Bethlehem, Fri 26.8.11, Morning
Summary: Humaneness is victorious after all
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300:
Five positions open. Everything is very quiet, people cross without delays except for station no. 2 in the first booth, where the female soldier yells, is rude, supercilious. Chana called just as I was about to contact the humanitarian office. I told her, she complained and within fifteen minutes the shift changed (it's unclear whether that was connected to the complaint, but the situation improved, although an hour later the soldier who'd replaced the obnoxious one began behaving the same way…)
Very many people crossing, as has been true the entire month. Most have permits to cross. From time to time someone shows up with a child older than 12 who isn't theirs, and without a permit, and the child is sent back.
Suddenly we hear shouts from the first booth. The soldier sees that a child she'd sent back has gone through a different lane, and exited. She calls him, he hesitates momentarily and then exits. A man intervenes, explaining that his grandfather is waiting for him outside and the soldier falls upon him, demands his ID card because he dared intervene. Meanwhile the child is already far away and the Palestinian man has also been freed from the soldier's clutches.
Another boy arrives, alone, saying that all his family crossed and he's here by himself. The soldier tells him he can't cross like that. He needs some kind of document. The boy goes back and returns a few minutes later with a photocopy. It says he's 13. They don't want to let him through, and he begins crying: he's all alone, has no money, his family has already crossed…The soldier and her partner in the booth start stammering. Her partner is more resolute, tries to convince the first that they can't let the boy through. People standing nearby intervene, as do I, the boy keeps crying. I suggest that the checkpoint commander look into it, judge for himself. The commander comes over with two soldiers, interrogates the boy briefly, and tells the female soldier: “You decide - if he looks ok to you, let him cross” (!!!)
The female soldier is still uncertain, the boy is crying, everyone standing around says that he can't be turned away. Finally the soldier asks him questions about his identity (names, parents' names, address) and lets him through.
Based on what I saw at the Bethlehem checkpoint during this month of Ramadan, it seems that the process is relatively better than in previous years, and much better than it was ten years ago and earlier.
And regarding the march toward Jerusalem from four directions - I heard and saw nothing. Apparently they were stopped long before getting close to the checkpoint.