Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem Checkpoint (Ronit and Sylvia reporting)
06:40 – Five windows are operating in the hall which fills and empties with no pressure. From the Palestinian side of the checkpoint shouts and yelling are heard, indicating that there is probably pressure there. J from the Ecumenical reports that early this morning there was pressure which lessened later on. He says they are building a new entrance and maybe it will improve the situation. In window one there is probably a problem with the biometric device (fingerprint checking). Many are required to put the finger over and over again until the device identifies them, but this of course delays the passage.
07:00 – Everything is calm in the hall but the yelling from the Palestinian side continues. J. gets a phone call from one of his friends who is there. He reports that there aren’t many people, but checking is very slow, that’s what one of the passers confirms - people rush to work, but they are letting them in one by one and are checking slowly. People lose patience and are yelling in an attempt to speed up the pace. J bids us goodbye. Soon he returns to his country and another team will arrive. He thanks us for our work. We thank him and admire people like him who have no direct bearing to the matter as we have and still come here constantly.
07:25 - The hall is almost completely empty and some windows are closed. After several minutes pressure builds up around the operating windows, and an officer arrives and opens the gate between the windows. The security guard calls "one by one", but the officer manages on his own this time (in the past we saw him literally manipulated by the guards. By now he must have acquired some confidence and he runs things, as it should be). After a few minutes the pressure subsided and the officer closes the gate.
07:35 - We left.
08:10 – The conduct in Bethlehem DCO today is a reflection of the occupation’s bureaucracy. Many people are waiting, most of them outside the hall. The majority came in the morning to get a magnetic card, although on Sundays the issuing of magnetic cards only starts at12:00. Why at 12? To save time for the soldiers who return to the army the day after a weekend at home ... it does not change even in periods of pressure at DCO.
It turns out the crowdedness outside the door is not related to the soldiers, but to people who need a magnetic card. They fear that when the machine (out of order) will begin functioning there will be an onslaught and the line will not be kept. We asked them why they don’t make their own list as they did in the past before the machine issuing numbers was installed? They say they had prepared such a list but apparently they don’t trust it. We ask ourselves how come they don’t issue numbers manually? The veterans among us will remember the days when they issued numbers manually and the soldiers tore up the lists the residents prepared and issued them numbers as they saw fit.
We plow our way in with people who came especially to meet us. All the people waiting outside are allowed in the hall since the machine is not issuing numbers. The hall fills quickly and people are sitting quietly prepared for a 4 hours wait. Amira Hass once wrote about the intolerable contempt of Palestinians’ time. Who cares about them? A few more hours of sleep for the two Israeli soldiers are worth much more than 4 hours of about 50 waiting Palestinians .
For some people who scheduled with us in advance we brought forms we already filled. Usually they can submit the documents in the morning (without waiting till 12). The window in which they submit the applications is open since morning, but today they don’t let anyone enter.
We went to the carousel with one of the waiting people who came to submit an application for removal of restriction. No, it’s impossible. The computers crashed and they can’t accept applications. Often the soldiers accept applications, give a receipt and afterwards it turns out that the soldier was wrong – he shouldn’t have accepted the application. So they just don’t handle it ... we ask them to make allowances for people who arrived specifically and that they accept their applications first, and if after the computer resumes work they’ll find out that they can’t handle the case - so be it. No, when computers are out of order they don’t accept paperwork. Let them come back some other time, or wait. As we said, Palestinians’ time is not worth much...
After a few minutes the soldiers announce over the loudspeaker that there is no computer and no applications can be submitted, except those who need a permit for medical reasons. In went an elderly man wearing a kaffiah.
Meanwhile we helped in the hall those we could help including the people who scheduled in advance. And who are the GSS restricted who came to meet us? One of them had a brother in prison that during the time he served had a valid permit to enter one of the settlements in the region. When the brother was released from prison they confiscated his permit. Some people arrived for the umpteenth time, after their applications were not accepted: because the soldiers didn’t like the letter written by the employer, or because the employer is Israeli but doesn’t have all the documents, and the like. So they brought a new letter, but this time too it wasn’t accepted since there is no computer...
10:00 - We left. When we were backing out of the parking lot we picked up the man with the Kaffiah, who came to get a permit to enter Israel for medical treatment. Apparently since the computer wasn’t working he was sent to the Palestinian DCO for a permit. Now he has to catch a ride to a bus stop on the main road, and then continue by bus.