Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL, Sun 8.9.13, Morning
06:50 - We arrive on the Israeli side of Bethlehem Checkpoint
While traveling, and on the way from the parking lot to the checkpoint, we see that the Checkpoint and its surrounding area are very busy. There are lots of people and cars, a police car is honking and instructions for drivers are announced on the loudspeaker. People out there tell us that it was quite crowded and the humanitarian gate did not open. They say that it was the situation before the holiday and throughout the whole week and it just puts more pressure on the usual queue.
On Tuesday a man suffered a heart attack and fainted on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, an ambulance was summoned to take him to the hospital. Today there is a mess too because some cell phones automatically switched to winter time, although the clock has not been changed yet, so as a result people arrived relatively late. (Goni too "fell victim" to this and she is late joining us).
07:00 - We enter the checkpoint area where 5 windows are operating. The hall is full. We meet Esther from Switzerland, from the Ecumenical (the EAPPI), who also tells us that the humanitarian gate did not open and a child with leukemia had to pass through the regular line. She also reports that she was required to stand outside the checkpoint area. Silvia calls the DCO to find out why the humanitarian gate did not open. She talks to S. According to him on Sundays there is no representative of the DCO and therefore the humanitarian gate is closed. Sylvia says they should solve the problem and open the humanitarian gate; if there is no DCO representative they have to make sure that one of the soldiers at the checkpoint will open the passage. To the claim that only a DCO representative can discern if the people passing through the gate are really entitled to pass there, Silvia replies that no major disaster will happen if some older workers would pass through that gate even if they still do not have the official right. Even a soldier can discern women and children ... it’s inconceivable to send a child sick with leukemia, who needs to get to his treatments, to stand in the regular queue as this endangers his health.
07:10 – The pressure diminishes. Silvia and Esther are helping a woman with a baby carriage to pass the carousel. Two windows close, 3 remain open. M.P., a policeman arrives with some security guards. He is angry with us and especially with Esther who entered the checkpoint area with us. He asks for our names and threatens to arrest Esther. Her shift is over anyway, and she crosses back to the Palestinian side. Fortunately, the policeman does not waste his time and energy on us. Since the hall is again filled he opens the gate between the windows and moves people inside. Among the people who pass is the child Y., who had a kidney transplant, with his mother who sends her regards to Ofra. She says that Y. is doing well.
07:20 – Tthe hall empties again. A fourth window is opened. At window 3 a woman-soldier gets upset with a man she told could not pass, but he does not leave. He wants to understand why he can’t pass despite having a permit. He says that he was at Tarqumiya Checkpoint on Wednesday, there too they stopped him and told him he had to go to the DCO, but after clarification they let him pass. The man is at a loss. He doesn’t understand why they send him every time to different locations and what should he do. Silvia and Goni try to help and from window 2 emerges a young officer who also tries to find out what’s going on. He calls and is told that the man is registered on the computer as "under DCO care." Silvia calls DCO, but it is still unclear. They say that he had to renew his magnetic card, but in fact he had to do it in April 2012, so what's the rush now? (At DCO Tarqumya the residents can do so only on Tuesdays). Another soldier is now manning window 2.
07:30 – The hall has completely empty. Only the man who had been held remains, trying to understand what’s going on. A man in civilian clothes emerges and takes the detained man inside. We thought he was a man from the Shin Bet, but after a brief moment they both come out smiling and chatting in Arabic and the man is sent on his way to work in Israel. The man in civilian clothes addresses us and it turns out heis policeman A. K., who is in plainclothes because his shift is over and is on his way home. He tells us that he is a Druze from the village Maghar and that he has a son who serves in the IDF. He has been in Jerusalem 24 years already, and serves as a shift manager at the checkpoint. He tells us that it turned out that the man detained has to go to the DCO to renew his fingerprints. He works at a hotel in Jerusalem and holds the keys to the storage rooms in the hotel. Therefore A.K. used his discretion and allowed the man to pass. He also sent a cleaner to clean the entrance to the checkpoint. It is the first time we see it done. The checkpoint area is always horribly filthy. A. K. explains that the municipality does not clean as required: the area in their responsibility. Therefore they are forced to clean beyond the areas for which they are responsible.
07:45 - We leave. On our way Silvia is stopped with requests for help. On our way to the parking lot we see another cleaner who is cleaning outside (from a cleaning company, not the municipality). Perhaps the New Year harbingers good news, at least in this respect...
08:15 - Etzion DCO People who need help with filing applications for the removal of security restrictions are waiting. Some scheduled with Silvia in advance and sent her the relevant documents. We fill the application forms for them and they go inside to deliver them. They also sign powers of attorneys for Silvia, who later makes sure the requests are forwarded, and ensures they get answers.
Today there are many people with special problems. Silvia tries to help. She talks on the phone repeatedly with the DCO to determine why the request was not taken from this man (there is already a request which is being considered) and till when another one is detained (come back in six months), etc.
09:50 – We left