BETHLEHEM 06/05/2011 Morning

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Claire O., Efrat B. (both reporting). Charles K. (translating)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Bethlehem   09:10-11:00

Three booths open – the lines aren’t long but an international observers tells us that this morning, on the Palestinian side, it was terrible, and Isabel photographed the crowds with her cellphone; many of them gave up and left.

There was yelling or cursing on the Israeli side. They simply ignored what was going on, were completely indifferent.  As in the past, small children weren’t permitted to go through. The most heartbreaking case was of a family – father, mother, aunt and a four-year-old boy. They were part of a group which had planned to go on a picnic and were laden with cartons of food and pitas. The mother had forgotten the permit at home, but the child was included in her ID card. They were turned back, and tried again. They weren’t allowed through, but the child ducked under the gate and started running. The checkpoint commander had already managed to reprimand us earlier because we’d intervened, and said, “Remember – all you’ve achieved is that now you can go stand next to the wall.”

Now he went to deal with the child. The whole family stood and pleaded. The commander was silent, chewed gum and motioned them to go back. We suggested he use his head, check whether the child appears in the computer. Nothing helped.  There was also a female MP to whom we also appealed, but she said it’s the commander’s decision. After long, awful minutes had past the commander accompanied the entire family the length of the external corridor that leads back to Bethlehem.

Another annoying incident was the refusal to allow through a 71-year-old man who was ill, and was obviously not feeling well, shaky on his feet and seemed about to collapse, to visit his sister who was hospitalized in Hadassah. He’d received the documents from the hospital last night by fax and hadn’t had time to arrange for a permit. The commander ignored him, wouldn’t listen to him and tried to prevent me from speaking with him and getting details so I could give them to the humanitarian office and the DCO. Nothing helped.