Bethlehem (300)

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Sylvia D., Hannah A., Goni Z., Ronit D. (Reporting), Translation: Naomi Gal
Seriously? Does this make us safer?


Bethlehem Checkpoint 
06:30 – as usual, outside there are many people and cars. Inside 6 windows are open but the hall is not full. From the Palestinian side of the checkpoint an announcement on the loudspeakers can be heard, instructing to open the carousels and pass the people who are waiting in the paddocks for the security check windows. Loud shouting can be heard and the hall is starting to fill up. Later on there are shouts from the other side to stop the people’s passage and in response the hall on the Israeli side once again empties. The outcry of the waiting people rises up to the sky...

One police officer yells at one of the people saying that his permit is for 08:00, so let him come back at eight. In contrast, at window 1 a woman soldier patiently and politely explains to someone else that she won’t be able to pass him since his permit is for 07:00, which is later. At one point the soldiers in windows 1 and 2 called the security guards to keep away the people whose time hadn’t yet arrived.  Later, in a different window, we saw a policeman who nevertheless enabled two women to pass, although it was before the time listed on their permits.

People complain that the situation today and lately is very bad. There is a lot of pressure, the passage takes a long time, and the soldiers do not do their job properly. One person complains that he has been waiting since 04:00. It is now after 07:00 and he is afraid that he’ll miss a day’s work. He says that some people gave up and went back home because it was late and they had already missed a day of work. Also he says that two people suffering from heart problems felt unwell due to the overcrowding and an ambulance had to be summoned. The policeman tells us they received instructions not to open the gate between the windows because they have to register all of them  on the computer. As a result there is no way to decrease the pressure when the hall fills up.

A boy with 2 big bags tries to pass through one of the windows, but is rejected and sent back. He tries a different window and this time is "caught" by the security guard who accompanies him back to the Palestinian side.

At 07:20 the hall is still full. An officer stands in the seventh window but that’s not enough to pass all the waiting people at a reasonable rate. A. the ecumenical volunteer from Switzerland arrives from the Palestinian side after an hour and a half of crossing. She says that occasionally they allowed women to pass outside the line. Among others they passed an elderly woman on her way to the hospital, but did not allow her husband to pass. Only after the Ecumenical explained to the soldiers that the husband is accompanying the woman to the hospital they allowed him to pass too. She added that they raised the fences higher on the Palestinian side, so that people will not be able to climb and jump over the top to the head of the line.

A man arrives with a little boy. He is on his way to Hadassah Hospital, where the boy is supposed to have surgery. He says that he called the Humanitarian Center 9 times to ask them to let him and his son pass so they won’t miss the operation. The Humanitarian Center passed them to the checkpoint, at the checkpoint they said there is no officer that can approve and finally the soldier who answered the phone said: "Fuck you." The man is overwhelmed and relates his story in a trembling voice and tears in his eyes. The sick boy stands next to him and looks frightened and had to watch his father being humiliated. When we asked they said that they had someone to drive them to Hadassah Ein Kerem. They just hope to be admitted and have the surgery despite the delay.

Another person tells us that his son is in prison. In order for the son to shop at the prison’s canteen the family has to deposit money for him. But there's a problem: the payment must be done in an Israeli Post Office and only people with an Israeli ID can do it. Sometimes he manages to get someone to make the payment for him, but these days people fear their names might be associated with someone who is in jail.

07:45 – at long last the hall is starting to empty and some of the windows close. We left. Hannah and Sylvia continued to DCL.