07:10 Bethlehem checkpoint
:People exiting say there weren’t any problems this morning, that no one is waiting to
enter but that there are long lines inside. That’s what we also saw: the lines for the
document inspection booths are congested and only two windows are open.
Something very serious, which should be complained about immediately, is that there are
signs everywhere reading “Photography is forbidden,” inside the checkpoint as well (see
attached photo). The checkpoint is not a military installation, nor a restricted military
We’re consulted regarding the police. And an innovation: Finally, after some five years,
the Palestinian Authority has been permitted to pave the dirt road to El Khader, below
Highway 60. Cars from Husan, Battir and Nahalin took this road to El Khader for many
years, in the summer dust and the winter mud, as did people walking to El Khader, as
well as adults and children from Husan going to school in El Khader.
08:15 Etzion DCO
Not many people waiting; they’re admitted while being scolded by the lords and masters.
08:30 Beit Ummar
We stop as usual at the new gas station at the entrance to the village which isn’t open
because it doesn’t have an operating permit because it’s on Highway 60. A few taxis
park there, as usual. Solders stand there, as they’ve done often in the past. Four this
time. And armed, of course, from head to toe, as usual. A taxi driver approaches us and
says that his car keys and ID were taken, and he and the taxi have been waiting there an
hour. As you know, soldiers aren’t allowed to confiscate the keys of taxis, and when they
take an ID they have to inspect and return it. When we told this to the soldiers one of
them – apparently the one in charge – said that here he’s the one who decides.
We telephoned the humanitarian office so he could talk to them. He said we could talk
to whomever we wished, but he doesn’t have to talk to anyone. The humanitarian office
transferred us to the Hebron humanitarian office, which transferred us from one soldier to
another and finally said they’d look into it. Meanwhile the senior soldier, who, it turned
out, was also armed with a video camera, approached out car, photographed it and us,
and also said that “people who have mercy on the cruel will eventually be cruel to the
merciful,” and that we’re traitors to our people.
(I’ll add a personal note – it seems to me the time has come to do away with this famous
phrase, which only helps people behave violently without compunction.)
Another soldier approached us a few minutes later and said that if we leave they’ll
return the driver’s keys and ID. We left anyway. We checked by phone with the driver
about an hour later, and they’d been returned. I assume they weren’t happy about the
09:15 Nabi Yunis
A few people approach us for advice regarding police matters.
7.05 Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: it is very busy on this bright cold morning (further south there were still traces of snow in the fields). Four stations were operating with long, but quickly passing, lines and everyone said that conditions were ‘very good’ or even ‘excellent.’
7.30-8.00 Hussan and El Khadr: three meetings are sheduled - for power of attorney and payments (one who hadn’t managed to come last week).
8.05 Etzion DCL: we were told that there would be no police at Etzion DCL, but there would be at other DCL’s. There were 12 men waiting outside. By 8.15 they were all admitted and through the carousel. As we left the DCL we got a call to say that the computers were down at all the DCL’s. Chaya then contacted all the people she had directed to the various DCL’s for documents, to tell them not to go today.
8.45 Beit Ummar: An arranged meeting to collect documents. The man told us that conditions had been very hard lately now that Golani have been posted there.
A TALE OF HEBRON: our friend whom we often meet at Halhul told us: He and his family live in poverty, as we know, very near Mearat Ha-Machpela. The other morning, at about 9 o’clock, after his older children had gone to school he was returning home when he found it surrounded by a big group of soldiers who did not want him to approach. He finally persuaded them to let him enter and found them savagely ransacking his home. His wife was alone with their two little children (one 3 years old). The soldiers were emptying drawers of clothing, emptying food bags – rice, etc. – on to the floor. (He showed us photographs that he took of the havoc.) Then a woman soldier came and took the wife for a full body search – and the little children were also made to strip for searching! When our friend protested he was told that he could complain to A. at a particular phone number. One doesn’t have to stretch one’s imagination too much to understand the purpose of such a visit and what A’s function must be.
9.15 Nabi Yunis: two clients for signing Power of Attorney for searching police records. one Power of Attorney and payment for lawyer. One man whom we have met previously and had ascertained that he is ‘clear’ with both police and Security, says he is nevertheless still not permitted entry.
At Halhul we again met, as arranged, the man whom the MW lawyer said he would not be able to help. The man had heard that a member of MW in the south could do so. We once again warned him to be cautious about paying any lawyer who promised to get him a permit.
9.30 Etzion gas station. Pre-arranged meeting.
Throughout, there were incessant phone calls, either of by new people refused permits by police or Security, or to ask about progress in solving their problems.
7.00 am, Bethlehem: quite a lot of activity in spite of the rain, cold and, as we were to discover later, the almost impenetrable fog on the road south. People told us that passage through the checkpoint was quick because there were fewer people than usual owing to the weather.
