Checkpoints South and East of Jerusalem
Summary of Information from the Field
Since October 8, 2023, all the southern entrances to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the surrounding villages have been closed to Palestinian residents. No one can enter or leave. Ten local councils in 20 villages and three refugee camps are affected. The villages are surrounded by yellow gates, watchtowers, and roadblocks made from earth, rocks, or concrete blocks.
Some 230,000 residents throughout the area are now prisoners in their own homes. Large percentages of the residents used to work in Jerusalem or in the tourism and associated industries (souvenir shops, laundries, restaurants, etc.) in Bethlehem, and are now unemployed. We focused on a few of the main checkpoints in the area. We had to get the information from different sources since we can’t get to checkpoints themselves, even in a car with Israeli license plates.
Checkpoint 300: Since the start of the war in Gaza, cars have not been allowed through. The road has been closed and the gate is locked. A month and a half ago, it was decided to open the checkpoint between 6 and 9 a.m., for pedestrians with a so-called “entry permit,” those with exceptional medical needs considered life-threatening and sometimes (but not always) for legal hearings, and for diplomats. The 90,000 workers who used to pass through the checkpoint every day are barred from entry. The crossing from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is open.
The DCO checkpoint (the “X” crossing, Har Gilo) was open for a short time for the Christian festivals at the end of December and has since closed. The other western exits to the city have been closed since October.
The Har Homa-Mazmuriya (Khallet an Nu’man) checkpoint: Closed
Nashash – main entrance branching off from Route 60: This main entrance to Bethlehem and Route 60 was completely closed until November 2023. During that month, it was opened for 3 hours a day. Subsequently, the checkpoint was opened every day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Since it is the only entrance to the Bethlehem area and the connection to Route 60 and only one lane of traffic is open, there is massive congestion at the checkpoint and getting through the lengthy traffic jam takes a huge amount of time.
From those who passed by on Friday January 26, 2024, we learned that it takes three hours or more to get through. The soldiers stationed there with whom we spoke denied what the Palestinians said, but what we saw corroborated the Palestinians’ words.
Walajah checkpoint (Har Gilo): Closed
Jaba’a checkpoint (Route 367): Closed
The closure of the entire region has had appalling consequences. The Palestinians who worked in Israel now have no income and many of them are living on the most meager rations. The city of Bethlehem, whose main income is from tourism and associated services, has no work. Last Christmas, the city’s main tourist season, the shops remained closed, hotel rooms were empty and even the famous Christmas tree was not there this year.
The economy is collapsing. Farmers from the villages in the area whose land is in Area C cannot get there. This enables the settlers in the area to take over Palestinian land and build roads for themselves only on the land. From phone calls with people we know, we hear of the despair and dreadful anger. “We aren’t part of the war in Gaza, so why is it like this?” We had nothing to say.