Bethlehem (300)

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Goni T., Ronit D. (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?


Photo:  A security guard behaving violently to people waiting on the Palestinian side.


06:30  The usual congested mass of people and cars outside the checkpoint.  Today no one tried to chase us away from the parking lot.  Our acquaintance isn’t in his usual spot – the first indication that it will be a tough morning.  Again I ran into the same two guys from the (right-wing) “Blue & White Human Rights” organization.  They’ve been here since 05:45.  Again they give us the phone number of a man whose relatives are trying to help him get his blacklisting removed and who was looking for Sylvia.


The waiting room inside is full.  Four booths are open, and the officer has also opened the gate between the booths.  Many crowd in front of it, trying to get in, including those whose biometric identification failed and others who know it’s faster to go through there.  The officer stops them from time to time, tells them to move back, not rush through, threatens to close the gate.  Many more wait outside, all hurrying to work.  A few minutes later we hear the familiar announcement over the loudspeakers from the Palestinian side – “Close access to the fenced corridors,” indicating that many still wait on the other side, crowding into the crossing.


As expected, those coming through complain of a difficult morning.  A woman tells us the humanitarian gate wasn’t opened even though women, children and sick people were there.  An older man says there was a great deal of congestion;one of the security staff treated people roughly, including elderly sick people.  The nadir was reached when he hit an elderly man in the face; he was crossing to receive medical attention and wasn’t allowed through even though he had a permit.  We received photos (above) from the Palestinian side of the checkpoint documenting the violent behavior of the security staff.


06:45  Goni joins us.  She’d also heard while outside that this morning was difficult.  A man comes through who says people have been waiting on line since 4:30 AM and are being treated “like dogs.”  The waiting room, which had begun to empty, fills again.  Apparently they began letting people through from the Palestinian side.  Even when it appears the situation has eased on our side, people coming through report there are still many waiting to cross on the Palestinian side.  One person calls our attention to the fact that people had their permits confiscated (apparently prior to our arrival).  And, in fact, we see the soldier in booth 4 has a pile of permits.  They were still there when we left.  We didn’t see the people whose permits had been confiscated; apparently they were sent back to Bethlehem.


07:00  Our acquaintance came through only towards 7 AM; he says he arrived at the checkpoint at 05:45 and that there are still many people outside.  Y., the boy who’d had a kidney transplant, arrives with his mother.  We greet them.  Y. looks good; he’s making a marvelous recovery – he’s the only ray of light this morning.


People from “Blue & White Human Rights,” who we understand are on good terms with the soldiers and officers, tell us that in about one month the soldiers stationed here will move to the Qalandiya checkpoint (in view of the reports of problems at Qalandiya; we don’t know whether that’s good or bad).  “Blue & White” were at Qalandiya until now; they decided only recently to come also to Bethlehem.  They’re very concerned that here they’re unable to see the Palestinian side of the checkpoint.  We explained to them that since we’re Israeli citizens we’re not permitted to enter territory of the Palestinian Authority, while at Qalandiya both sides of the checkpoint are considered to be part of Jerusalem.  Before they left they ask when the checkpoint empties out.  We explained that, in our experience, everyone has gone through by 07:30, even on difficult mornings like today.  They asked us to tell them what time that occurrs today.


07:20  Conditions eased slightly; then S., from the ecumenicals, arrived.  She said this is the second time today she’s crossed from the Palestinian side.  Since it was so bad this morning, and it took so long to cross, she decided to remain and go through again to see whether conditions improved.  She repeated what the Palestinians report about harsh treatment today by the security staff, and that one of them hit a sick elderly man in the face.


07:25  The waiting room emptied; we’re told no one is waiting on the other side.  The gate has closed, as well as two of the booths.


We left, not before giving Sylvia’s and Chaya’s phone numbers to people, as usual, explaining which documents are needed to remove a security blacklisting.


Unfortunately, today we weren’t able to go to the DCO.