Bethlehem (300), Sun 29.9.13, Morning
6:50 - Johnnie and Ronit arrive to the Israeli side of the Bethlehem Checkpoint (Sylvia and Varda eventually join them)
The people outside of the checkpoint tell us that things are OK today. That night they moved their clocks one hour ahead of Israel time. In answer to our question they said that they heard of the disturbances and rock throwing on Friday afternoon in the vicinity of Rachel’s Tomb (radio report). They themselves didn’t pass through on Friday because passage was limited to those age 50 and over, even to those with permits.
In Hall #5 there were five positions but not that many people. The Ecumenicals report that many people had already passed through. They are standing at the entrance to the checkpoint because they are not permitted to enter inside. The guard arrives and demands, also from us, to stand outside. The Ecumenicals have not heard about the events at Rachel’s Tomb on Friday, but they did report on events in one of the refugee camps in the area. There, two journalists were wounded from rubber bullets – Ecumenicals.
7:10 – Passage is moving swiftly. The hall is not filling up and some of the positions are closed. The Ecumenicals also leave. The child with the kidney transplant arrives with his mother and they say he’s feeling well.
7:20 – Lee, a Christian from Beit Jalla who speaks Hebrew, wjp we meet each week, gives Johnnie a Happy New Years card that she asks be transferred to the commanders of the checkpoint. She says she does this every year and that she “loves the Jews”. She requests from Johnnie that he put her full name and telephone number on the envelope. In the meantime Sylvia and Varda arrive and Sylvia tells Shelly that yes, she does do this every year. A permit is taken from one of the people. His friends approach us but until Sylvia tries to help, the person is already gone. Later we met him in the Etzion DOC. It appears that he is “general security service prohibited” and it is explained what he must do to request cancellation of this prohibition.
7:25 – Only two positions are open and there are few people in the hall. A young, English speaking girl arrives. She tells us that on the Palestinian side many people are waiting. She says that today and on other days the soldiers”take a break” and all the positions are closed for a lengthy period, even as much as half an hour. So of course the pressure mounts. With this, she stresses, that the people on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint feel that due to the women of “Machsom Watch” everything works more smoothly and the soldiers’ treatment of residents improves.
7:30 – In the meantime there are more people in the hall and pressure on the only two positions that are open. Still, passage is without delay.
7:40 – Pretty empty and we leave. On our way out we meet a young boy who complains about the situation and treatment at the checkpoint. He describes the treatment today as “Asal” (which means “honey”), but it is usually “Basal” (which means “onion.”), and that the soldiers behavior is usually not what it should be.
7:45 – On our way to Etzion DOC Varda tells us that in checkpoints in the center that she observes, it is impossible to approach the soldiers’ positions. Even on the Israeli side. Once, the commander of the checkpoint let her and her friends on the shift inside and showed them the soldiers’ positions that we usually see from the Israeli side in Bethlehem. But usually they stood outside, near the turnstile, behind the soldiers’ positions and it was prohibited to cross over to the other side of the checkpoint.
8:10 – Etzion District Coordination Office (DCO)
People are already waiting. Some set up to meet Sylvia and are waiti9ng for her. As usual we fill out their request forms to rescind prohibition and the put the forms inside. They sign Power of Attorney for Sylvia to investigate whether their request forms have been passed on and what the decisions are. Sylvia talks on the telephone to the DCO and attempts to help a boy from whom they refused to take the request form. After some clarification and telephones, he enters again and is able to submit the request form.
It is known that in order to get a magnetic card, certain people in the area can come only one day a week. On the notice board are printed new lists of the villages and cities in the area of Bethlehem and the days and hours when residents of each place can come and get magnetic cards. On the list we see that on Tuesdays it is impossible to get magnetic cards from anyplace.
In the waiting room, they have recently installed a machine that dispenses numbers via use of magnetic cards or ID numbers. Afterwards via loudspeakers they call the number and direct the person to the appropriate window. Everything is done in Arabic. Both the machine and the announcements.
9:45 – We leave. The parking lot is unusually full.