Qalandiya - Works on the underpass road is progressing at an amazing pace

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

For our morning shift in Qalandiya, we continue to park on the Palestinian side, because due to the works on the Israeli side there is no place to park there. We arrived around a quarter to six. We met our friend Abu Ramzi, the beigel seller, standing with his grandson near the entrance to the checkpoint compound. He was happy to see us and also asked after Natanya. The kiosk is already open, and the food stand is also active where they fry falafel. But they also sell bags with fresh vegetables for those interested, salads and more. This time a seller of packaged cakes was also located inside the checkpoint complex. Closer to the entrance to the checkpoint itself, there are crates that indicate that later in the day fruit and vegetables are traded here.

At the checkpoint itself, everything went smoothly. No queues accumulated. People were constantly arriving from both directions and entering without special delays. Quite a few people came from Qalandiya. We looked there and saw that they had just dismantled the entire upper part of the blue metal fence in the part near the closed gate. As we remember, in the past they cut away the bottom part and would creep under the upper fence. The army then blocked this opening, so people bent the bars and walked between them or climbed from above. Now the entire top fence is taken down.  We do not know who removed it, the army or the Palestinians. We still cannot understand why they ever closed the gate that is here and was originally open. Through the fence you can't clearly see the peddler who sells coffee, sweets and extras to drivers standing in traffic on the way to the car checkpoint. He places the goods on the concrete blocks that separate the two tracks on the road. From the top of the tower, a soldier is watching, cocking the barrel of the rifle through the small window.

Around 6:45, after we saw that everything was calm, I went through the checkpoint alone. Inside, 4 out of 6 checkpoints were open for checking objects. The lines in front of them were short and moved quickly. In a few minutes I was on the Israeli side. There I went on the pedestrian bridge to examine the state of the works. You see the exit from the underpass that is being built. On the west side, at the end of the bus parking lot, there is a crane in operation. What is being built there now?

I returned to the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, joined Chana and we walked towards the car. At the eastern end of the checkpoint complex, a wall was erected that hides the works there.  

We got into the car and started driving to Jerusalem via Hizme. Already in the section between the checkpoint and the western part of A-Ram, we saw that a new road is being paved parallel to the existing road. Will those traveling in the direction of the checkpoint travel here, i.e., those who cannot enter the new settlement, i.e. the Palestinians? We turned left in the square and arrived at a place where the entrance to the settlement would probably be. We took pictures, and then we climbed a bit to a higher place to take pictures of the new road section from above.

We returned to the car to continue our journey to Jerusalem via Hizme. A large public building is under construction on the square. We asked someone and he said it would be a banquet hall. The inscription "Ottoman Palace" is emblazoned on the building.

We drove through A-Ram towards Hizme. Just as we arrived at the Jaba checkpoint (which is not permanently manned), soldiers descended from the observation tower onto the road. The officer ordered us to stop and stop the engine. We thought that they might have seen on the cameras that we were filming the works on the underpass and the road and were instructed to stop us. But it turned out that they were just setting up a roadblock. When they finished getting organized, they signaled us to continue driving and the cars after us were not delayed either. The road to Hizme crossing was open and without traffic jams, much to our relief.