Bethlehem, Fri 1.8.08, Morning

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Ephrat B, Leah A (both reporting)

09:47 AM, Bethlehem Checkpoint: Inside, almost empty, even though there are three positions open. Only individuals passing through. A group of Oriental tourists passes in the direction of Bethlehem. Two security guards are circulating. One says to “Machsom Watch?” We also see that one of the women commanders and another officer are circulating. Appears that there is increased awareness for Friday, and on the other hand few people.

At the entrance to the building a young man is waiting. We ask him if he passed from Bethlehem, and what is happening on the other side. This was after a number of people coming out were fuming. There is a lot of noise from the other side, and it’s not clear what is happening. We hear that there are a lot of people there, though it’s quiet on our side. The young man says that his girl friend has already been trying to pass for two hours, and that there are perhaps 200 people there. We ask another man and he also talks about hundreds.


10:00 AM: We phone the Humanitarian Centre. The female soldier says she will check. Ten minutes later, still nothing has changed, and we hear shouts and movements on the other side. We decide to call Roni, who explains that all the positions are working and the passages are open, and there is reinforcement, and this after the Civil Administration has begun to give passes for prayer on Fridays to 1,000 people from the area, most of whom are older women. The slowness of transit, he contends, derives from the fact that they are not versed in passing a checkpoint, and particularly not one with turnstiles. According to him, there is nothing to do since everything is open, and there is reinforced manpower.


10:20 AM: The woman soldier from HC calls to update us that another turnstile is now being opened.


Were all the passages open till now?


10:30 AM:  The first position reopens (it closed 15 minutes ago). More and more people are streaming out, most waiting by the exit for family members and friends who are not yet through, among them indeed a large number of older women. The guards and one of the commanders come out and ask the waiting people not to stand in the exit way. They particularly ask this of a young man who has been waiting a long time for his girl friend.


We wait to see that transit is flowing more, and that there are no special problems, although we can still hear a lot of people on the other side.


11:00 AM: We leave.