Bethlehem (300)

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Sylvia P., Chana A., Goni T., Ronit D. (reporting) Translator: Charles K.

Bethlehem checkpoint

06:25  We returned to our shift here after one week’s absence.  The DCL and the checkpoint were closed because of the Pope’s visit; only people going to hospitals and tour groups were allowed through.  We saw the Director General of the Ministry of Tourism boasting on television that the Rachel crossing (the Bethlehem checkpoint) was transformed into a park in honor of the Pope’s visit – as if that could justify the occupation…  Another innovation in honor of the Pope – photos of the country hung on the walls, most of them showing Christian sites.


Many people outside, as usual.  I met our acquaintance just as he exited to the sidewalk outside the checkpoint.  He reports that during the Pope’s visit they’d crossed in buses in the vehicle lane through the tunnels.  He prefers that to the regular checkpoint, but said today the crossing went ok.


Five windows inside are open.  The hall is full; the officer admits people through the gate between the windows.  Only those with permits may go quickly through the gate; the officer examines them and lets people in.  Today he announces that only those aged 40 or older may go through the gate.  Someone who looks younger is asked to show an ID; if he’s under 40 he’s sent to the regular lines.  In one case the officer tells the security guard that the man standing in front of him will be 40 in five months.  He decides to let him through.  Another man has an expired permit.  The officer shows him it was valid until May 30.  He isn’t allowed through.  Later, after the gate closed, we saw that man approach the officer, speak with him.  The officer took the permit, went inside to check something.  He later returned with a policeman, they went through the gate to the other side but we couldn’t see whether the man was eventually allowed to cross.


A woman who came through told us there was great congestion at the checkpoint during the days following the Pope’s visit.  L, on the other hand, says the visit was a success.  She and her daughter went to see the “Papa;” it was wonderful.  She said the visit upset the Moslems.


At one point a malfunction occurred at window 3.  “It’s not working,” the female soldier announces over the loudspeaker.  A few minutes later it’s working again.  A man whose permit is valid from 08:00 isn’t allowed through earlier.  A man with a bandaged hand follows him; his permit is also valid from 08:00.  He says he has an appointment at Hadassah hospital and has errands to do beforehand.  He’s allowed through.


07:00  Windows begin to close.  At one point only two are open and there’s congestion again.  The security guard opens the gate for people to go through.  Someone is sent back; the guard comes through the gate, goes to move him away from the checkpoint area.  This time, at least, he does so politely, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder.  (In the past we saw that same guard violently confront a youth and force him back)


07:20  The hall is empty.  We left.  On the way we stopped to see Jamila’s son – she isn’t feeling well – to buy excellent olive oil, and olives.


Etzion DCL

The machine giving out numbers is working but the screen explaining the procedure for obtaining a magnetic card is stuck; explanations are given over the loudspeaker instead, very loudly, over and over.  The intention may be good, but the result is punishing to those waiting, particularly those who’ve arrived at 08:00 to obtain a magnetic card even though they are issued only beginning at noon.


We explained to those who’d come to request cancellation of their blacklisting what documents they’re missing, and filled out requests for those who had all the necessary papers.  An older woman approached us, speaking English, asking whether we could help her:  she’d worked for an Israeli woman more than 20 years, who’s now taken care of by a foreign worker.  The woman’s daughter fired the Palestinian woman without giving her severance pay, claiming she’d stolen from the mother.  She shows us the jewelry she’s wearing: “I have gold of my own, I don’t need hers.”  We gave her the phone number of Kav LaOved, as well as to a man who said his leg had been injured on his way to work.  He hasn’t worked for three months and has received no compensation.


We stayed longer than usual today to meet a man from Ma’asara and Yael A. and Leah S., our colleagues, who are coming with M., the driver, to collect permits for the upcoming beach days.  Yael and Leah enter the waiting room and are startled to see how institutionalized the occupation has become…


Someone calls to me as we leave, asks me to give a ride to an elderly man in a suit, holding a blue ID card and a payment voucher.  He speaks only Arabic; I didn’t understand why he’d come to the DCL.  But what’s clear is that he has to make the payment at the post office and return to the DCL.  I brought him to Alon Shvut.  The first stage was to locate the post office.  When we found it I realized I couldn’t leave him there by himself.  I went inside with him, and then returned him to the DCL.  A delay of a few minutes for me meant the world to him.  He was so grateful, kept calling on God to grant me health.  What I managed to understand was that he’s 72 years old, remembers what things were like before 1948 and hopes eventually we’ll live here in peace.  Yes, we hope so too…