Bethlehem, Sun 23.5.10, Morning

Sylvia P., Ofra B., Chana A. (reporting)

Bethlehem - CP 300

This will be an unusual report. It is about three shifts at the Bethelehm checkpoint and shows a "trend", a deterioration. It will be short.
All reports here are about Sunday morning shifts.

The essence of this report is the decline seen in the number of workers crossing at this checkpoint and the continuing difficulties, hardships, harsh attitudes of the soldiers and more. Secondly, the time: Workers have to be at their job early. Once they cross the checkpoint, they still have to reach their place of work. Every hour lost in the morning has to be paid back in the evening, sometimes a full day's work is lost. Workers get up in the middle of the night in the hope of crossing early, but then it takes them two hours or more to cross, this is pure cruelty. In order to cross at more humane checkpoints, people have to take taxis around to the east, a costly and time consuming procedure. But it seems many find that more convenient and that alone should ring a bell!

May 9, 2010:

07:15 1500 have crossed. There are still hundreds of people on the Bethlehem side.
The humanitarian line was opened only at 05:25. The CP was opened at 04:45. One metal detector only was operating and this caused major uproar. A second one was put in operation and about 500 people passed quickly. Then one of them again went out of order and it took Alex from the DCO Etsion to put some order back. Workers tried to use the humanitarian line and had to be brought back, they tried to use the turnstile in the wrong direction and had to be disciplined, etc.

07:30 2044 have crossed.  07:45 2164 people crossed. In other words, 664 people crossed in half an hour. But it was at the wrong time. By now the laborers have lost an hour or two of work.

May 16:

The humanitarian line was opened at 5:50 only, the regular line even later. The EAPPI called the humanitarian hotline five time to no avail. Once the crossing started, two metal detectors were operating. One of the security men was showing off his importance by shouting and so did one of the soldiers. It takes two hours to cross.

07:15 1500 have crossed. Only 49 women and children. The exit hall on the Israeli side is full but only three windows are open. 500 people are still waiting at the metal detectors, 100 are in the humanitarian line.
07:25 200 additional people have crossed. 07:55 2100 people have crossed, appr. 200 are still waiting outside.

May 23:

 The gatesinfo-icon for cars and buses are closed. So is the parking lot. Cars are being diverted to the tunnel checkpoint. A mechanical failure, we are told, but the gates are closed with padlocks!
Inside, the woman soldier gives us dirty looks and wastes her time by upbraiding us.

07:10 1500 people have crossed. Outside the line is long and little movement. Again the crossing takes two hours.
07:35 1830 people have crossed, 200-300 are still waiting outside.

In other words: this checkpoint, which in the past used to handle up to 3000 people, today is not able to handle some 2000. It takes so long to cross that workers prefer spending money on taxis to cross at the El Zayyam crosspoint. Metal detectors (3 or 4 are installed) are often out of order and not more than 2 are operating at one time. The humanitarian line is opened late and not serving its purpose properly, the soldiers are nervous and unpleasant. The workers pass every day, they all have permits, they have to get to their jobs on time and are naturally nervous and upset by this daily hassle.

The CP needs some wise re-management, with an eye for the clients of their facility. Israel needs these workers and the workers need to make a living. No one is served by harassing this population.