Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 16.8.09, Afternoon

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Observers: 
Neta E., Daniela G. (reporting)
Aug-16-2009
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Afternoon
Seriously? Does this make us safer?


14:20 PM, Ezion DCL:  a tough shift. The parking lot is packedand so is the waiting hall. Some 60 women and men in it. It is boiling insideand the air conditioner is out of order. What else is new… Luckily the coolerworks and there is cold water for the thirsty who have been waiting long hours.A very nice and able man has the list of who goes in after whom, and isassisted by another man with a cast on his foot who for some reason objects toNeta's filming the ongoings. Both men are accosted often, mainly by severalwomen, young and old. Loud heated arguments develop and it is a miracle they donot end up in blows. Everybody is extremely frustrated and tired.

The original list had over a hundred people on it. Ramadanis a few days away and unlike previous years, in order to acquire a permit forthe prayers in East Jerusalem, one has to havea magnetic card. Presumably, this is another device invented to get more andmore Palestinians to apply for magnetic cards so the occupiers have a more upto date data base of the West Bank residents.According to the people waiting, they have been there since the early morninghours and the rate of entrance into the office is extremely slow. The peoplecoming out claim there is only one window open in the office, therefore thevery slow service.

The heat and tension are unbearable. So is the fact that ourhands are tied and there is very little help we can offer besides empathy. Wetalk to the soldier behind the turnstiles who says he'll see what he can do, wetry calling the officers in charge but they are in a meeting. The soldier inthe Humanitarian center does answer and promises to convey everybody's despair.

Two hours have gone by and things have moved somewhat faster.About 40 people managed to go thru the turnstiles into the office (the soldierbehind the window is quite civil), but in the meanwhile some 20 more magneticcards seekers have arrived. Thus, at 16:45, 15 minutes before closing time,there are still over 30 people in the waiting hall when the soldier announcesthat only 10 more will be able to enter today. All 30 people rush to theturnstiles making it difficult for those whose turn it is according to thelist, to push their way thru. At this tensed point the officers in charge makean appearance. Everybody wants to be heard, to plead her/his case, most of themto no avail. We try to persuade the officers to permit those who will obviouslynot go in today to come back some other day during the week and not have towait till next Sunday, but they are not convinced. They end result is theyallow 5 more women to go in, but all the others will have to come again nextSunday, the day designated for Bet Jallah residents. So much for that.

During this long while, 2 men approach us with a similarstory – they are in possession of a merchants' permit but were suddenly advisedat the Bethlehem CP that there is a problem with their permit and that theyshould go back to the DCL, which they do. However, at the DCL they are informedthat "there is nothing on the computer" and everything is in order.At the CP they are still denied entry and thus are forced to go back and forth.Besides them, a 48 year old man has been denied a work permit because though heis married he "has no children". Is this a new rule, he enquires? Werefer him to H. who will try to help him. Last, but not least, a man comes upwith the following problem: he is married to an Israeli woman, his 2 boys haveIsraeli passports, he has a business in Jordan,a house in Bethlehem,but does not want to apply for family unification. But he does need a permit toenter Jerusalem, which he has received time andagain, because his son has a kidney problem which has to be treated in Jerusalem and his wife isnot healthy enough to accompany the child since she is asthmatic. He cannotunderstand why last week he was issued a permit for a week only, contrary toother occasions when the permits were for 30 days, 3 months and the like. Hehas been waiting in the DCL office for 3 hours because only the officer incharge can sign another permit, only to be told by this officer, when hefinally arrived, that the permit (this time for 3 months) will be awaiting himat the Bethlehem CP. He calls us some hours later to say that nothing doing. Nopermit as yet. All we were able to do was to promise to follow up tomorrowmorning.

Bethlehem Checkpoint 300:  though a whole busload arrives and manyrush in all at once, it only takes about a minute to come out at the otherside.