Bethlehem, Fri 24.7.09, Morning
09:00-10:30 AM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300:
Summary in brief: "women in MW undermine soldiers' authority in Palestinians' eyes. "
"They can wait, I'm tired".
Two checkpoints are open and quite a few people are waiting in line. The security guard asks for our identity and says "you should have seen what went on around here in the morning!". According to him, there were scores of people even though it was Friday.A young man complains that his friend and him, on their way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, waited in line at the first checkpoint but once they'd reached it the soldier in duty arbitrarily decided that the friend cannot pass through this checkpoint but only through the other one. A couple from the Bethlehem area arrives. They're dressed in a strict traditional manner. They wait at the second checkpoint for a long time with no progress. Then an officer steps out towards us (he was probably alerted by the soldier). The officer examines the couple's papers. Suddenly he turns to us and asks us:
"what's going on?" -
"You tell us." -
"Look, I don't want you to interfere with the work here ".
(this is said quietly and with a hand gesturing at the gate).
"I will speak with you later."
Will last week's episode recur all over again? Even though the officer was replaced (thanks to Hana), we're still accused of interfering with "the work". Yet, the atmosphere is entirely different. The officer insists on turning his back to us throughout his conversation with the couple but he speaks quietly and politely. He explains at length why the document which seems to be a passport isn't sufficient. The man smiles, replies freely and does not appear tense nor upset even though he's forced to backtrack.
After the officer has finished his personal care to the situation, he addresses us and explains:
"the people must feel comfortable. You confuse the Palestinians because when they see you they delude themselves to think you might be able to help them and they pay less attention to the soldiers."
With this clarification the officer ends his emergence and doesn't show up again during our time there. All of a sudden a mass of Palestinians arrives from the Bethlehem direction and a large group of tourists from Jerusalem approaches at the same time. Precisely then, the soldier manning the first checkpoint decided to leave. A very large queue formed on both sides of the second checkpoint post. Inside it a couple of soldiers were on duty but only one of them was functional. We suggested the second soldier would deliver some of the people from his side but he showed us his back in response and did not listen at all. His friend explained:
We called the center but the line was busy. After a few minutes they opened the third checkpoint and people started passing.