Bethlehem (300), Fri 19.7.13, Morning

Yehudit Elkana and Hanna Barag (reporting)

Translation: Devorah K.


Bethlehem -- the Palestinian side.

Today about 77,000 worshipers went through the Bethlehem CP. The CP is not built for dealing with such numbers and the changes made in the procedures proved important. The traffic did not stop for a minute with men and women dressed up and children in their best clothes. There was coming and going without a stop. The.ushers and the border  police facilitated the traveling to and from the CP. On the average passage took about ten minutes after the first post where there are Palestinian policemen and policewomen and representatives from the Palestinian DCO..


Since last week a few benches have been added to the place where women go through and we saw that many women needed to rest about halfway to the exit, even though today it was relatively not too hot. This week too there were a few women who needed treatment by people from the Red Crescent. We have the impression that this week they are more careful  with men over the age of 40, and we saw quite a few cases where people were simply sent back. Those who succeeded in getting by the first inspection were stopped in the second inspection which was very strict. The soldiers' conduct was all right and even when an argument developed it was not conducted with too much belligerence.


In the area of the first entrance to the CP, in the part that is in the authority of the Palestinians, there was a demonstration by young people from the security forces because of problems with permits for praying. We heard several versions of the story about how many permits were distributed. A policeman (in civil dress) claimed that on the entire West Bank 200 permits were given out while in Bethlehem only 15 people received permits. But we also heard completely different numbers. There were those who claimed that 200 permits were distributed in the area of Bethlehem, but they were not distributed in an egalitarian fashion. We could not get more exact information.


The demonstrators blocked the humanitarian entrance to the CP, and this created problems for all those who are in wheel chairs and all those who have trouble walking. The Palestinians brought policemen from special units . They came with plastic shields such as we always see in mass demonstrations throughout the world. The quantity of policemen and soldiers was increased and in the end, without any violence,  the demonstrators distanced themselves from the humanitarian entrance and left it for those who need it. We saw that there was a meeting between the assistant to the head of the civil administration and the commander of the Palestinian DCO's, but it was not clear to us whether there was any connection between the meeting and the demonstration.