Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
6:40 – Goni and I arrive to the Israeli side of the checkpoint. Due to parking apprehensions we left one car in Gilo and proceeded in one vehicle only. Fortunately there was no problem parking at the parking lot as it has been in the past - we saw no new sign or blockage, we parked and no one prevented us. Well at least in this regard they realized there is no place for an additional superfluous complication.
On our way to the checkpoint crowdedness of people and cars, but we did not hear any special complaints. When we got inside, we saw five windows operating and a very large crowd, but altogether, despite the pressure, it seemed that the passage flows with no particular problems. At the entrance to the checkpoint we met A. a new Ecumenical (APPI) volunteer. She was standing outside, they probably asked her to step out (perhaps because of the camera she carried), but when we went inside she joined us and the security guards sat by and said nothing.
A. tells us that she is new here. Arrived two weeks ago. She was in Israel and the Occupied Territories many years ago. She seemed astonished by the reality she encounter around and at the checkpoints especially: the expansion of the settlements and the pushing of the Palestinians into their villages and to relatively limited areas, from what goes on in general, and in particular at checkpoints. She is shocked by the enclosures through which the Palestinians pass on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. She says today is the worst she had seen since she arrived. Very crowded. An elderly man collapsed between the fences and was almost trampled. On the Palestinian side the soldiers passed the crowds for 5 minutes and then stopped for 10 minutes. The Ecumenical tried to find out what goes on, but the soldiers refused to talk to them. They called the Humanitarian Center four times to no avail. A. herself passed – they didn’t let her pass through the Humanitarian Gate, and it took her an hour and ten minutes. At one point they took a number of people from the queue, randomly according to her, and pushed them back. Additionally she tells us that a few days ago the Ecumenical saw a number of people who after they have passed through the checkpoint began to pray on the outside of the checkpoint – they were brutally expelled in the middle of their prayer. A. is distraught by what she sees. We make it clear to A. that we are obviously here in order to protest against the occupation and its diverse manifestations. However A. deep shock reminds us that we too maybe have gotten used to the harsh scenes...
6:50 – Y., the boy who had kidney transplant and his mother are passing and are greeting us. The crowdedness is still great. A. gets a phone call from someone who can’t speak English and Goni tries to help. Apparently he was looking for Sylvia. Goni gives him a phone number and says that we will eventually arrive with Sylvia to Etzion DCO. It seems as if there are new soldiers at the windows.
6:55 – the pressure dropped. Women-soldiers arrive from the other side. The hall empties. We asked someone who passed what’s the situation on the other side and he says it has emptied there too. It took him a few minutes to pass. He says he always comes "after the chaos." Probably he does not have to rush to an early ride. Goni asks the security guards what happened today and they say that there are new soldiers and this created delays and pressure and they had to stop letting people enter. According to them 7,000 people passed toady.
7:00 - The hall has emptied. The (new) soldier in the window next to us asks through the loudspeaker: "How much longer do we have to stay in this thing?"
Sylvia and Hannah join us. There are only two windows open now. A. had already left and returned to Bethlehem.
7:10 - all is peaceful now. Few people arrive and pass immediately. In the end this day probably is not that bad, everything is relative, of course. We have seen worse. As usual Sylvia helps people who need help in removing prevention of relatives and friends.
7:20 – the partition in the hall is closing. Of the four windows only two are operating and they too are out of work. We left.
7:45 – we meet Jamila and the entrance to Husan and purchase olive oil and olives.
8:10 – the machine works, although it doesn’t issue numbers. We helped several people to submit applications for prevention removal. Others received instructions on which documents to bring or Haya’s phone number for those who have police prevention. This time, the soldiers accepted applications from people who want to work in the settlements (and not in Israel) with an employer letter only, and Sylvia and phone calls were not required in order to explain to the soldiers the procedures.
9:30 - we left. On our way to our cars we are met by a man who came to find out the response to an application he submitted for prevention removal. Silvia examines her notes and is happy to announce that his prevention was removed. He is sent inside to get the official announcement. After all the day ends on a positive note.