Bethlehem, Fri 20.5.11, Morning

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Efrat B., Claire O. (both reporting). Charles K. (translating)

9:00 - 11:00 am

Bethlehem– Checkpoint 300:  one booth was open when our shift began and a fairly long line of Palestinians waited to enter Israel.  Many minutes after we contacted the DCO, a second booth opened.

Relatively quiet later.  People cross, no one refused entry.  Youths from Germany, one of them with a Palestinian father, tell us there aren’t many people still on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint.

Only the final notes were jarring:  the usual sorrow involving children.  A 50-year-old man arrived with his four daughters, aged 5, 6, 9 and 10.  He had a permit for each of them, but he himself had a commercial permit, and everyone knows, of course, that you can’t bring children through with a work permit.  Recently they’ve become even stricter about children crossing.  Nevertheless, we try to find out from the DCO officer whether anything can be done (the Palestinian remembers that once they let him cross with his daughters, but that was a long time ago, apparently at a time when it was still possible to exercise some discretion, before children came to be viewed as the main threat).  Of course, nothing can be done.

By the way – Why is there something we haven’t been told?  We were astounded to discover that this officer – Ahmad – is known to all the members of Machsom Watch, that he’s been stationed at the Bethlehem checkpoint for the past year and a half…he gladly gave us his cell-phone number and took ours, and seemed in general like a fair and humane person – to the extent possible at a place like this.  We’ve been coming here for a few years but no one ever told us that there’s a permanent DCO representative on site.  In fact, two months ago we heard there’s a young woman filling that role but we weren’t able to obtain her cell-phone number…

It’s really too bad we met Ahmad only a month and a half before he gets out…at least we hope he’ll be able to help us until then (in fact, it would probably be better if we didn’t need his help).