Bethlehem, Fri 12.8.11, Morning

Yehudith Elkana, Hannah Barag (reporting)




Access to the checkpoint is full of cars and a stream of pedestrians.  The first entry into the checkpoint is manned by Palestinian police men and women;  the second entry mostly by border police.  Much attention is paid to age and permits, but it seems that most manage to cross.  At the entrance to the checkpoint the same arrangements as last week are in place, and all moves swiftly.  When crowding happens, men too are directed to cross around the "terminal", thus preventing pressure at the magnometers.  The policepersons conduct themselves courteously towards those crossing.

Attention to age is strict, and here and there some were turned back.  Particularly youngsters over 12 without permits or unaccompanied by parents.  Like all teenagers, they desire to enjoy the blandishments of the big city.

Towards noon, there was a momentary scuffle at the first entrance, and it looked as though the Palestinian police might lose control, but order was soon restored.

We witnessed three occasions where a woman and two men tried to circumvent the usual entry to the lines; they were soon caught, taken to the main entrance, and sent back.  We were glad our fears that their IDs would be confiscated came to nought.

Average crossing: c. 15 minutes.  Some 30,000 worshippers crossed.  The first stream, mostly women, began at 3:00 a.m.  The checkpoint is open from 2:00 a.m.

Red Crescent personnel were present, but they had brought only one wheelchair -- insufficient for the number of persons who needed it.  We remarked on this, and hope that next week there will be more wheelchairs.