Bethlehem, Fri 14.1.11, Morning
Summary: many children are denied entry. The checkpoint commander, who speaks Arabic, explains the army's orders, fluently and with inner conviction.
09.00 - 10.30 am, Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300: there was a long queue at the first inspection station. A male and a female soldier passed the Palestinians through (they were impatient because they had apparently waited for a long time on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint), quietly but slowly, and sticking strictly to the rules.
In answer to my question why another inspection station wasn't opened, I received the routine answer “there are no soldiers available”. For all that, at 10.00 am another male and female soldier came out and manned the second inspection station; the speed increased and the queue was reduced to just a few individuals.
During our shift, small children were refused passage, mostly because their father submitted a work permit on which he had neglected to get special approval for his children. All (our) efforts to “speak to the soldiers' or the commander's hearts” were unsuccessful. The commander stood-up and announced in Arabic “there are only two cases in which children can pass into Israel : if its because of a health case and the child needs urgent treatment, or if he has official approval from the civilian administration office”.
As usual, the childrens' crying eyes, the fathers' perplexed, annoyed and despairing faces, pursued me when I left.
I absolutely failed to understand the last case: a Palestinian arrived with three children aged 3, 7 and 9. In the end, he was turned away because he was on his way to his mother and not to his wife ?!?!