Bethlehem, Thu 5.8.10, Morning
6:00 a.m., Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people outside, sitting in a long line along the road and waiting for transportation to work. Some had spread bits of carton on the sidewalk or in the parking lot, trying to catch up on lost sleep; they arrive very early, never knowing whether they will have to wait 15 minutes or two hours.
The Ecumenical companions report that the checkpoint was opened already at 4:45, but the "humanitarian" gate only at 5:26, and only 2 of the 3 detectors working. 3-4 positions for documents and finger-printing were open, and the lines leading to them kept renewing themselves constantly until after 7:00. When we arrived, a female soldier was sitting idly at her post; she said her computer was down. After a couple of minutes a woman, seeing a manned position without a line, went up to it; the computer worked, and she passed. Immediately a line formed behind her, and the computer continued to work.
A number of persons were not allowed to cross. The officer who dealt with these was able to solve only one problem. The rest were sent to the DCL. After the officer left, one of the soldiers appropriated the permit of a man who said he had been working in Israel for 8 years, claiming the permit was no longer valid, and refused to return it. The man refused to leave without his permit, fearing that without it he would not be able to acquire a new one, but also insisting on his right to get it back. He asked to speak to the officer, but the soldier refused to call him. When the soldier was replaced by another, the man tried his luck again, and was told that he could go to the DCL where all the information was stored in the DCL computer, and he would not need his permit. "Why don't you give it to him?" we asked. "He'll succeed in getting through at another checkpoint" was the reply, "because they won't see that the permit has been cancelled." The man continued to wait.
Meanwhile, a man whose 15-year-old son had been stopped at the entrance to the checkpoint, arrived. The DCL could not give him a permit for the boy, he said, because permits for kids under 16 are not required; but here they tell him he wants to take the boy to work, and kids under 16 are not allowed to work. "What business of theirs is it where I take him" he said. "What if I want to take him for a trip?" He too asked to see the officer. The guard observing this from above was not interested in helping. The officer might turn up; or he might not.
After a while the man gave up and continued on his way to Jerusalem. The man whose permit had been taken still hung around an hour later. Again he asked to see an officer. "Get out" the guard said, "if you don't I shall have to force you out." The man did not move. A moment later a police officer appeared, and together with the guard they took the man aside -- perhaps to prevent us from seeing -- certainly to lead him to the exit in the direction of Bethlehem. We glimpsed him outside the turnstile, turning back without his permit. We were unable to hear the words of the officer who broke the man's determination to insist on his rights.