Bethlehem (300), Fri 10.8.12, Morning
Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300 ( the fourth Friday of Ramadan): today the army decided not to allow private vehicles to approach the checkpoint site. As usual, the simple soldier didn’t understand what we wanted to do and hadn’t heard of Machsom Watch. The checkpoint commander explained to him that it was OK for us to be there, but ordered us to park about 200 meters before the checkpoint.
Many buses were waiting fot the worshipers. The women passed around the checkpoint, and also several men. It was difficult to clear a way and enter the checkpoint.
There was a strong presence of soldiers and policemen today.
Occasionally the gate between two inspection stations was opened to allow sufficiently elderly people and/or those with permits to pass through almost without inspection. Fewer people were refused passage and were not turned back today, but the rules were almost unchanged. Hanna reported from the Bethlehem side that a high-level source had promised to also allow people aged 37-38 to pass. However,on our side the policemen said that the rule was unambiguous and it is from age 40. Still, they said that they would not be narrow-minded and would allow people to pass if they were a month or two short of 40. This was already an improvement compared with the previous weeks.
Again, I emphasize that very few people were turned back, and similarly the policemen and soldiers were polite and business-like, and we didn’t hear even one shout.
A number of Palestinians thanked us for our presence at the checkpoint.
Already from 11:15 the flow of people lessened and we didn’t hear the tumult from the Bethlehem side that would have indicated that many people were still waiting.