Bethlehem, Fri 12.8.11, Morning

Claire Oren (reporting)




9:15 - 12:30

Summary: Many crossing, and passage is swift.  I saw people emerging from the checkpoint with a smile!

Long lines of buses outside, difficult to find parking.  Women and girls, as usual during Ramadan, cross around, in the crossing for cars.  Some enter the checkpoint to wait for a partner or a man whose crossing takes longer.

Four stations are open, and almost no lines form.  There is no biometric check, those who display a magnetic card and flash their permit cross immediately.  Those have not brought their cards take a few seconds longer.  Some younger persons (under 50) who don't have a permit don't cross, but here there is a striking difference between the charming female soldier in station 4, where all emerge with a smile, a little embarrassed, sometimes suprised, and the soldier in station 1, of ill-repute known to us from previous occasions, who has not become more courteous or humane.

The female soldier was at her station the entire time, never stopping to chat with the soldier next to her, or to talk on her cell-phone, or any other interruption of the kind we see more than once.  She smiled, was brisk, gestured invitingly to those crossing, greeting them with "Ramadan kareem".  To those she was unable to let through, she explained quietly and apologetically why they must bring a permit.

The soldier in station 1 raised his voice with admonishments.  I asked one of the commanders there to look out for him, since I know him and have seen him harrassing people.  When he waved people through, it was with a contemptuous shake of his head or hand; and for those he did not let through, there was a shout of "Go home!" or a mocking gesture in the direction of Bethlehem with the words "See that door? Use it."  Three men discovered that they were forbidden, and the soldier confiscated their permits.  The guard I approached told me these were orders.

In any event, the checkpoint is an abomination, and the humane conduct of one soldier alleviates the unpleasantness.  I couldn't help going up to her at the end of my shift and thanking her for being as she was.

The stream of people ceased only at 12:30.

There were two international volunteers.  One of them said he had been in Qalandia the week before, and that checks in Bethlehem (of them too) were far more meticulous.