Bethlehem, Fri 14.8.09, Morning

Efrat B, Claire O. (both observing and reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Many more people than usual on Fridays, as if there is more activity than usual before Ramadan. To windows are open most of the time. Only at the end of the watch a third window was opened, but by then it had become superfluous.

The soldier in the first window worked quietly. In contrast, in the second window sat a coarse soldier, who spoke brutally, in a loud voice, who addressed the Palestinians impatiently, knocked loudly on the glass partition and shouted. An old woman, who did not understand how to hold her permit and to press it against the glass was called "stupid". Every time we tried to interfere, to explain, he ignored us and not to meet our eyes. Most of the time another soldier sat next to him. It is not clear if this was a newcomer who is being trained but they looked very amused.

There were two instances where people needed help and the soldier just ignored them until he understood that he had to do something. One of the guards interfered but was reprimanded roughly afterwards.

A woman with a young boy (maybe 12 y.o.) arrived and after she passed she realized that she had forgotten something, apparently during the examination on the other side. She tried to explain this to the soldier who initially ignored her. After some time he agreed that the child go back and look on the other side. And the child returned with a bottle full of burgul, but the soldier did not agree to let him pass with the bottle: ‘maybe they contain bullets'. The child and his mother said that the bottle had been checked on the other side and that they had forgotten it on the other side of the checkpost. In the end, the soldier told the child to go back and to be checked again and then he could pass with the bottle. And so it went; luckily the line was not long any more, and he managed to salvage the bottle.

A man of about 45 y.o., dressed in a suit. After he passed he realized that his money (several hundred shekels) and his checkbook were not with him. He was very confused and afraid, hesitating what he should do, was advised by other Palestinians. He was certain that he forgot his money during the stages of the check on the Palestinian side or that his things fell during the check. He requested that he be allowed to return and look for his belongings. The soldier refused. On of the maintenance people went to look but did not find anything. The man did not know what to do, in the end he asked the soldier at the first window and he phoned to the other side and asked that they search. After 10 minutes they called that they indeed found his belongings and he was allowed to go back and collect his money.

A young man who works for Amnesty International approached us. He stressed that lately the examination at the Palestinian side is especially thorough. He told us that every little and innocent incident causes delays. E.g. yesterday there was a child who was playing with a key. For fun he tried to insert the key in some of the machinery at the checkpoint and the soldiers, in response to this occurrence, intensified their examinations and delayed the people for half an hour.

A year ago we noted that there was a serious preparation before Ramadan, and it was apparent that there was goodwill to let the people pass in an organized and honorable manner. We hope that this year preparations are made in the same manner and we would like to know who will replace Roni as commander of the police in the area.