Bethlehem, Fri 28.8.09, Morning
First Friday of Ramadan
Bethlehem CP, The Palestinian Side
In general the men's crossing was smooth, quiet and involved no long waiting. At the women's crossing many were crowded who were under the authorized age and frustration ran high. The constabulary, BP and Civil Administration treated the human traffic with respect and sincerely attempted to manage everything smoothly and respectfully. Those who partook of food and drink did so unobserved by the crowd hurrying to prayer.
When we arrived at 08:45 the streets of Bethlehem were empty and the shops closed - early morning holiday atmosphere. Even parking was easy. At the CP we found a short queue of men who crossed over rapidly. In the women's queue there were many who couldn't cross the age barrier. The UN and Church representatives told us that 2000 had crossed before we arrived. Children of up to 12 crossed with a birth certificate, above that age they were forbidden to cross. One child from a multi-children family who looked older than his age was at first not allowed to cross but our intervention and that of the UN representative saw him through. A cripple hard of walking was allowed through the partially opened iron gate. Our impression was that more were allowed prayer passes than in previous years.
At the entrance to the building women were allowed through the car crossing point like last year. They were inspected by women soldiers, within the building manned by the blue police force. It took five minutes to the "sleeve" and another 15 to exit on the Israeli side. The first turnstile in the building itself turned to the tune of 10 people at a time. All three "sleeves" and five inspection points were operational.
When we left at 11:30 traffic was slack and it looked as if most prayers were well on their way to the mosque.