Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Mon 21.12.09, Afternoon

Shlomith S., Yael S. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Etzion DCL:  after several shifts in which the major issue was the Security Service rejections (Menu'ei Shabak) and following a number of letters that Shlomit wrote but they remained unanswered, we returned today to observe how the process was running.

First we heard people complaining that they had been delayed inside for 4 hours – there was indeed trouble with the computer.

Iyad wasn't there and neither was Danny. This is significant since the absence or presence of the officers affects the passage process.

The problem today was with 6 workmen, inhabitants of Wadi Pukin and working for many years in Israel, in Bet Shemesh or its surroundings. The nearest computerized CP is at Tarkumiyeh – some 30 kms from Pukin and 30 further kms from their work place. Of course, there is no regular Palestinian bus service commuting along this route.

Bethlehem - Rahel's passage - Checkpoint 300:  this checkpoint  is 40 kms away. The pressure and crowding there in the morning is a familiar topic in our other reports. The closest CP is the one at Battir but it is not computerized.

For a long time there was a silent agreement that permit-holders could "steal" their way through to work. Now that "agreement" is no longer valid. The permits were taken from the workmen at the CP and they were referred to the DCL. So here they were since 9:00am.  They were still there at 3pm.

We tried to contact the District Trade Officer but the only reply we got was from a girl  soldier with a laconic: "the computer is shut down and my only commute is waiting for me and I have no other way to get home. What can I do? Call me tomorrow morning and I'll attend to the matter."

Shlomit spoke with Danny who said he would take care of the matter tomorrow morning.

We went on nudging and finally Iyad was on the phone (?) – promising to take care of the matter. Twenty minutes later he called to say that that the permits must pass through the District Trade Officer who would then hand them to the Palestinian DCL, and he wouldn't say how long that would take.

There was also a man summoned by the Shabak a third time this week. We intervened this time by writing a complaint through the humanitarian hotpoint.

Returning to Jerusalem on the Palestinian busline No. 21, we were stopped at the tunnel (Minharot) passage and the soldiers instructed all passengers less than 50 years of age – including two tourists – to get off the bus and return through Rachel's Passage. They threatened the bus driver saying that he wasn't allowed to take foreigners, and then the soldier indicated that I get off the bus in order to return through Rachel's Passage. Finally, a Border Police officer stopped this procedure and had the group mount a mini-bus to pass through. Again I called up Iyad and Sharon – what nonsense to ban the passage of tourists through the tunnels (unless they are on settlers' buses of course).

The instructions are that tourists are to cross through similarly to the East Jerusalemites (Palestinians) – inspection of documents, occasionally baggage. But these instructions haven't yet been relegated to the soldiers on duty at the Tunnels. I hope Iyad and Sharon will finally check on the soldiers at the passages to ensure that they are aware of the instructions.