Beit Ummar, Bethlehem, Nabi Yunis, Mon 26.4.10, Morning
07:00 am, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: there are many cars on the road outside the checkpoint, still waiting for their passengers. There are only two inspection stations open inside, with a few people waiting in line, but outside on the Palestinian side many loud voices can be heard. People are strongly complaining that there is a lot of confusion, they have been waiting for hours and don’t succeed to pass through the checkpoint. (they tell us that) the soldiers only open the checkpoint once every half-hour, let about ten people pass through and close it. Even if the numbers quoted are not accurate they reflect the situation on the ground.
A quarter of an hour after I complain, another inspection station is opened, and more people pass through. Now there are already quite long queues, which advance in front of the three open inspection stations. Every few minutes there is a wave of shouting, angry snarling and a crush of people on the other side, and also the shouts of the security guards or soldiers. In short, a lot of turmoil and of course much anger.
A man calls for my help. His young son has a mask over his mouth and nose, and one can see that he is being treated for cancer. The boy sits down on the floor because of his weakness and his father shows me a printed letter from Hadassah (hospital) stating that his son’s hands are deformed by the chemo-therapy treatment, but the soldier doesn’t let them pass. I took the letter in my hand, approached the soldier and asked him why he doesn’t let the boy pass. The soldier aswers that the delay is not because of the inspection of his hands (ie the finger-print machine). I ask: “if so, what is the problem ?” but because of the noise and confusion I don’t manage to hear his answer.
In the meantime, a security guard, standing above, shouts at me, while I am busy phoning Dalia Bassa, whose telephone does not respond. The guard shouts again, and I indicate to him that the call is urgent. Then a policeman in blue uniform appears and asks me to move away from the inspection station. While I am dialling Dalia Bassa’s office number and slowly moving away, following the policeman, another man - not in uniform but in sportsclothes - appears and demands that I leave (the checkpoint). I tell him that I don’t take orders from someone not in uniform and who doesn’t identify himself. He snatches away my telephone and notebook. The policeman politely asks me to leave and I turn towards the exit. In the meantime, the aggressive guard in uniform, with his name on his identity tag “inspector Chagai Cohen” demands that the policeman should arrest me, with these words “Arrest her and hand-cuff her”. However, this doesn’t happen because,following the request of the policeman, Amram Chion or Ochion, I leave (the checkpoint). Then, while I am outside and am asking the Ecumenical representatives who are there to telephone Hanna Barag, the inspector arrives. This fellow immediately puts his telephone in his pocket and I am taken inside under arrest. Luckily for me, Shraga (the driver) stays outside, because the policeman tells him that he is detained. The inspector arrives, asks for his ID, writes down his details and returns to the office in order to fill-in a form about the arrest and the “detainment”.
Shraga exploits this (the delay) to contact Hanna Barag and passes the telephone to the inspector. At the end of his conversation with Hanna (initially he refuses to speak to her but he softens during the conversation), he says that “he will make an exception and will close the case” ! ! And thus I am freed, after I sign a form stating that I was arrested for interfering with a policeman performing his duty.
After a delay of nearly an hour, we leave to continue on our way, and then I realizethat I have forgotten my ID which remains in the police-station. We collect it on our way back.
09.00 am, Beit Ummar: I handle some cases (requests for assistance by Palestinians). The soldiers who see our parked car approach us to see if we have a problem and offer to help us. They are reservists and extremely nice. One of them tells us that he agrees with everything we are doing and praises us with the words “well done !”. This kind of soldier also exists.
09:30 am, Nabi Yunis: people are there impatiently waiting for our arrival. They complain about our delay but accept our explanation of why it happened. We make phone-calls to deal with their problems. We return home without visiting the DCL because of the lack of time.
On the way, I go into the Bethlehem checkpoint to collect my ID. On the telephone to the inspector, I identify myself and tell him that I am at checkpoint 300. He corrects me “you are at Rachel’s Crossing” , and returns my ID.