experience shows that as soon as the soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles causes a slowdown, the entire morning is affected.

The NCO who arrived to operate the Humanitarian Gate this morning always does her work well and with precision. The problem is that she has a tendency to arrive late and leave early. This time she came at 6:14 (people usually start lining up at the gate at 6:00) and closed the gate finally at 7:00, even though the lines through the cages at this hour still extended into the parking lot. And even more important, after she left at 7:00 people who rely on the Humanitarian Gate – parents with infants and toddlers, older people walking with canes, and the like – continued to arrive. We don’t know why she leaves early. It may be that he has instructions to do so or other missions to fulfill. But the fact is that other DCO soldiers and officers responsible for the Humanitarian Gate stay much longer, that is, until the “peak,” as they call it (morning rush hour) is over. This is extremely important, because in addition to the fact that no one else on duty can open the Humanitarian Gate when the DCO representative leaves with the key, the disappearance of this soldier wastes the time of thoe people waiting in vain at the gate for someone to open it for them. 

This morning, this certainly contributed to the collapse of  lines at 7:00. As usual, the reason was people trying to jump the queue by pushing themselves into line at the entrance to the cage on the left and reducing the line there into an angry crowd, with the other two lines following suit. Here is not the place to go into the self-defeating aspect of this phenomenon. It’s enough to note that when people cannot take their frustrations out on the system or the people that cause that frustration, they tend to take it out on the nearest object: in this case, one another.  And this situation repeats itself time and again at Qalandiya.

Twice we stood on line to leave. The first time, as we began to move forward, we felt that the situation was still too unsettled at the entrance to the cage and we left the line. The second time, at 7:35, we felt that the situation had sufficiently calmed down, and the lines were firm enough, to try again. It took us 35 minutes to complete the process and exit. The soldier in the checking station who checked the first of us seemed puzzled by the information on her Identity Card. But when she raised her MachsomWatch tag as a means of explanation, his response was a broad smile.

We also noted that the sensitivity of the metal detector has been raised, so that anyone bearing metal within his or her body causes it to beep stubbornly. Those who  have a card from a hospital testifying to the cause within (for use, for example, at an airport or bus or train station) should also bring it along to the Qalandiya checkpoint.