Bethlehem, Tue 26.7.11, Morning
(Note : we were very late in arriving due to organizational difficulties)
06.30 am, Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300
Today was “Alright”, not “Very Alright”, only “ A bit better than Alright ”. . . . .
The young man who, according to him, had waited for “only” one and a half hours from the time that he arrived at the checkpoint until he left for Jerusalem , summed up the situation in poor Hebrew whose meaning was clear: “It’s a bit better, but there is room for improvement”. A young woman was less optimistic : “ . . . a bad situation”.
Four inspection stations were open ; the female soldier at the first one held-up the men to be inspected slightly more than the others. Today it was hot and humid, and she demanded that each one should wipe the sweat from his hands. Every third or fourth man was also required to wipe the surface of the finger-print machine where the hands are placed : cleanliness and order must be observed . . . .. However, the soldiers in the other inspection stations managed to read the finger-prints on the computer without the wiping procedure.. Every second or third man showed his permits, put his hand on the machine, rushed to the exit and then was called back to repeat the proceeding.
07.00 am, Bethlehem – Checkpoint 300
According to a sample count that I made, 170 people passed through during ten minutes (about 1000 an hour).
At the end of the line I recognized a long-time friend whom I hadn’t seen for many years, a slim man in his fifties, who was employed as a car washer in Jerusalem. I waited for him to pass but to my surprise the female soldier announced that his permit was invalid. “But it’s a new permit”, he said; however,the computer stood its ground. “There is a problem and he should go to the civil administration office”. A soldier in another station called to him, and checked his permit again. The result was the same :his permit had been cancelled.
I had heard that cases had occurred where workers’ entry permits had been cancelled because their employer hadn’t paid their taxes on time, so I hurried to his work-place, and that was indeed the problem. His employer claimed that he had paid the taxes for the two veteran employees from Bethlehem and had even sent the fax before 15/7/11, but only one of them was registered in the computer and the other wasn’t.
I followed-up on the situation, and found that the worker had lost three days of work before he got his valid permit back.
08.00 am Bethlehem
The shift was changed ; the soldier left the second inspection station, and the female soldier in the first station stood-up. She didn’t leave but also didn’t continue to check. Only when the replacement for the soldier in the second station arrived did she start working again.
A young woman arrived with her small girl. The female soldier approved her entry without noticing the short girl. When she saw her she called the mother back, and said “you have apermit for commerce, and you can’t pass with children. Go back home”. The mother pulled out a document which looked like a hospital appointment card, and the soldier, “reading between the lines” of the instructions that she received, allowed the woman to pass even though she should have actually have obtained a pass on medical, not commercial, grounds.
People reported to us that a woman in a wheel-chair was waiting on the other side. The soldier to whom we turned said that the problem had been solved, and indeed when we left we saw the invalid outside.
In short, it was a reasonable morning :it was “Alright”, not “Very Alright”, only “ A bit better than Alright ”. . . . .