At the checkpoint itself a man showed us a woman with three children who were not being allowed through. One of the children did not have a permit. I should point out that this was at a side post, where there was no other activity, so we were not interrupting any soldier’s work. As we approached her to see what exactly was the matter (she was due to go with them to a hospital) a military policewoman – an officer and, according to her, the commanding officer of the place - came and told us to move back to the wall as it was a ‘closed military area.’ We pointed out that this was not so or, if so, she should show us the printed order. She physically pushed Chaya away and to the wall. While we were arguing the point, first a Civilian Administration officer came out and was non-committal, though seemed to agree that we had a point but the soldier was adamant – and all the time physically stopped us from getting near the post. Finally a policewoman came and she and the soldier went away into their quarters. The policewoman seemed to be more understanding. (Hopefully, she may have taught the soldier the correct procedure. But how do you undo years of brutalizing education?) By this time, the woman with her children had, of course, vanished so we could not help her – but we will lodge a complaint.
7.50 am. Entrance to El Khadr: a pre-arranged meeting on behalf of Sylvia – signing of power of attorney and payment.
8.08 am. Etzion DCL: Eight men were waiting outside as the office opened. They continued to wait until we suggested that they go inside. Apparently they are so used to being given orders (and assigned numbers) that they were reluctant to go in on their own – in spite of having waited in the freezing cold.
8.40 am. Beit Ummar: a ‘no show’ – probably on account of the weather. A man approached us with a police traffic report. As it was still within in its valid period, he was advised simply to pay the fine.
Entrance to Halhul: as arranged, we returned papers to a man who was refused a permit, whom our lawyer felt he was unable to help. The man decided to try another lawyer.
9.00 am.We had a pre-arranged meeting on behalf of Sylvia – signing of power of attorney and payment.
A few phone-calls came in – people asking for progress reports on their cases, or new cases of refused permits.
7.30 am. Entrance to Al Khadr: A man from ElArub who owes an overdue fine. Advised to go to Etzion.
8.08 am, Etzion DCL: no cars, but about 20 men were entering the building which apparently had just opened. They were admitted quite soon. Most came for magnetic cards but two were for the police. They did not know why they were refused entry. The policeman said the computer was down just at that moment but he would get back to us with the answers, so we kept in touch with the two men. It turned out that one was not refused by the police, so probably by Security. The other was completely clear! Was it just an arbitrary act on the part of a soldier at a checkpoint?
8.40 am, Beit Ummar: we had to attend a prearranged meeting to collect documents.
9.00 am, Halhul – northern entrance: we met a man about payment of an old traffic fine.
9.15 am, Nabi Yunis: A prearranged meeting for signing of power of attorney and payment. Referred to Sylvia a man refused entry by Security.
During the morning we had two cases of men who had been given provisional sentences by the Court, and could not understand why they were nevertheless being refused an entry permit for an extended period. We had to explain that the police do this independently of the court decision – just the fact that they had been arrested made them subject to refusal of entry. In both cases, the men wanted to approach lawyers for help. We arranged to clarify the situation and keep in touch. There is clearly such scope for unscrupulous lawyers to exploit poor folks’ ignorance. The bureaucracy is truly frightful – it is difficult enough to understand the regulations and the abundant official documents are in Hebrew!
7:30 Hussan – People come to the police station to inquire about matters affecting them.
7:45 Al Nashshash – Ditto.
8:00 Etzion DCL – About 50 people waiting on line to obtain a magnetic card. The policeman is at the DCO.
8:30 Beit Ummar – People come to make inquiries about matters involving the police.
9:00 Nabi Yunis – Ditto.
On the way, as usual, a soldier or two scattered along the road, armed and helmeted like on a battlefield. Jeeps and Hummers also peek from fields, vineyards and alongside houses.
An observation balloon floats above Carmei Tzur, and the police also make their contribution: police officers sit in a car bearing civilian plates, lying in wait for cars making an illegal turn north from Halhul. Reminder: 50 meters of a new, wide road have been paved at the northern entrance of Halhul, but people leaving the town are allowed only to turn south. To reach Beit Ummar – half a kilometer to the north – they have to drive two kilometers to the first entrance to Hebron (Nabi Yunis) and then drive back north.
When we drove by we saw that two Palestinian cars had been caught by the police.
Hussan: we decided to continue in the direction of Hussan, to the checkpoint behind the isolated house. But alas, we were prevented by a flat tire. Fortunately this occured close to the yellow vehicles awaiting passengers to Hussan. The drivers volunteered to change our tire. We thanked them cordially and paid for the work, and then continued on our way hoping to find a place to fix the tire. But this did not work out because it was a holiday, Id al-adha (the feast of the sacrifice), and everything was closed.
Halhul: so we continued to Halhul to visit the family that has befriended us and whom we are in the habit of visiting during holidays.
Bottom line: this time - no visit to the checkpoints.