Bethlehem, Fri 5.8.11, Morning
Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300, (the Palestinian side): generally: crossing was fast and quiet, no prolonged waiting, c. 15 minutes from start to exit. Many young women with permits were observed this year. Policemen, border police and civil administration all behaved courteously, making sure to conduct the crossing swiftly and with dignity.
We arrived at 8:00. The streets in Bethlehem were empty, the shops closed -- a festive mood in the early morning hours. Even parking was easy. At the checkpoint we found a line (not long) of men and women crossing quickly. In the women's line children up to the age of 12 crossed with a birth certificate; beyond that age, crossing required a permit. One boy, accompanying a very old blind woman, was allowed to continue with her to Jerusalem after our intervention. It was our impression that many were given permits for prayers this year, perhaps more than in previous years.
At the entrance, women were directed, as in previous years, to cross through the passage for vehicles. They were checked by policewomen. This year pedestrian lanes were added for the crossing of women and the elderly, thereby easing the stream of traffic significantly. The handicapped using this route had difficulty both because of the mild incline to the turnstile of "the humanitarian crossing", and also because the walk to the buses is longer than that through the building. Inside the building itself, the three magnet-meters were operating smoothly and human traffic flowed.
By the time we left numbers had decreased greatly, and it appeared that most of the worshippers were already on their way to the mosque.