Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 23.8.09, Morning
7:00 Bethlehem CP 300: Lots of people outside, complaining bitterly: the crossing took an hour and a half. We go inside and the exit hall is full. Pretty soon it empties out with no new people filing in. But on the other side there are many people who can't get through. The man with the six fingers, Zachri ElShitreet, is having problems crossing, even though his computer file is supposed to let him through without a hand scan. (he goes through after our intervention).
Four windows are open (1-5-7-9) and all of a sudden hundreds of new people stream in and have to line up. The number of windows goes down to 3, computer problems. Window #3 seems open, the girl soldier is inside but can't get the computer to work. People line up for her, and she doesn't give them any indication she is not working. We stand there and direct the people to the other lines.
7:40 One of the windows comes to life again, but the problematic window keeps having computer problems (#3). This problem is not solved until we go at 8:15 when the crowd has mostly passed.
In short the problems reported last week keep bugging the system this week too. Not enough manpower, or willingness to deal with the people in a humane way. Everyone gets upset, shouting starts, pushing and shoving. Ramadan has started, people have gotten up early to eat before they leave the house, a hot day is waiting for them, they cannot smoke or drink all day and are on edge in anticipation.
8:50 Etsion DCO: the waiting room is quite full. The self-made list includes 43 people so far, 10 people are inside. As time passes, the room heats up and the AC is not turned on. Three calls to the officer inside are not enough to turn it on. In the afternoon report it transpires that it was never turned on. Again, the day is hot, people are fasting and nervous, they come to solve their administrative situation and are afraid it won't work. Magnetic cards and special permits are not routinely given. No inherent rights, just "special favors".
A young woman, mother of four, has come to get a permit to accompany two of her children to Mukassad Hospital on different dates. The Palestinian DCO has not been able to give her the permits and she insists on coming here. As she doesn't have the required documents, we advise her not to waste her time. But she is reluctant to leave the scene of her hopes. Her only choice is to go to the Bet Jalla hospital, but that one charges money which she doesn't have (her husband is not mentally well and doesn't work).
PS The crossing back to Bethlehem this afternoon (Monday, 24/8) was slow too. We got complaints on the telephone. Attached: the announcement we photographed of the ages allowed for men and women to come to Friday prayers during Ramadan. It is outside the exit hall in Bethlehem.