Bethlehem, Fri 20.8.10, Morning
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300 (Palestinian side), second Friday of Ramadan: very sparse traffic in the town of Bethlehem. Most shops are closed and town seems to be slumbering in the overwhelming heat. The area of the checkpoint is closed to vehicles, and those arriving in cars have trouble finding a place to park. Because they assumed we were on our way to Jerusalem, the Palestinian police opened the checkpoint for us and we parked nearby.
The Palestinian police are present in force at the entrance to the checkpoint, and operate efficiently. The Civil Administration installed huge fans at the entrance to the parking lot, near the revolving gates at the entrance to the installation and at the checkpoint itself, which create a breeze and a kind of light "mist." They've made the place noticeably cooler and made things much easier for the people going through. Although people got a little wet, they said that "it was good."
Those with permits and who were the "right age" crossed very quickly. Quite a few people stood at the entrance to the checkpoint, hoping for the miracle that would allow them to enter Jerusalem to pray even though they're the "wrong" age and don't have a permit. It's hard when we see the disappointment on their faces. Lightfooted young men tried to surmount the hurdles, hoping to enter Jerusalem, but they were closely inspected and their attempts failed. A wheelchair-bound woman and a very ill man crossed quickly through the wide gate and didn't have to make the difficult trip to go through the checkpoint entrance. The women didn't have to go through the building this week either - they went around outside - which made crossing much faster.
The soldiers behaved politely and respectfully. We heard no inappropriate comments, nor saw no aberrant behavior of any kind. No one ate or drank in the presence of those who were fasting. Some of the soldiers tried to warn us of "danger lying in wait" on the Palestinian side - as well all know, "there's nothing new under the sun."
The feminist connection worked, and we began talking to the Palestinian policewomen - maybe sisterhood will bring about what the men seem unable to accomplish...
The Ecumenicals were on site; in talking to them we got the impression that they agreed with our view of what was occurring here.
A number of people approached us regarding work permits and problems of "אסירים שקופים" -מה הכוונה? . The anger at these issues will become a very painful boomerang.
We left in the afternoon.