Sunday, April 26, 2009

Qalandia Checkpoint

This is the Qalandia checkpoint.
It is designed to keep terrorists out of Israel.
Every single Palestinian or International passing from Ramallah into Jerusalem, man woman or child, has to go through this turnstile, show their identification, run their belongings through an x-ray machine, and walk through a metal detector (a more chaotic version of what we go through at American airports).
That means that if a Palestinian works in Jerusalem, but lives in Ramallah (a common occurrence), they have to go through this every single day.
It is perhaps one of the most frustrating things I have ever witnessed.

I have heard more than one person refer to it as a cattle shoot.
We waited for probably 20 minutes where no one was let through for no apparent reason. This was the most frustrating part. At airports, for example, you know why you are waiting in line and you know approximately how long it will take to get through security. Not here. There were long periods of time where no one was being passed through, and no announcements made explaining what was happening. The line stretched out behind and in front of us, with people confused as to which lane to get into.

We saw the guards laughing and pointing at monitors behind the glass windows. The women and men (mostly women this night) in line were patient at first but got increasingly agitated.
Finally after about 15 or 20 minutes, the green light flashed above the turnstile, signaling that people could pass through. Each time, the turnstile will only turn about 3 or 4 times, and then there seemed to be an indefinite amount of time until it would turn again. Each time it turned green, the people would lunge forward, trying to get as many through as possible on each rotation. Sometime people would get stuck inside the turnstile if it wouldn't rotate all of the way.

I kept watching to guards, and they kept looking at monitors and laughing at something, and occasionally would bark orders in Hebrew over the loud speaker, I assume saying 'step back!' or something to that effect.

The night I took this picture, and crossed from Ramallah to Jerusalem, a little boy got stuck in the turnstile. Not stuck in the open part, but stuck between the bars and the cage. The pushing crowd had seperated him from his mother (who was holding another child in her arms) while going through the turnstile and his little body was yanked and pulled in different directions as the metal bars rotated. Women lunged forward to help him, and he was pulled out. Fortunately, it just looked like he would have a couple of bruises and nothing worse.
The guards didn't react.

I am not speaking politically, this is just what I saw.

1 comment:

Victor said...

When you say you're not speaking poliitcally, that leads me to believe the guards were Israeli and the people were Palestinian (at least some of them).