Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
06:40 – Goni and I arrive at the checkpoint. It is quite busy outside. Inside the hall is full, five windows are open and in addition an officer lets people pass through the gate between the windows. In window 4 there is a nervous woman-soldier who is constantly screaming at people to move back. Sylvia calls and reports that J. from the Ecumenical called her about a number of youngsters who were detained earlier on their way back to Bethlehem. I call J. to hear the details. It’s about five young men who were stopped on their way back to Bethlehem. She went over and was able to speak with one of them who said he was caught without a permit when he tried to return to Bethlehem. J. gave him her business card, but the security guard took the card from him, tore it in half and returned it to her.
06:55 – From the other side we hear voices over the loudspeaker, apparently instructing people to stop passing because of the pressure. Now the woman- soldier in window 3 is also yelling at the crowd and the officer closes the gate and enters their window. We did not hear what he told them, but they stopped shouting. Occasionally they quietly demanded people not to push. Meanwhile the officer returned and opened the gate. When the hall started to empty the call came over the loudspeaker from the other side: "sleeves, keep the flow"; a sign that there are still a lot of people waiting to cross.
07:00 – Crowded. In window 1 there are some problems, probably with the computer. There are people who cannot pass there, they are sent to window 2 were they pass with no problem. Amongst them is our old acquaintance, who says that today it took him an hour and 10 minutes to pass, more than usual. It is late already and he is in a hurry. A man passes who shows us that he has an entry permit for medical reasons. Says he has a pacemaker. The Humanitarian Gate doesn’t open and he is pushed with all the workers, which literary puts his life at risk. We saw one other person who was sent back. We asked his friends what happened; it seems that his employer cancelled his permit.
07:05 - Sylvia arrives and has already heard outside that there is pressure today. She was also told that earlier today representatives of the security forces kicked someone while passing. It was probably before we arrived. In addition she was told that on Thursday and Friday the passage was busy and difficult too. The hall begins to empty, but the people report that there are still many people outside. Even L. from Beit Jala says that today was difficult.
07:20 – The hall starts to empty and the gate is closed, no need for it any longer. In a few minutes some of the windows will be closed, too. J. arrives and tells us what happened to the youngsters. As usual people turn to Sylvia, some she’d helped in the past and others who need help for relatives and friends.
07:30 - The hall emptied. We left. We stop at the entrance to Hussan to meet with Jamila and purchase olive oil and olives. Sylvia and Goni continue on their way to Etzion DCO.
Etzion DCL (Goni reports)
DCO was quite busy, young men with families who need to find their way to work through a complicated system. Most of them do not know why they are prevented from entering Israel and by whom - GSS? Police? Someone else? We try to sort out the queries
The revolving door system has a diversity: a young father of 8 children worked and earned a living for years in the settlements. His father had spent 22 years in an Israeli prison and was released in the latest release deal; a happy event, right? Yes, but then immediately afterwards the son’s permit was revoked and he was told he is restricted although he committed no offense.
When we were on our way to the car we saw a huge police pickup truck parked in the middle of the parking lot of Etzion DCO. Two policemen sat inside. People were standing next to the pickup truck. Each one in his turn gave his identity card, the ID number was typed into a screen next to the middle of the front window, and the policemen said: "Restricted till ...", "Not police restricted but you can’t get a permit," and so forth; a sort of a mobile police “office”.
Lately we heard complaints that for a long time no policeman has been in Etzion DCO (or at Hebron). This was a kind of solution - people could at least get answers on the spot rather than wait hours until the policeman, ensconced in Etzion DCO, would deign to get to the window and serve them.
Sylvia turned to the policemen and asked if one of them is Olsen. No - none of them was Olsen. Sylvia also wanted to inquire about this person who wanted to find out if he is restricted and for how long. The policemen refused. No – they only consented to check out Sylvia’s ID.
We had only one brief moment of “satisfaction” before we left when one of the men ran towards us, waving the application we filled for him and announced that he is “no longer restricted” . It immediately counterbalanced our sense of helplessness in, for example, the case of an administrative prisoner who was indeed released after 160 days of a hunger strike but since then has continually been harassed in the middle of the night and his 5 year old son is haunted by nightmares; how does one return to one’s daily routine?
Just after 10:00 we went back to our daily routine in the only democracy in the Middle East.