Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 28.11.10, Morning
Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300, 7:00 am: the exit hall is empty, and there are no people on the other side. All have crossed; what a relief to know that this too is a possibility. Nevertheless, there are a few cases to report of inappropriate management. During the hours of pressure three permits were confiscated on grounds that the persons had jumped over the fence, or pushed, i.e. "they had behaved improperly." In fact, in addition to this rather odd claim, the permit of someone not involved in this event (as the cameras show) was also confiscated.
Furthermore, the regulations say that in such an event, when someone is caught red-handed by the police, the police must report to the DCO before confiscating documents. This regulation is not observed by the police. This is another case in which the daily presence of a DCO representative would be most helpful in preventing confiscation of documents for no reason. Confiscation means the loss of at least one day's employment (if not more) for the worker, as well as depriving the employer of a worker he depended on.
This is how the ecumenicals reported the event:
"this morning at 4:25 the permits of three men were confiscated. We asked the soldier, and then another, and then also the security guard when the permits would be returned and were told they didn't know, that the dates had expired, that they would be returned within 7 days at the DCO (evidence of both confusion and evasion -- Hannah A.). We called the Humanitarian Centre, but the calls went astray and led nowhere. We left Silvia's phone and fax numbers. These are the names of the workers involved: (the names are recorded in the ecumenical report of 29.11.10)"
We spoke to the Etzion DCL and were told by the officer there that "according to regulations for confiscating permits" the police are required to consult with the DCL before confiscating a document. They already knew that documents had been confiscated. In our conversation with the officer we were unable to persuade him to return the permits today. He said that "the DCL will receive the documents from the police at their daily meeting and will return them at the checkpoint on the following day.” And that was that.
Friday: we were informed that things have improved on weekdays, but on Fridays, when people want to cross for worship, the situation is dismal. People with permits are detained, and have to return home!
Where is the promised freedom of worship?
Etzion DCL, 7:55 am: we reach the DCL; the process of opening the door to the hall begins. Many (approximately 80) have been waiting since the early morning hours. The white jeep arrives and the officer (whose name turns out to be Fuad, and who speaks both Hebrew and Arabic) begins by loudly ordering the crowd on the loudspeaker to move back from the blocks placed some 25 meters from the entrance to the hall. He repeats the order several times, asking them to move back, and further back, until they are some 50 meters away from the entrance. The crowd obeys (do they have a choice?), and Silvia approaches the jeep and protests to the officer about the unseemly shouting -- he can be heard just as well without the loudspeaker. In the past, the officers would emerge without the jeep or loudspeaker and request, courteously, that the crowd move back a little. In response, he shouted at her to move away, and Silvia called the Humanitarian Centre and complained about him.
Finally the officer was satisfied by the distance the crowd had moved back (see photos which Haya A. took and Mika G. sent to the network a few days ago), and hands out numbers which a Palestinian distributes to the large crowd: first the women (c. 10), then acording to a list.
The situation at the DCL is dreadful: according to the evidence of a Palestinian who is there daily, 20 people are received in the first hour, and treatment of their issues continues until noon. The soldiers then take an hour's lunch-break. After that another 20 are let in. Those left behind must return next week.
We follow the crowd into the hall. The place is almost full, people crowding around the turnstile. Suddenly everyone is let through! The hall empties, but processing is not faster: the first woman in - emerges at 10:00. She's an elderly woman with a walker, barely able to negotiate the steps at the exit. #2 is accepted at 9:25 (she reports from inside). Until 9:15 there were no soldiers at the windows! The spectacle of letting the entire crowd in was surrealistic -- nothing like it seen so far. Was that because of our presence???
The clearing of the hall was a rush -- but not clear to what purpose.
A citation: at the DCL we met the 18-year-old flautist for whom Hannah B had managed to obtain a permit to enter Israel and continue her studies at the Music Academy in Jerusalem. The permit was waiting for her at the DCL, and she left for Jerusalem. Blessings on both Hannah and the talented flautist Dahlia.