Bethlehem, Fri 11.9.09, Morning
09:10 - 11:45 AM, Bethlehem checkpoint (Israeli side): the third Friday of Ramadan
First a correction from last week. The Eucumenical volunteer tells us that the number of men who passed last week as reported was mistaken, and that close to 10,000 men ( and not 3,000 as they said last week) and nearly 9,000 women passed - this means that nearly 20,000 Palestinians passed here last week.
Like last week, all 6 windows are open but they are served by one male/female soldier each (one window is utilized). In contrast with last week, there are no long lines but a number of Palestinians are waiting in front of each window. We thought that the reason is that daylight savings time is not in force any more in Palestine (“winter clock”) and soon the pressure will build up, but even at the end of our watch the situation remained the same. We were told that several hundreds of people are waiting at the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, but on the Israeli side people passed relatively fast and no lines were formed.
We were told that this group of soldiers who manned the checkpoint functioned very well, as well as is to be expected in the framework of the occupation. The checkpoint is a monstrosity, the restrictions are criminal, the rules are satanic. The behavior of the soldiers was courteous and effective. Specifically we saw reason to praise in this report one of the guards who decided to show leadership, to use discernment, and allowed his feelings to bend the dry rules and to make some kids happy: a 50 y.o. Palestinian man came with 4 children (all under 10 y. of age). Apparently he first said that they were all four his children, but from his papers it become apparent that only two were his children, and the other two his brother's. After waiting and clarifications, he and his two children were allowed to pass, and the two others were told to go home. The two children who remained behind the iron gate started to cry. A policeman and a guard arrived, and suddenly all were returned inside. The four children were told to stand next to the wall and the man was taken aside. We then saw that he was dressed in an army blouse and undershirt and the man was taken aside so we could not overhear what was said. In the end he was allowed to pass with his two children and his two nephews were accompanied by the guard back in the opposite direction. The uncle looked from outside the checkpoint, at his end's wit. The children were crying. And then the guard came back with the two crying children, passed them through, approached the uncle and told him not to do this again, and told us: `They live in a far-away village, and they have no money... what can I do?!”
A few people were not allowed to enter, on the basis of them being prevented (one only found out at the checkpoint). Two 49 y.o. and a couple of months were indignant that they were not allowed to pass (only a few months! One week ago I passed!), and managed after some waiting to pass.
It is not clear how many person passed this time. The Eucumenical did not have complete data, but just what she managed to count (close to 5000 men). About the women she had no information. She was waiting for her friend, who was supposed to go around together with the women. We saw quite a few men who also passed that way. Their totals must be checked; those are reported on their web-site.
It is not clear what is going to happen next week - the last Friday of Ramadan but also Jewish New Years Eve.