Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
"What, there's occupation here???"
Bethlehem, Etzion DCL
06.30 Bethlehem Checkpoint: A clear and very cold morning, our acquaintances greet us with a friendly “Shalom” and go out to Israel for their daily work. There is no pressure on the Israeli side of the checkpoint, 8 windows are open and a flow of people pass in orderly fashion, but from the Palestinian side there are loud cries of protest indicating overload and severe crowdedness. The people passing by us explain that on the Palestinian side there are two “broken” carousels (it is unclear what the problem is) and the passage from there to here is much delayed. An armed and determined woman border-police officer is directing, with loud shouts, those who are arriving from the Palestinian side to open windows at the end of the hall. Maybe her intention is good and efficient but her tone is shrill and offensive.
Around 07:00 the police-border officer indicates to the soldiers sitting at the windows to allow passage also to people who could pass only at eight and later. This, too, is an unusual improvement.
One should note that this morning, about 10 days after it was announced that men aged 55 and women over 50 could pass without a permit, the innovation is indeed implemented. As we have already seen, many of these “elderlies” do not believe that they could really pass (they probably heard about the trials and tribulations of their friends last week).
07:10 It is strange to see that the departure hall is almost empty. Some windows closed and the soldiers left for a break in the adjacent room. A new ecumenical delegation arrived this morning with the veteran Irish volunteer guiding them. They said that the number of people passing into Israel is smaller than usual, for some reason.
A new young security guard, delicate-looking and sympathetic, starts a conversation with us. He peeks at the business card of MachsomWatch tied to my jacket’s lapel and asks what it says. We respond that we are against occupation and for human rights. The guy opens big, puzzled eyes and says: "What, you really believe that there is occupation here? ... All we do is protect the Jews." He shook his head as despairing of us and went to the other side of the hall.
Whose fault is it that a guy who grew up here has no idea that something with this reality is not right or that it could possibly be different? It seems to me that we, the "left", bear a heavy responsibility for this. We did not try hard enough to reach the two last generations of youngsters, who were born to the occupation reality and were only exposed to “we the chosen people” that justifies every wrong. Is it too late?
07:25 the hall is completely empty and we are leaving on our way to Etzion DCL.
07.50 Etzion DCL
DCL’s windy hill is one of the coldest places in the area and we linger a while in the car. Abu Jihad, as usual, in a heartwarming gesture brings to the car the sweet tea cups he brewed. We “melted” slightly and when the doors are opened we go out into the plaza and the meetings with the applicants who turn to us (not many today) with problems of forms and paperwork and applications for restriction removal. A nice surprise: small and charming bouquets of wildflowers. Abu Jihad picked them for us just now from the hillside and explains with a smile that it is for "Mother's Day" celebrated today in the Palestinian Authority. Here is a small and beautiful gesture of human relations under the dark cloak of occupation.
We fill out official forms to lift restriction from entering Israel for some “restricted” guys. As usual, we listen, write, make them sign, and explain time and again what one needs to provide in order to adhere to the required proceedings to remove restriction that each DCL issues as they see fit.
Abu Abed, 65 years-old, deep wrinkles and bright eyes, goes every week to pray. Years ago he had a permit, it was taken away from him and he would pass without a permit. Suddenly, a week ago, they did not let him pass "Go, talk to GSS in Etzion DCL," he was told. When he went there he waited all day and late in the day they informed him that "GSS is not here today" (apparently, they did not want to see him). One of us told him to come to Etzion and see Sylvia and here he is. Sylvia listens, talks to him and finally says: "Perhaps they wanted to meet you because they want you to work for them. You want to work for them?"
The man respond with bitter humor "to work for them, yes, of course, do they have a carpentry job for me? Why not?! .."