Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 11.4.10, Morning
7:00 AM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: on the faceof it, things look pretty good. Many people are already outside and the exit hall is almost empty. But then it turns out that today was a bad morning again! People who came early – 5AM – took a long time to cross, (up to two hours!!!) and there are still crowds outside waiting to pass through. The EAPPI person this morning lets us know that 1402 people have crossed by 7:00 AM, less than usual. She also reports that the checkpoint opened only at 5:30 AM, which is late, since people come much earlier.
We get some telephone calls from the people crossing telling us that it is going extremely slow. We made some telephone calls. The crossing picks up while we are there: by 7:20 AM, 430 more people have crossed and by 7:45 AM, the terminal is almost empty with no one outside waiting to cross.
A number of people are refused passage. We call the humanitarian hotline about each one. One of them is let through after a while. We are said about all the others that they don’t have valid permits – may be because of the holiday the permits have not been renewed. For those people Passover closure is still in place.
8:30 AM, Etzion DCL: quiet today. Not many people, some come up to us to ask for help and Sylvia is very busy with one specific case. A couple that wants to get fertility treatment in one of the Israeli hospitals. He is 63 years old and she is 39. They have an appointment for April 15 and Hanna B. was trying to help. By the time we leave, the waiting room is empty (9:45 AM).
At this point we have to rush to meet a Palestinian friend, A., who has been in touch with Sylvia by phone for three years already. It is high time for a meeting face to face. In fact she has never been blacklisted but many of her family members have been. They don’t need a working or merchant permit. They are Christian and they need a permit to come to the Holy Places in Jerusalem during the Christian Holidays. The Church used to ask for a permit for them every Christmas and Easter and they were refused.
The father and the mother of the "clan", two people in their late fifties, early sixties, still looking young and energetic, were blacklisted for years. Also blacklisted were their two married sons and wives, their married daughter and husband and also their youngest daughter who doesn’t have an ID yet – all blacklisted. Holiday after holiday we applied for them in order for them to get a permit. Slowly, one by one, they were taken off the blacklist.Only one son and his wife are still blacklisted. Why they became blacklisted and how exactly most of them are out of the blacklist remains a mystery.
A. takes us on a long route to the house where the family is gathered for the last day of Easter. It is a special experience to be received in their home. We meet the head of the family and his wife, one son and his wife, the elder matriarch and lots of grandchildren - among them the blacklisted couple’s two adorable sons who both come into the living room and formally shake our hands with grave-looking faces. The younger of the two is only four years old! How to get their parents off the blacklist? We will continue trying.
Later on we meet also M., who was also “a security threat”. She is still in school; she looks like a typical teenager, in shorts, braces on her teeth, dangling long legs. She doesn't look threatening to anyone except maybe with her awkward movements she will bump into the big, low living room table with the cutting corners and will hurt herself. She now has also been cleared.
We were also taken to visit a workshop where small sculptures are carved from olive wood. We found very nice pieces of small statuary in the workshop, which are marketed mainly abroad. We are also shown the process: there is a machine, which produces copies according to some model but the pieces that come out are very rough. Then, the artisan works with the pieces – one by one – and a perfect small sculpture is created.
On our way back we meet a person, J., who has to sign an affidavit. He is just thirty years old and has three children. He looks younger than his age. He used to work in the old-age home just outside the wall at Abu Dis. The Catholic Church runs the home and the head of the home is German. They liked him there very much and would be very happy if he could return to work. But he is blacklisted. A school friend may have made injurious statements about him when he was arrested for having been to Syria.
J. was called for an interview with the 'Shin Bet' and was interrogated for more than 4 hours. He told "Captain Benjamin" that he did not have any idea of what his friend had been doing in Syria, but they didn't believe him. At the end of the interview he was told in so many words that "since you have not helped us, we will cancel your permit and you will not be able to continue working in Jerusalem". Since then, J. has not been able to get a work permit.
J. declares in his affidavit that he leads a completely normative life (family, friends, etc.). He declares there that he has no intention to harm anyone or to disturb the public order. In addition, he says that he and his family are known as upright citizens with no criminal or security offenses in their past.
Finally, he asks to be reinstated into the normal work force, without any blemish on his name, to be given back his work permit so as to be able to work again and support his family. There is no work in the West Bank, or at least very little, he says, and the income there is much lower than it is in Israel. Therefore he has trouble keeping the family afloat and he very much needs to go back to his old job. He asks to be taken of the blacklist and we wish him luck.