Bethlehem (300)

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Hanah Barag?? (Observer), J.H. (translation)

04:45-08:00 Even at this early hour the roads leading to the checkpoint are packed, including with those that have already passed through and found a patch of sidewalk on which to spread a blanket and try to catch up on some sleep. It’s a difficult sight, expressing without words the horror of daily travel through the checkpoint.

On the Israeli side all proceeds relatively quickly and aside from one case there don’t seem to be any problems. Lior, a military police officer, oversees the crossing. He is attentive and available during his entire shift. The non-commissioned officer of the civil administration was also pleasant and showed good intentions. Unlike them, the civilian intelligence guards behaved despicably. There were three guards that appeared to be drunk. They were dancing and singing, smoking and cursing – unbelievable! Shameful in every respect and reflective of how these people feel about their jobs and their attitudes toward the Palestinians passing through the checkpoint. Their attacks on me I’ll skip – we aren’t the subject in this situation.

The “humanitarian” crossing has been closed since the Ramadan holiday over a year ago. It’s not hard to imagine what this means for Palestinian woman leaving for work at dawn.

It was hard to count how many passed through the checkpoint but it was likely around 7,000 people. Many told us that things have been difficult over the past few weeks. The crossing takes around an hour, with most of the problems arising on the Palestinian side, where there are only two carousels, access to which is from a single line which splits at the end. Because of the crowding there are “riots” among Palestinians trying to get through: young men try to force their way into the front of the line by climbing over people’s heads: difficult and shameful but understandable under such conditions.

Those who manage to cross into the clearing run as fast as they can to the lines for the body and bag screening, and then to a different line for the biometric (handprint) and document screening. Every morning, they have to shove their way into line three times! Aside from laborers, tourists and travelers use the crossing during the early morning hours, which holds things up further.

Many people who seem to recognize us share complaints and request our help, but we don’t have much to offer them in answer. As the years pass I feel more and more frustrated and furious about what’s happening at the checkpoints. Even a good day is a bad day if you’re forced to cross this gauntlet on a daily basis.

At around 7:15 the line is gone, but I lingered, conversing with the various people there.