Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 2.10.11, Morning
Bethlehem- Checkpoint 300: we arrived at 07:15 and found a madhouse. Those outside already told us that the crossing was very difficult today. People have been waiting for hours.
We entered the terminal; three windows were open, with no congestion in the exit hall. There was yelling from the other side; we understood that the laborers were extremely jumpy.
It’s easy to understand why: after four days of involuntary vacation, Sunday finally arrives and people can go back to work. But no! The lengthy time it took to cross made many laborers retrace their steps because they wouldn’t get to work on time. Everyone was on their cell-phones to notify their employers that they’re “stuck,” and apparently were told that their rides would no longer wait for them. Tension continued to increase, as did the shouting. We (Sylvia and Chana Barag) also made many calls, but nothing changed as a result. Only one booth was open on the Bethlehem side, and crossing went extremely slowly.
We received conflicting information regarding the hour at which the checkpoint opened: one person said it opened only at 06:30; Itzik, the policeman, who suddenly appeared from within said it opened at 05:15. The response, or lack of response, from those inside (the checkpoint commander, for example), who sounded “surprised” when we told them of the uproar outside, of course, only a pretense, because the shouting is audible from a distance. The general indifference is astonishing in its crudeness, evidence of the insensitivity of those at the top of the pyramid, in this case the terminal commander.
At 07:30 there was a loud noise from the other side, perhaps to frighten the laborers. Who knows what it was.
A group of Muslim women with children comes out with permits (of course). They’re going on a trip to Ramat-Gan and are excited finally to see the ocean!! The children in particular are excited.
07:50 - terrible shouts on the Bethlehem side. What’s happening? Who knows? The hall suddenly fills, but meanwhile one window has closed, leaving only two open.
08:15 - now the hall is very congested, but still only two windows are open. People are jittery, annoyed and desperate.
08:25 - a third window opens.
08:30 - people who went through go back to where they came from.
08:35 - reports of a lot of people outside, on the Bethlehem side.
08:45 - after a frightening silence on the unseen side, the hall fills again. With three windows open, crossing goes fairly quickly.
09:00 - the other side is still full, as is the hall. We leave. It seems that most people will soon have crossed.
09:10 - we sit in the car, see Palestinian bus No. 24 leave the station filled with laborers.
A very bad day at Checkpoint 300!
Etzion DCL: at 09:30 only one person is in the waiting room. There are apparently a few people within the office. A few minutes later one Palestinian laborer who apparently went to work in Tzur Hadassah – with a permit for Beitar Illit – came back . He was caught by the Border Police who confiscated his permit; now he has a problem. We gave him Chaya A.’s phone number.