Beitar, Bethlehem, Wed 21.7.10, Afternoon
From 3:30 till 5:30 PM
Between the two tunnels there is major construction on the sides of the road in addition to a new lane there are already some pieces of the new wall (plastered with Jerusalem stone) preventing a peek into ‘enemy territory' in place of the concrete slabs which apparently had not provided sufficient protection and will soon be removed.
Beitar CP: we stopped at the very crowded parking lot of the yellow cabs at the junction with the newly installed traffic light serving the inhabitants of Beitar Illit, but also of course those from Tzur Hadassa. The coffee vendor does a brisk business, in addition to him only kites are sold and no proper market has as yet developed.
El Khadr Underpass: the unpaved road towards the underpass into El Khadr is now in constant use with its inevitable huge dust clouds. It also often causes engine trouble, since although it makes for an important shortcut, which saves gas, it is a strain on the cars. One of the drivers, who happened also to be the owner of his vehicle, told us he prefers to drive around via El Nashshash and spend some more money on gasoline, rather than wrecking his car. He has a special license with which he is allowed to drive all over the West Bank, most of the others are only allowed to drive on the stretch between El Khadr and Hebron and will get a 1000 Sh. fine if they drive beyond the permitted region. There is no checkpoint beyond the underpass and altogether there is not too much Border Police presence lately. The red sign preventing Israelis from entering into Area A is placed on the far side of the road to El Khadr and cannot be seen if an Israeli turns from Road 60 via the parking lot straight onto the dust road.
Beitar Checkpoint: We continued to the CP where a group of high-ranking officers was touring the place under the command of the Brig. Genral of the Etzion Division - a nice man who was a little offended when we suggested he was the ‘instructor'. A girl in civilian clothes belonging to the Ministry of Defense was checking the contents of trucks, this is a passage for goods too and there is an office of the Ministry of Finance in charge of verifying the amount of VAT paid and whether indeed the truck drivers are in possession of the proper documents - apparently Israelis and Palestinians work very well together in the process of cheating the tax authorities as was explained to us by one of the Ministry's workers who travels among the various checkpoints (Tarqumia, Bitunia, etc.) to check. He told us that almost every ten minutes an ‘illegal' load is caught, but we waited and nothing was found.
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: As we neared the Rachel Crossing we already saw the angry crowds and inched our way through the men to get inside. They let all women through to get there first, but we met with a jittery security guard who claimed that he could not help it that only two windows were open. We urged him to call for more soldiers to man more windows but his reaction was to shut the doors and not let anyone in. He was unable to control the crowds and finally a policeman came and opened one of the gates, letting everyone through - they entered ten by ten and exited in an orderly way and within a couple of minutes the enormous queue had ‘evaporated'. He called to inform the ‘authorities' that he had let about 150 Palestinians pass without checking in the hope that these men will not encounter any problems in the morning when returning to work after not having gone though the proper procedures when exiting.