Bethlehem (300), Fri 12.7.13, Morning
Translation: Naomi Gal
First Friday of Ramadan
The plan was for 20,000 people to pass. Statistically this means that 400 buses were supposed to drive the people to the mosque for holiday prayers.
The first thing we saw was the sterilized space between the old passage where an inspection barrier was erected (about 200 meters) and Bethlehem Checkpoint itself.
Most incoming people (I believe 80% or more) passed through the bypass trail and not through the inspection passage. All women went this way and the men as well, when there was no doubt about their age was over 40.
Men passed through the inspection passage, most of them had permits (men aged 35-40 need permits, aged 16-35 cannot get permits, except for a few, until the age of 12 the passage is with a Kushan, (birth cerificate), ages 12-16 up to the soldier’s discretion and the policy is to facilitate) and the time it took people to pass was 10 minutes at 10:30.
A lieutenant, a DCO representative, arrived after several cases of denial of entry ... and I counted very few (less than 10) people who were sent back because they didn’t meet the criteria. Each one of them can demomstate the situation.
The first case was of a father and son (13), that a woman-soldier decided not to let pass. On the phone it was explained to me that a permit is required and only later I was told it was a matter of the soldier’s discretion. That's how a soldier's judgment (a sergeant), who understood that it is forbidden to publicly drink while working and that it is forbidden as well to yell at Palestinians, decided that a father and his son would be sent back home the first Friday of Ramadan.
Then came two people 35-40 old without permits - they promised to bring a permit next time and refused to go back. The situation was extremely strange since they spoke quite bluntly while the officer, who spoke rather good Arabic, explained politely that he is very sorry but he has no authority to let them enter Jerusalem without a permit and went on to explain that a permit can be easily obtained. They asked me if I was from human rights and when I answered positively they shouted at me: "You are no human rights."
Despite the many soldiers present the officer opened the door (not through the windows) with the ID cards and the man had to go inside and take the card. He and his friend tried to find a breach or perhaps a window where it would be possible to pass but to no avail.
Then came a father and his son but the son had no Kushan and the father vigorously cursed both the checkpoint and the "human rights who did nothing."
Another one who was sent back was a man aged 35-40 who had a hospital permit for Sunday, but did not have a permit for the prayers. "My wife cannot go without me ... I'm OK, here I have a permit..." were part of his gimmicks, but it did not help and he was sent back home while his wife continued to Jerusalem. On the other hand, a man 39.5 old was allowed to pass accompanying his father, who already passed through the humanitarian passage, although he did not meet the criteria. I was surprised.
In short, apart from a Border Policeman, who screamed through a megaphone to people outside "Come on Move it”, because he thought that was the way he had to organize the bus line, and the woman-soldier, who changed her behavior, we did not witness any special dramas.