Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
6:35 - a lot of people and cars outside. Our acquaintance isn’t here and it's a sign of a busy and pressured morning. 4 windows are open inside, as is the gate between the windows. The hall is full. When I enter the hall a policeman attacks me, an older man I haven’t seen before, demanding that I stand outside, claiming that when I stand inside it disrupts his job. Since he abandoned the gate in order to yell at me, I chose not to argue with him, as long as he returned to the gate and let the people pass.
Apparently everything seems calm on this side of the checkpoint, but on the other side shouting can be heard all the time. We are told that the situation is bad. One says he waited since 3 AM, another says since 5:30. According to the people passing there are still 2,000 people outside and the soldiers are passing them one by one. At one point the policeman is watching while the security guard passes the people through the gate, when the hall empties they close the gate. After a short time they move to the other side of the checkpoint and this side of the hall fills up again. The entrance to Bethlehem serves today as an exit to Israel. Meanwhile the policeman and the security guard returned to the full hall and opened the gate. This was repeated several times.
7:00 - only now our acquaintance arrives, it is late for him and he rushes on his way, according to him that was the situation all week long. People are late to pass and hence lose working days. Women are passing and complain to us that the Humanitarian Gate was not open so they were forced to squeeze at the men’s line. It was “mortifying” they say. Some Muslim women who have permits to work in churches tell us that they have to pay to get this permit, while the Christians women are not charged by the churches.
7:20 - the situation calms down a bit, it seems that most have already passed. We are asked about removal of prevention; we explain about the required documents and give them the phone numbers of Sylvia and Haya.
7:30 – a man tells us that the soldiers are the ones to determine how the mornings would look for the passing people. If they do their job effectively the passage is reasonable and everything is fine. But on days like today they don’t open enough sleeves (these are the padlocks through which one passes toward the carousels and inspection), people are disrespected, they don’t open the Humanitarian Gate for women and the like. He says that the situation improved when we arrived. Eventually today they solved the problem by removing people from the entrance gate, with no checking whatsoever...
The hall is full and packed and people are all over the machine issuing numbers. It is a racket. It seems as if many came to issue a magnetic card, although on Sundays they only issue cards from 12:00. We are busy assisting those who turn to us, with some we scheduled ahead of time. In the absence of Sylvia we try to help as much as possible. To some we give the number of the Center for Individual’s Protection, hoping that they might help. An officer, a lieutenant colonel and a woman-officer, second lieutenant are standing next to the machine and trying to establish some order. The officer speaks Arabic, telling everyone to sit down, they give him their ID cards and he issues numbers from the machine. But there is probably no change in the hours, because most people went outside later, and will probably come back in only at 12:00. Many went outside to wait in the pleasant sunshine.
Only after the hall was somewhat vacated people who had other needs were able to come in, including those who turned to us. The treatment has not changed. They still reject the requests to remove prevention because of technical insignificant excuses - the letter is not printed but hand written, there is no stamp, etc. An older man who earlier helped us with translation went in and came out empty handed. He is an Israeli citizen, his wife is Palestinian. They live at Beit-Fajjar and the woman has to enter Israel for medical treatment. Usually he comes with the required documents a few days in advance and gets the permit for her. Today they demanded that he return with her and he is having trouble understanding why. She has a baby at home, he says.
We left toward 10 o'clock.