Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL

Goni Z., Sylvia P., Ronit D. (Reporting), Translator: Naomi Gal

מחסום בית לחם שולה

  Bethlehem Etzion DCO

Bethlehem Checkpoint

06:35 - Goni and I arrive on the Israeli side of the checkpoint. Last week we couldn’t make it because of the snow. The roads were blocked and it was hazardous to leave one’s home. We assumed that not many people will arrive since the construction sites were not operating due to the weather and all of Jerusalem was mostly paralyzed. 
There are a lot of people and cars outside. People report that the passage was fine. Our acquaintance, who usually at this time has not yet passed, says that today was good and that they still have lots of snow around Hebron. He invites us to visit.

At the Checkpoint four windows are open and there are hardly any people. One of the security guards asks who we are. The answer Machsom Watch puts his mind to rest. He updates that earlier this morning there were many people and they opened the gate between the windows in order to let people pass and relieve the pressure. In response to our question he says there was lots of snow, especially on Thursday and Friday. The power was on, but the roads were blocked and no people arrived. At certain points they even closed the checkpoint. After a while he asks us what Machsom Watch is, and what actually is our ideology.  Goni provides a brief explanation. Later we are joined by his friend, a Druze from Hurfeish. He hears the explanation and says that on the other hand, the Arabs as well do not respect the rights of their people, as is the case in the civil war in Syria. We agree that the situation in Syria is terrible, but this does not justify our behavior as conquerors in the occupied territories nor the difficult situation at checkpoints. Our conversation is conducted in good spirit and is not antagonistic.

07:00 - Suddenly something happens. A soldier from one of the windows sends a security guard to chase someone. The guard grabs the man and he is taken for interrogation. Meanwhile a man asks for our assistance. His friend, who is deaf, lost during the checking money and his cellphone card that probably fell during the checking. We turn together to the security guards; one of them goes to search, but returns empty-handed. We took his phone number in case the losses were found. Later we asked the security guard and he said that if the loss is found, according to the regulations it will be transmitted to the police. We gave him the phone number, maybe a miracle will happen ... Meanwhile, Sylvia arrived and we were happy to meet her after three weeks of absence.

07:15 - one window closes, but the three open are enough for the few people who pass. Women we know greet us, saying today was good, but last Monday was awful.

07:30 - almost no people. We left and headed to a meeting with Jamila, purchasing olives and olive oil. Already at the exit from the tunnels we begin to see snow covered fields and there is more snow as we get closer to Gush Etzion.

08:10 - Etzion DCO is covered with snow. There are quite a few people. We plow our way in the snow and try to help   we can help. To some we give the telephone number of Haya (police restricted), or instruct them which documents to prepare and provide them with Sylvia’s fax number. They need to add "A Report of DCO comments to permits' requests” to work in Israel [A computer report or an Email received by the employer from the payment department (in the Israeli Labor Office) after requesting a permit for the employee; the report states that the man "does not meet the conditions for a permit," meaning he is restricted] - means that the number of applications we help prepare has decreased. Sylvia helps people with telephone inquiries to DCO soldiers. In one case she finds out what restriction (police or Shin Bet) one has, in another case what happened to a permit that was taken at the checkpoint, and in a third case churchmen, who did not get permits for some of the faithful and wish to receive permits to enter Israel for Christmas. The last case was a church representative with a list of those whose entry was refused, although the priest had coordinated it with Y, the liaison officer. Although he explained it, they refused to let him enter and demanded that the priest himself arrive. Fortunately a phone call from Sylvia and an explanation that it was coordinated with Y, resulted in the man being admitted in.  It is unclear why our intervention was required and why they didn’t primarily accept his explanation that it was coordinated between the priest and Y. Let's hope that eventually the permits were granted.

09:20 - we left.