Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 21.11.10, Morning
Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300, 15:00:two stations operating, not many people yet, passage time is very short. No private security guards in sight.
Etzion DCL, 15:45: the very full parking lot is ominous. Indeed, some 30 despairing women and men are crowded against the turnstile. They claim to have been there since morning and that for the past 3 hours no more than 5 people have been let in. Many say this is the third time they have come on their designated day and it seems that once again it will be in vain.
At a certain point the soldier at the window acknowledges us and reports that inside the office there are also many people (about 35) and "that's the way it is". The commander of the DCL does not answer the phone (yet. He is in a meeting, says the soldier). A man in need of a permit to reach the hospital is forced to climb over the head of those waiting so as to go through the turnstile. (As opposed to those requesting to renew their magnetic cards, the very few requiring humanitarian permits are let in).
A young girl, who prefers to sit rather than be squashed on the steps to the turnstile, compares the treatment here to that of cattle. "I do not ask you for any piece of land", she says, "but that you treat me as a human being when I come to renew my magnetic card upon your demand".
People still huddle against the turnstile and nothing happens. Soon it will be closing time of the DCL. An attempt to reach an agreement with the commander according to which those who have been denied entry today will be permitted to come tomorrow instead of having to wait a whole week, failed.
The Palestinians continue to cluster on the steps holding on to their place in line as if for dear life. Few more arrive seeking permits to get to a hospital. A crippled man, barely walking in spite of his cane, has been issued a permit but for the day after his actual appointment. Once again we turn to the commander of the DCL and the man is ordered to go to the gate behind the waiting hall where he will be taken care of. A lady scheduled to have a Caesarian tomorrow requests our assistance as well, for at this stage there is no way of catching the eye or the ear of the soldier behind the window. A soldier girl appears behind the window announcing on the loudspeaker: "Challas! Everybody home!" But even though I point out to her that this is not a very respectable way to declare closing, she lets the woman and her husband in. The fate of two young people who arrived at the very last minute (the time is 5 PM) is also "bright". They've come straight from the hospital with an instruction to return on the morrow (they look bewildered, perhaps because of the urgency of the appointment). Finally, our shouts and pleading to the soldier, whose back is turned to us for he is talking on his cell, are heeded. He clicks open the turnstile, makes the couple go back and forth through the metal detector, and they are allowed inside, which, of course, does not necessarily mean that they will get the permit…
The frustrated others (some 30 women and men), who have been sent away yet again without being served, are obviously outraged (including blaming us for not being able to do more for them) and their words are harsh. All we can do is listen patiently and nod in agreement. A young man who has finally managed to secure a 3 week job and if obliged to come back only next Sunday will lose a third of his precious prospect, and a woman whose husband is inside the office – both beg for our help, but we can no longer do anything for them or the others who linger on still hoping for a miracle that will enable them to file for a magnetic card requested by the Israeli occupying authorities. Faced with this abundance of humiliation inflicted upon the occupied, all we want is to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300, 17:30: though there are more people rushing home, passage time is still very short and still no private security guards around.