Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Wed 20.10.10, Afternoon
13:00 - 16:45 pm, Nuaman and Etzion DCL: the border policeman at the vehicle crossing underneath Nuaman only wanted us to declare that we ourselves take responsibility for entering.
The pedestrian crossing just swallowed a group of children on their way home from their school in El-Khas. It was 1:45 pm and the temperature around 35 degrees. The children exited the booth at the CP after a couple of minutes accompanied by a woman carrying a heavy shopping bag. We stopped to offer them a ride to the village. The children hesitated a little, but when they saw that the lady was pleased to get into the car to save herself the walk uphill in the intense heat, they agreed too. The road which is exposed to the elements, the heat in summer and the storm and rain in winter is indeed very unpleasant.
The village was as sleepy as usual in the middle of the day and there was no one on the narrow street. There are ever more ploughed fields, around the houses of the village in the yards themselves. We saw no point in remaining there, but we always feel that we ought to visit from time to time.
Already from afar we noted the large number of cars parked at the lot in front of the Etzion DCL. The waiting area was full, but most of the people crowded, in a human mound on the stairs leading to the turnstiles. From the midst of this heap of people there was pushing and shoving; shouts and curses. Some people approached us complaining bitterly about the situation at the DCL. According to some of them they had been there since 4:00 or 5:30 am. Others, or maybe the same, were angry because they had already been coming for three consecutive weeks in order to get a new magnetic card. Each time they had been sent home because the DCL closed before they had been able to enter. The men also complained that the work pace is extremely slow and that each half hour only four people are allowed to enter. We managed to squeeze through the crowds to the turnstiles and asked the soldier whether it would not be possible to speed up the procedure. He answered politely that he could not operate the turnstiles if there is so much pressure on the turnstiles and that the men had to sit down in the waiting room. We suggested making a list so that there would be no pressure on the turnstiles and thus the crowds moved towards where we were sitting and trying to compose the list. The anger and shouting concerning the order of the list only increased. We called the officers of the DCL and asked for one of them to come to calm them down. And indeed about half an hour later two officers arrived. One called Danny and the other to protect him. Danny, who spoke Arabic talked to the crowds and called them to order. The men obeyed and the officer then almost randomly chose about 20 people (the first was the only woman who had been in the queue) and promised they would be received and the others (around 40 of them) were told to go home and return in a week's time.
After he had finished getting rid of the people in the waiting hall he turned to us and tried to answer our questions re the terrible pressure and the prospects to find less degrading solutions for the populations which depend on the DCL for their survival. Our feeling was of course that no real effort was made to deal with these problems which just require a little organizational thought.
The main reason of all the pressure is of course the fact that all the magnetic cards lapse at the same time. Could there be no varying times of extension? For instance for a year, 13 months, etc.? Another reason is the lack of sufficient manpower in times of pressure. Couldn't the soldiers be asked to work longer hours during those periods in exchange for a few days off after things return to normal?
We are no experts in organization and methods but some people are.
We are certainly able to notice that the situation we observed today creates increasing bitterness and hate towards the ruler!