Bethlehem, Fri 19.8.11, Morning
Bethlehem (Palestinian Side): in spite of the early hour - we met a swarm of people on our way to the checkpoint, all of them hoping to get to the prayers in time. Because of the yesterday’s terror incident, the instructions for passage through the checkpoint were changed at 01.00. Those with a permit to pass through the checkpoint who were left behind (as a result of this) were extremely frustrated. What was the point of this collective punishment ? For many of them Eilat is further away than the Moon .
As in previous weeks, the initial entry into the checkpoint was controlled by the Palestinian police ( male and female) who made a genuine effort to pass the masses through the checkpoint quickly. On the Israeli side, a soldier who was standing there aimed his gun directly at those passing through. We complained, but this helped only for a short time, until the shift changeover. As the pressure increased, it seemed for a moment that the Palestinian Police was losing control, but their forces came to their senses relatively quickly.
The men’s queue was short, and moved quickly relative to the women’s which was very congested. The small children looked as if they were “fighting” for a little air, and only towards noon did the pressure drop. Many women were turned back, and some of them who tried again succeeded. The strictness regarding the children was very severe.
The soldiers’ attitude was aggressive and hostile. A female civilian guard behaved very violently, shouting and forcefully pushing the women who were compelled to turn back.. However, our presence on the scene moderated her behaviour. Among the rest of the soldiers, the border policemen and police - women exchanged insulting jokes in poor taste. Let’s hope that the Palestinians didn’t understand everything that was said. There was also hostility towards us, and one explained to another who we are and what is our treacherous affiliation. The presence of officers was helpful.
What was mainly heard were the loud shouts of “Yala, Yala” – “Get a move-on, its already Friday today”. And we asked ourselves what would these soldiers think if this had been the route to Friday prayers at the Western Wall ? !