Bethlehem, Fri 22.7.11, Morning
Bethlehem– Checkpoint 300, 09:15 am: three inspection stations are open, and there is a shift changeover. “Move away” a soldier who has just arrived tells me. “ leave her alone, she’s” “Watch” “, says his comrade.
It’s an intolerable shift : again and again both adults and children are refused passage.
a very old couple arrive; the woman goes through but -
the man is told that his permit is no longer valid. He gets excited and shouts. He explains that his wife is ill and cannot walk alone, that he is 80 years old, worked in Israel for 50 years and knows captain so-and-so and captain so-and-so. He speaks Arabic, which the soldier doesn’t understand and sends him to another soldier who is said to speak the language.
The old man tries at all the inspection stations, but is rebuffed at them all: He shouts that he will pray here. The soldier repeats “go back to Bethlehem !”, and the old man answers that he is from Hebron. He stays here for at least an hour, hoping that somehow he will be able to pass. Until he finally gives-in.
- A young man arrives with 3 small children, to visit his wife who is hospitalized. The childrens’ papers are with her, and he doesn’t have a permit because he is in a hurry to get to his wife and hasn’t had time to apply for them. He is told that he is detained until a policeman arrives. The policeman arrives after 40 minutes and doesn’t allow him to pass.
- A man of about 50 arrives. He was born here but has lived for years in Germany, and comes for a visit every year. This time he received a visa for only 3 months which have expired , and he is not allowed to pass. I point-out that I have seen quite a few tourists who have passed through just waving their passport and no soldier asked to see their visa. One of the soldiers is polite and even speaks a few words of Arabic. However he has no readiness to to use his judgement.
- The same attitude of no readiness to use her judgement happens with a woman officer who comes out for a moment and displays indifference to the childrens’ plight. She listens politely to my questions for a minute but becomes silent when I get to the question of denial of passage to children when the fathers show a work permit.
- At 11:00 am I am supposed to meet a group from Europe which will
cross from Bethlehem together with Amar (at Neta’s request).
At 10:45 am a man phones me from the other side and says that
there is a long queue and only one inspection station open. An international volunteer has already told me about this and says that the main gate was opened only at 09:00 am. I phone to the center but nothing seems to change.
Another tourist with a passport but without a visa arrives. The
soldier explains “You must have a visa from Ben Gurion”. From the tourist’s expression, he doesn’t understand how the soldier expects him to supply a visa here at the CP.
- The soldier in the first inspection station suddenly feels unwell. –
apparently he is attacked by a shortage of breath. He is removed, given water, and all the soldiers and security guards surround him. He looks worried, in distress, and returns to being a normal person, like anybody else who has to cope with a problem, and I feel uncomfortable that my first reaction is indifference. Sadly, while this problem is being dealt with, no small child manages to sneak through the checkpoint . . . .
Amar’s group succeeds to to pass through the checkpoint only at 11:30 am. They get into the air-conditioned bus in order to receive my briefing about MachsomWatch, and to ask questions about our work.