Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL, Sun 3.11.13, Morning
06:30 - We arrived at the Israeli side of the checkpoint.
Goni and I arrived early today (compared to the time we usually arrive on Sundays). We were joined by Michal, a new member. Already on our way to the checkpoint, in the car, the crowdedness was far above and beyond the ordinary and it took time to make our way between the cars and people into the parking lot. The path from the parking lot to the checkpoint is very crowded, a lot of people, cars and buses / minibuses.
06:35 – The hall inside the checkpoint is overflowing with people. 4 windows are open and people are passing swiftly. Occasionally pressure is created and then one of the soldiers opens the gate between the windows and allows people to pass through without using the computer. When the pressure drops he closes the gate till pressure builds again, and so on and so on.
People who pass tell us about great pressure and confusion this morning. They claim that the soldiers and the officers made fun of the people and did not allow them to pass and that there are thousands of people on the Palestinian side waiting to pass. Women who passed tell that they had waited next to the women’s gate, but the gate did not open. Eventually, they were told to go back and the soldiers refused to open the gate. The women refused to squeeze between the men and raised an outcry and finally the gate was opened for them, later than usual.
07:00 – A man passes who we usually meet sitting outside already at 06:45 and we always talk with him and hear about the situation. Today he is late coming out and he too talks about a difficult day and crowdedness.
L. from Beit Jala arrives and says she was sick and went to the doctor in Jerusalem. When she parked next to a pharmacy to get the medication prescribed by the doctor, she got a parking ticket and a fine of ₪ 1000. She shows us her electricity and water bills. All together it’s about ₪ 4000, which she can’t pay. We suggested that she write a letter to the municipality and ask for help regarding the fine.
07:10 – A worker approaches and tells us that his employer demanded from him and other employees to sign a paper saying he had allocated money for retirement for them and that they had received everything he owed them, although this was not true. The employer threatened that he would cancel their permits if they won’t sign. Having no other choice they signed. We gave him the phone number of Kav Laoved (Worker’s Line).
07:15 - Sylvia joins us. She too was delayed outside and heard from those passing that the passage today was particularly difficult. Outside she also met a man she knows since 2005 and for the first time in these eight years – he passes with a permit. Passing through the checkpoint is not much fun but still… Now, inside the checkpoint, people turn to Sylvia seeking help in obtaining permits for their relatives and friends.
07:20 – A man who comes out tells us that he has been waiting since 05:30 and has just passed.
07:25 – The hall empties and doesn’t fill up again. Now there are only a few people who arrive and they pass immediately.
07:30 - Two windows are closed down. D., who we know, arrives and tells us that on the Palestinian side as well there are no more people. We left.
08:00 - Etzion DCO –the DCO opened at the appointed time and people were already waiting outside as usual. An officer and a soldier are trying in vain to fix the machine that issues numbers, and finally leave without being able to activate it. Despite that they don’t let people in till around 08:30 and thus create stress and anger. Until we left the machine still didn’t function.
Inside people who wanted to apply for removal of restriction to work in one of the settlements were again rejected, the claim being that the employer has to contact the center of permits in Beit El. Sylvia tries to talk with DCO in order to explain to the soldiers that to work in the settlements there is no need to fill a form giving a "Report of Reactions to a Permit’s Request” (which is only required from employers in Israel, and they too get it from the Ministry of Labor in Israel and not from the Civil Administration in the occupied territories.) This time we were unable to talk with the soldiers in DCO, but we told the people to go inside again and explain that it’s for working in settlements and there is no need to send the employer to Beit El. They didn’t come out till we left and we hope that their applications were indeed received. Sylvia later received a fax confirming that two of the applications were received, so it makes sense to assume that the application of the third one was received as well. Sylvia will later make sure by phone that the applications were indeed submitted and handled.
We again witness that sending people to Beit El repeats itself every week. Probably the fact that the instruction came from “Beit El" is interpreted to mean that the employers have to turn to Beit El. It is hard to shake the impression that these complex rules are designed to minimize the ability to submit applications for the removal of restriction. It turns out that not only employers and Palestinian employees find it difficult to understand, but the soldiers too find it difficult to understand. The result is that people are harassed back and forth.
09:10 - We left.