Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 9.11.08, Morning

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Ofra B., Sylvia P. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

6:30 AM, Bethlehem Checkpoint:  even while we were on our way we were informed by a Palestinian worker who from time to time calls us to tell that situation is difficult. He told us that he arrived at the checkpoint at around 5:10 and he is already at Tantour. An unusual pace for Sunday morning .

7:00 AM: we are traveling in the direction of the checkpoint and suddenly  .. a police checkpoint. One can only go as far as the road to Giloh. There, in the area, a multitude of people are gathered. Many vehicles are parked, and a mass of people, mostly religious Jews. We guess that it has to do with an activity centered around the tomb of Rachel, but we ask the policeman and he tells us: ‘ there is a festive procession’. And sure enough, at Rachel’s tomb -the road, which every morning is packed with Palestinians who are on their way to work, is now filled with religious Jews. Even so, Palestinian minibuses are working from time to time.

We request to get through to do our duty – to watch what goes on at the checkpoint. “Only with a permit”, we are told. We call Dudu, the vice-commander of the checkpoint. No answer. Then we try Hannah but even she does not succeed “to open the checkpoint for us”. But in the meantime we hear also from her and also from Haya that there is  a serious problem at the Bethlehem checkpoint. More that 1000 persons are massed together at the other side and they are not allowed in. Haya contacts Nissim Adari and we call the Humanitarian desk.
We tell the Humanitarian desk: “Rachel our Mother would turn around in her grave – the festive procession around her prevents Palestinian workers, who are hard-up to bring bread home”. The workers can travel by public transportation and not mix with the local population, heaven forbid. The Humanitarian desk promised to deal with the matter.A policeman who is present at the site is interested in us. We tell him that we are waiting for permission to pass. He gives us 5 minutes. While we are still waiting, we get a report from Haya that the checkpoint was opened and the people pass. Maybe our call, maybe Haya’s call, maybe the Humanitarian desk or maybe Rachel our Mother who is turning around in her grave ..  

07:45 AM, Road # 60:  at the bus station one can see the glimmering sign: ‘Jewish soldier, for Jews’ and other similar signs of that kind. We stop the car and clean up the noticeboard. Just one noticeboard. Afterwards we pass some more similar signs but we are in a hurry to reach Etzion DCL before numbers are handed out.

07:55 AM, Etzion DCL:  the hall is already open. An officer and a soldier are facing the crowd. They read out names from a list and hand numbers to those waiting. We thought: visions of Messias era. They take into account a list prepared by the people! But no – these were the persons who were there last week and not admitted. A couple of minutes later it becomes clear that this list contains only the names of those who waited until the end of the day. Many people come with numbers from last week, who apparently despaired and left before the end of the day. They are not on the list. They show the numbers to the officer, and he tears them up. After that anyone who still has a number from last week does not disclose this, but still hopes to use that number. A doctor comes to renew his magnetic card. We met him last week also. He asks for help – he must be at the hospital. He cannot spend his whole Sunday at the DCL. We turn to the officer and explain the situation. He gives him a number and when all are inside the hall, he is called also by the loudspeaker to come in.

After giving numbers to women and old people, they start handing out numbers to the others. Renewals and refreshers get priority. Ninety numbers are distributed and many disillusioned persons remain without numbers.

This is a denigrating situation.

We talk to the officer and ask if he believes that this situation will lead to feelings of love in these youngsters, who come time and again and even don’t succeed to get to the window. He answers that he must give priority to those who have work and if the card is not renewed the work permit cannot be renewed or be used. We have no discussion with this consideration, but why are there not more windows such that the population may be served in a human way?