Etzion DCL, Sun 31.8.08, Morning
About ninety people sat on benches in the hall, both along the walls and in the centre of the hall. About thirty more were crowded outside. Not all the people were waiting for magnetic cards; some of them were there for other reasons. After some time, an officer appeared and gave us an explanation of the DCL's plans to improve the difficult conditions that prevail especially on Sundays and Mondays (the days allocated to Bethlehem and its surroundings).
An attempt will be made to solve the problem of issuing numbers for the queue as follows : everyone who arrives by 07.30 will be allowed to enter through the first turnstile, to the left of which is installed the box containing the numbered tickets. The applicant will take a number, then pass through the turnstile and go through the hall (which is hidden from him), and will depart through the usual door with the number in his hand. This will enable him either to return and take a place in the waiting hall, or to decide to go about his business and return later in the day. About a hundred numbers will be issued each day.
Humanitarian cases will be accepted even without a magnetic card. It was also promised that an officer will be present more frequently than has been the case up till now. New chairs have been ordered for the waiting hall (but they won't appear tomorrow - this is the army, after all . . . ). The main part of the procedure takes place in an additional hall which we are unable to see. There, the people sit who have passed through the first turnstile and the magnometer inspection.
In the latter waiting hall there are enough benches and a television set on which is displayed a detailed explanation of the DCL procedures. It is also air-conditioned (excessively). Magnetic cards are received at two windows. The applicant enters the room alone, and a soldier sits opposite him behind a glass wall. A biometric inspection machine is installed on the applicant's left side, and he is required to operate it in order to receive the magnetic card. There are only two such windows and in the present state of the infrastructure it is not possible to install a third one. After this window there is another one for humanitarian cases, and another one for the policeman. It was explained to us that the intention is to change the position of the policeman's window, and perhaps this will enable an additional magnetic-card window to be provided.
We asked if it is possible to install a vending machine for coffee, tea and cold drinks in the waiting hall. Nothing was promised. We again complained that there is no machine for renewing finger-prints in the Bethlehem checkpoint (but in fact we knew that this isn't the right place for this complaint to be made). We also asked that on the application form, both for GSS-denied people and for police-denied people, the reason for the denial should be written.
We also asked that the queuing order organized by the Palestinians should be taken into account in the design of the new system of number allocation.
Today, we heard from the DCL staff that the new number allocation system didn't work well. The first numbers were issued using the new method, but this resulted in a lot of pressure at the turnstile and the numbers then had to be issued manually by an officer. No account had been taken of the list that had been prepared by the Palestinians, and we again appealed to the liaison administration to remedy this, but they told us that for the time-being no changes would be made to the system of taking numbers from the box. However, there is apparently some willingness to reconsider this proposal, and we asked that they try to coordinate this matter with the Palestinians.
Only about a hundred numbers per day will be issued.
In the light of a remark made by Hanna O, we asked that an attempt should be made to “persuade” the policeman to give out essential information : the applicant's file number, and its location. We also asked that police-refused people should be referred directly to the policeman. However, it is not certain that this will be done