Qalandiya - the transition today is fast and no queues are formed
After encountering long lines at Qalandiya in the past few weeks by our colleagues and ourselves, we decided to come an hour earlier, as we used to do in the days of the old checkpoint. Today we reached the area at 5.20, in the dark but with a full moon still above us. Although the stretch of road between Route 443 and the checkpoint has been paved there is still a section without light or a sidewalk. (There are street lights but they haven't worked for years.), so it is really dangerous for pedestrians going to the Atarot industrial area.
Parking in a bay along the road, we saw the pedestrian bridge lit up. When we reached it we saw, even in the dark, that the garbage can underneath had at last been cleared. There were already many people on the Israel side of the checkpoint and many were crossing on the bridge. We hoped this was a good sign, and indeed it was – when we reached the Palestinian side at 5.30, we saw that there were no lines. As soon as people arrived, they entered one of the entrances to the inside passages.
Not finding the beigel seller, Abu Ramzi, in all the checkpoint area including the parking lot, we went towards the entrance facing Qalandiya, where he sometimes stands facing the traffic. To our surprise we found this entrance locked, so there was no entry from there to the checkpoint area which is completely surrounded by a fence. This means that anyone arriving from Qalandiya has to make a long detour and enter from the eastern side (from the direction of al-Ram). Luckily the weather was good today. It couldn't be pleasant in rain. People told us that this gate had been locked since Thursday and no one knew why. Taxis and cars arriving towards the kiosk drop off people at the nearby entrance to the checkpoint parking area. From there, most climb the concrete slope to the eastern end of the checkpoint building plaza. Women and older people continue walking on the level until they reach the steps of the checkpoint building.
Entry into the parking area is not free; only public transport enters. Usually the entrance is blocked by a boom that the kiosk and 'parking-for-payment' sign owners operate. At its exit are yellow road-spikes, so only exiting vehicles can pass. Today this exit was also closed. It was not clear why. Only just before we left did we see a public-transport minibus enter.
We met Abu Ramzi near these road-spikes, with his wagon of beigels, falafel and hard-boiled eggs. He is the only one pleased with this one limited entrance to the area because now everyone passes his way and it's good for business! He hopes to have his cataract surgery on Thursday. We chatted a while and gave him money that our members had collected towards his surgery, for which he thanks you all.
We bought tea at the kiosk from Muhammad and saw his brother Iman who runs the parking. We drank our tea at a safe distance so that we could take off our masks. The surrounding area is full of garbage. Perhaps the Jerusalem Municipality to invest more in cleaning than in confiscating goods and handing out reports …
We returned to the checkpoint and saw that conditions were still quiet and there were no lines. We waited until 6.30 and then passed through in a few minutes. We saw that at least 4 of the 6 baggage-checking machines were operating. At the next stage, document checking, 7-8 electronic machines were operating, and there was one personal checking open. Possibly earlier in the morning, others were open, too.
On our way back to our car we met people who told us that until yesterday conditions were very bad, as we had seen last week. Only today had they improved. The people had got used to coming early because they couldn't know how long it would take to pass through. Now they had to wait on the Israel side for their employers' transport to arrive at 7! They ascribe the better conditions to our being present! If only we could claim the credit. Later we learned that our colleague Hanna Barag had sent a letter of complaint as a result of our earlier reports. Perhaps the letter helped. Let us hope that we won't again see the lines and the pressure- which in Corona times are dangerous to health, too.