Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL, Sun 10.11.13, Morning
6:30 – Goni, Michal and I arrive at the Israeli side of the checkpoint. Recently Goni and I decided to try and start earlier. Michal joins us again. Outside there is no more pressure than usual. Inside, the hall is full and 5 windows are operating and passing people without problems. But soon we discover that today is a very bad day. On the Palestinian side of the checkpoint there is lots of pressure and the passage is not flowing. Many people complain to us that they waited a long time under pressure and crowdedness. They cannot say why the situation today is much worse than usual. One woman says she waited an hour and a half. Another person says it took him three hours to pass. What is clear is that many come out stressed, reporting that the soldiers are joking among themselves, are playing smartphones’ games instead of letting people pass. One of the women says she was fired by her Israeli employer after years of work and did not receive compensation. We gave her the number of “Kav Laovede” (Employees’ Line), hoping they’ll be able to help her.
6:55 – Y. the kid who had a Kidney transplant and his mother are passing and they greet us. The hall is now pretty empty but from the Palestinian side we hear the loudspeakers and realize that over there it is still full and crowded. A man arrives, who we usually meet outside at 6:45 and he updates us about the situation. Today he passed around even, he reports to us brightly as he always does about a hard day and he rushes to his ride to work. On the loudspeakers on the Palestinian side we hear all the time “Open Tsrihim" (permits). The hall fills up again and again, but on our side the passage flows through the five open windows.
7:10 - At this time usually it’s already starting to empty out but today is a full and busy day. There are still many people coming out and they all complain about overcrowding and stress. At one point window five was closed, although the hall was full and it became packed. From the other side the loudspeaker blurts "Stop streaming sleeves “, which tells us that there are indeed still many people on the Palestinian side. Goni investigates and it turns out they closed one window and did not open the gate between the windows as they usually do since the soldier who left window five went to help on the other side.
7:17 – an officer arrives and opens the gate between the windows. The result is of course an onslaught ... The officer asks to pass "one by one" but people are stressed and push their way to get to work. A man turns to us and tells us that he spoke with his employer on the phone and that the employer could not wait for him any longer. Now he missed his ride and has no way to get to work around Tel Aviv. He fears that he won’t find a ride and will lose a work day. One person was detained by the soldiers and the security guard returned him to the other side of the checkpoint. We could not find out why, but we saw that the permit was returned to him.
7:25 – A man on his way to a medical treatment with his son, wants to get a permit to work in Israel. He says he is not prevented but that he still doesn’t have an employer in Israel. We suggested he request a permit to seek work in Israel that is given for a few days. Someone else is looking for Hannah, he wants to thank her for helping him (not clear which Hannah). Another man seeks assistance for a friend who needs to go for a medical treatment. We gave him Yael’s phone number. Meanwhile the hall emptied after passing people through the gate between the windows.
7:30 - Sylvia and Hannah join us. They were held out by many people and they too heard serious complaints about the situation today. Someone who needs to get to Tel Aviv told them he missed his ride, bus ride at his expense is not worth it so he went back home - a work day is lost ... Inside the complaints persist, although there is less pressure, many are still waiting. On other days by this time there are hardly any people. Someone reports that he arrived at five thirty – meaning that it took him two hours to pass. The gate between the windows is now closed. Sylvia calls DCO trying to find out what happened today and ask them to do something to improve the situation.
7:35 - The hall is filled again and the gate again opens. A family passes with a very young woman who is pregnant , looks very bad and can barely stand. Apparently they are on their way to a medical treatment. Another person who needs a permit for medical treatment gets from us Yael’s phone number.
7:40 - At this time we usually are on our way to DCO. But today there are still many people. The gate that was previously closed opens again. Sylvia once again calls the Humanitarian Center.
7:45 – still not empty, but we left anyway. Outside we continue to hear complaints, mainly from people who missed their ride to faraway jobs and are unable to spare the expenses of traveling on public transport. The work day is lost.
8:15 - DCO is already open and there are many people. As usual people are waiting outside for Sylvia. The machine inside is working but does not issue the numbers on paper, so the soldiers have to call people’s names on the loudspeaker when their turn comes. People who scheduled with Silvia ahead of time sign for her power of attorneys and go inside. For others we prepare applications to remove preventions or explain to them the paperwork they have to submit. In one case we also spoke with an Israeli employer and explained that he must receive "Reactions’ Report" about the worker from the Labor Ministry, before he can submit a request for prevention removal.
Inside people were again rejected who wanted to request prevention removal in order to work in one of the settlements, claiming their employer has to contact the Center at Beit El. Sylvia calls DCO and asks them to explain to the soldiers that for working in settlements there is no need for “A Reactions’ Report for Permit Requests” (which are only for employers in Israel from the Labor Ministry and not from the Civil Administration in the territories). The first time around the officer is not there and the soldiers never heard of Sylvia's explanation. Sylvia again calls the officer who promises to update the soldiers at the window. People go inside again, but the soldiers did not yet receive guidance from the officer and they unjustly continue to turn away the applicants. Sylvia calls again, people are waiting ... in the end they went inside and were able to deliver the applications. Some brought us the applications, and others came out after we left and will later fax them to Sylvia. They now have to wait around two months and hope for a positive answer.
We again witness that sending people to Biet El is repeated every week. Probably the fact that the instruction came from Beit El is interpreted as if the employers have to turn to Biet El. It is hard to avoid the impression that these complex regulations are designed to minimize the ability to submit applications for preventions’ removal. It turns out that not only employers and Palestinians employees find this difficult to understand, but the soldiers too find it difficult to understand. The result is that people are harassed back and forth...
9:30 - we left. The parking lot is still full.
On the way I gave a ride to one of the people we tried to help (so far without success). When we pass by Gush Etzion Junction we see that the soldiers detained two other people we met earlier at the DCO. The Palestinian explains to me that the Palestinians are expected to walk on the other side of the road and not on the side of the bus station that serves the settlers, and always has soldiers around. He says that he once walked on the wrong side and was detained for half an hour.