em (Palestinian side), 10.8.12, fourth Friday of Ramadan
Translator: Charles K.
08:30 – 11:30
In general: The road to the checkpoint is closed to private vehicles; public transportation has priority. Many buses waited on line, picking up passengers and leaving for the Old City. A few private cars which had nevertheless obtained permits were on their way to Rachel’s Tomb.
Lanes: Apparently as a result of what was learned last week, now a fence had been erected which prevented congestion at the entrance to the “cages.” The Ramadan miracle gate was open for the women to cross. Throughout our stay the metal gate was open to people with handicaps and those who had difficulty walking.
The Red Crescent: It’s again worth mentioning the efficiency and commitment of the Red Crescent volunteers.
The Palestinian police: They seem to have learned last week’s lessons; there were many more Palestinian policemen and policewomen and more senior officers.
The Israeli forces: The soldiers, MP’s, Border Police soldiers, DCO soldiers and the Israeli police behaved honorably and considerately. A female Border Police soldier who’d raised her voice was quickly reprimanded by an officer.
Our shift: The areas where the young men had crowded together last week were blocked off. That reduced tension and prevented provocations. Someone (not us) counted about 2000 women and 1500 men crossing every half hour. They were more careful this week to prevent men younger than 40 from crossing. The great disappointment on the faces of those denied entry is difficult to see. It seems there are many more people crossing than last week, but there were no delays and crossing took no longer than 20 minutes. Older and elderly men weren’t required to go through the building this week either, but bypassed the checkpoint along with the women.
A deaf-mute youth, about 15 years old, who’d arrived alone, sat on the side surrounded by some Border Police soldiers who spoke Arabic and Palestinian policemen, who tried to find out who he was, and whether he had any problems other than his deafness. Everyone tried to help; he finally returned to Bethlehem.
UN personnel on site approached us at the beginning of our shift, asking whether we’d heard anything about the harassment of foreign journalists. We asked everyone we could, Palestinians and Israelis, whether they know anything about it but no one did. Later two female Irish journalists showed up and ferociously “attacked” Netanya, accusing us of “aiding the occupation” by our very presence. We wondered whether this incident was connected to the rumor about harassment.
Summary: We had the impression that more people crossed this week than last. The army learned lessons from the difficulties that arose last week and reorganized the crossing lanes, which greatly eased the crossing. People went through quickly, considering how many people wanted to cross.
We had to leave early for personal reasons.