Virginia Syvan, A. and K. (guests from the U.S. and Israel), Ina Friedman (reporting)

Mixed Morning

Immediately upon arriving at 5:30 a.m. we noticed that only 7 of the 12 lights in the shed were working, and it is especially dark at the entrance to the shed – a sensitive area because people on their way to the Humanitarian Gate on the far side of the shed must maneuver their way through the lines, and it is therefore important that the entrance be well lit.

Four of the five checking stations were open when we arrived (the fifth opened at 6:27 A.M.). Nevertheless, the lines were relatively short because the soldier in charge of opening the turnstiles at the end of the cages was generous in the amount of people she let through them each time (and thanks to her for that). The beygale vender and one of the people who regularly passes through the Humanitarian Gate told us that on the previous two days this week, the passage through the checkpoint was similarly easy and swift. This morning, as well, there were periods when the turnstiles remained open and people walked through the cages directly to the corridors leading to the checking stations. 

That, at least, was the situation until the change of the guard at 6:30. The new soldier controlling the turnstiles turned this picture on its head. Even though the corridors leading into checking stations 3, 4, and 5 were totally empty (for some reason, there is always a longer line leading into stations 1 and 2), the soldier only let a handful of people through the turnstiles each time he opened them. This frustrated everyone in sight -- big time! Because we could not communicate with him directly, we called the Civil Administration hotline a number of times with the request to call the soldier in the booth and tell him to allow more people through because he was turning a properly operating checkpoint into a problematic one. To no avail.

As a rule, by 6:30, at least one policeman/woman and a soldier or officer from the Civil Administration, plus security guards, are on the spot to direct the soldier in the booth on opening the turnstiles. But this morning no one showed up. The Humanitarian Gate was not opened at all; until the replacement soldier arrived and saw to the creation of long lines where none had existed before, it wasn’t necessary to operate the gate. But at 6:45 not only were the lines growing longer and longer, a young man arrived in a wheel chair on his way to a hospital appointment . Again we repeatedly called the hotline to have a Civil Administration soldier arrive to open the Humanitarian Gate for him. Finally we were told that a soldier was on the way but still no one turned up. And then abruptly the youth and the older man accompanying him left. Someone explained to us that a driver had offered the older man to take them through some checkpoint or another (for Lord only knows what price), and being under pressure they grabbed at the offer. (Afterward we were told that one of the two – either the young man or, more likely, the older man accompanying him, did not have a permit to get through the checkpoint because they were told to wait until 8:00, when the Civil Administration office opens or, as a man over 55, the man pushing the wheelchair would be allowed through without a permit. Evidently, however, people in this situation have other alternatives.)

At 7:20 a Civil Administration officer and a security guard showed and opened the Humanitarian Gate for the first time. We greeted their arrival. We told them how much we had missed their presence this morning. And we asked the officer to direct the soldier in the booth to open the turnstiles and allow people through at a reasonable rate – which the officer, or a policeperson, would have done as a matter of course had they been there earlier. 

This change alleviated the lines to the point where, at 7:30, we were able to enter one of the empty cages and pass through the security check in 10 minutes.