Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 15.6.08, Morning
06:50 AM, Bethlehem Checkpoint: On Sunday morning, we discover five open lanes on the Israeli side. There is a line stretching about six meters in front of each of them. The Palestinians were organized in lines they were not allowed to sway from. An upset security guard who spoke Arabic made sure of this. Only one person at a time could approach the booth and only when he left could another one approach. It takes each person 6 seconds to cover the distance between the front of the line and the checking booth. A quick mathematical calculation:
6 sec x 1000 people passing through the checkpoint = 1.5 hr late for work.
This is of course if only 1000 people pass through the checkpoint.
And indeed we discovered that the line on the Palestinian side continues beyond the entry gate, something that never happens at such a late hour in the morning. The humanitarian hotline received many phone calls during this time period, but it is unclear what the results were.
Perhaps since everything was moving so smoothly the fifth booth was closed at 7:20 AM and another one was closed at 7:30 AM. The soldier occupying the booth simply laid her head down and went to sleep.
Around 8:00 AM an officer came out and moved the lines closer to the checking booths. We were about to call the humanitarian hotline and thank them when we found out that the line on the Palestinian side was moved beyond the metal detector. At one point there were hardly any people on the Israeli side, but the Palestinian side was crammed. When we left at 8:45 AM there were still many people on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint.
We remembered how happy we were when we found out that one of the GSS restricted Palestinians, whom we helped, received a working permit for Israel. After such a morning we must ask ourselves what were we so happy about? It is obvious that one little working permit does not end any of the hardships. In many cases it only marks the beginning.
09:00 AM Etzion DCL: We learn about the growing number of people at the DCL by the overflowing parking lot and the parking space we find at the far corner of the lot. Many GSS restricted Palestinians approach us asking for help.
An older doctor with a private clinic in Bethlehem asks for our help. He has been GSS restricted for many years. In addition to not being able to enter Israel he is forbidden from visiting Jordan. He was not allowed to leave when his sister was sick. He was not allowed to leave when his grandson was born. Now he has another sister who is very sick and he would really like to visit her. Would he be allowed this time? Lately a new form was issued that allows Palestinians to know if they will be allowed to leave to Jordan and saves them an unnecessary trip to the border in case the answer is no. Sylvia helped direct the doctor regarding the different bureaucratic procedures he needs to go through.
We leave the Etzion DCL at 10 AM.