Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem Checkpoint - Ronit and Sylvia reporting:
6:25 - as usual there are many people outside. A stream of people welcomes me as I approach the checkpoint; apparently they opened the gate between the windows, allowing a rapid passage of people (who just present their permits, without checking with the computer). Apparently the rapid passage is made through window 6 manned by a security guard and a policewoman. The hall is packed; there is a great pressure in the 5 lines that are open, there are fights and yelling at the lines, by far more than usual. Later they opened the quick passage through window 6, every now and then an officer showed up. Overall it was pretty packed and tense. The people who pass say it’s a difficult day.
At one point when there was slightly less pressure in the lines, a boy passed at window 4. The woman soldier calls him back. He pauses a moment, then comes back and asks, "What's the problem?" And starts joking. This raises the ire of the security forces. The security guard jumps at him, pushing him back into the hall, pinning him to the wall and it seems as if he is strangling him. The policewoman and the other security guard rush to the scene and watch what happens. Later the guard violently leads the boy through window 4 again and with his friend takes him to "behind the scenes" of the checkpoint. There they will teach him how to joke with our forces ... We didn’t see him come out.
7:10 - 5 windows are open and there is still lots of pressure. After our phone call to DCO they again opened the quick passage at window 6, and the pressure diminished. People turn to us with problems. One is a school administrator working for the Waqf on the Temple Mount, whose permit hadn’t been renewed recently. There are five or six employees in the educational administration of the Jordanian Waqf that have not received permits. A GSS decision - is what they said. But they are not prevented, so if they want to work as farm laborers or construction workers they will get permits. Just not for work in the Waqf. The occupier has a lot of methods and ideas to make people’s life miserable. We know many of the methods, but we haven’t yet heard about this one. Perhaps Jordan's King would say a word and things will work out...
Other people passing at the checkpoint seek assistance for relatives and friends who are prevented. The silver lining today was that one of the people, who we helped with filling application, got the news that his prevention has been removed. Now he has a permit and he came to greet and thank us for our help. Another person stopped to talk with us; his prevention was removed in the usual procedure while his daughter’s prevention was removed only after applying to court. The security guard rudely orders us to get out, and at his command we go outside to talk to them. The security guards do not allow Palestinians to dwell in a checkpoint. If they want to talk to us or if it’s just someone waiting for a friend, they have to go outside. There is no point in arguing, it might hurt the person who turns to us – they could put him inside the guts of the checkpoint and he’ll be late for work - a few hours at best or at worst a few years ...
7:15 - Y. from the Ecumenical arrives; we met her last week. She reports that onstruction work is done on the Palestinian side. It goes on for a month already. So currently there is only one line and everyone has to wait in that single line. Women and men, who are entitled to access through the Humanitarian Gate find out it is closed. At one point, they opened a special line for women, but it was only for a short time. A family with a sick child passed through the vehicle checkpoint.
7:20 - As we spoke with Y and with those who turned to us everything calmed down. The queues were over and now only two windows were open and that was enough.
7:30 - we left. Just as we were getting into the cars we heard loud screaming and saw soldiers and security guards advance toward the vehicles checkpoint. We approached, too, and stood back. Two policewomen who hurried to the scene told us not to approach. As far as we could see there was a young man in a red shirt in one of the cars and he was detained and that’s why his mother raised an outcry. At one point she was on the ground, screaming bitterly. But later she got up and rearranged her head cover and seemed calmer. We also saw a young man who came back to the car. The guy in the red shirt was held by security guards. One of them motioned for us to go away. It looked (and sounded) as if things had calmed down.
We approached our cars in order to leave. At the entrance to the parking lot two security guards were leading two young men - one of them in a red shirt. We wanted to photograph but before we had time they entered the checkpoint through one of the doorways and disappeared from sight. We left.
7:45 – on our way to DCO we noticed at the exit of the tunnels toward Jerusalem a jeep and next to it several border guards. They indicated to an elderly man, who was walking on foot toward Jerusalem, to approach them. While driving through the tunnel we saw women walking toward Beit Jala and El-Hader. Apparently they tried to walk to Jerusalem and were sent back by the Border Police. We drove on to our meeting with Jamila’s son (she herself is sick today) for buying olive oil and olives. Sylvia and Goni continued to DCO.
Etzion DCO - Sylvia reports:
We are still in the car and already many people turn to us. But it is very hot so we hurry into the hall. The hall is packed with people and many people are crowding around the machine issuing numbers. People are standing on the bench next to the machine and around the machine there are several circles of people. Many came to receive magnetic cards, but the machine does not issue numbers for this purpose. Magnetic cards are being issued from 12 – so you probably can’t get a number before 12... It was stated that the DCOs are working on Sunday, the eve of Memorial Day, till 5, as usual.
Still many people go in for other purposes and the noisy reading of numbers of those summoned in continues indefinitely. When the machine "talks" - people need to shut up because you they can’t hear each other…
Many people arrived with the wrong documents. We filled some applications for people who had the appropriate documents. They went in after their number was called by the machine and at least one came out with a long-awaited receipt confirming that he had submitted an application for prevention removal and the date when he should come back for an answer.
One of the men forgot to bring a photocopy of his ID. There are DCOs that require not to send a photocopy of an ID with applications to remove prevention. They have the ID on the computer. It’s a waste of paper, they tell us. Not so in Bethlehem DCO… Moreover, with a dollop of goodwill they could have photographed the ID to complete the documents ... but good will? What for? ... The guy will go home in a taxi, photograph the card and return to the DCO in a cab... Why should the DCO care?
A man who was police prevented showed us his documents. The day for prevention removal had arrived but he was still prevented. He came to find out why We explained to him that it takes about two weeks until the prevention removal shows up on the computer (the police transfers data to the army once a month ...). He would wait patiently – does he have a choice?
He was a “completely clean” man according to him. He wants out from the black list of the GSS. We tell him that only at age 60 they are willing to accept appeal on security prevention without an employer. But he is missing 20-30 years till he’ll be 60 and he has no employer ... he could buy "Warakat Moshaal” (a note from an employer)? Oh well ... we tell him to get an employer ... without a letter from an employer or documents it’s impossible to appeal for the removal of security prevention if you are not yet 60...
Among the people who came to see us was one happy person who had reached 60. We filled his prevention removal application and he went in. He did not come out until we left.
We met another man who came to refresh his magnetic card. He also had a letter from an employer strictly kosher – we could fill an application. But a few weeks ago he signed a power of attorney so we could check it for him. We checked and it turns out he already received a negative answer (for an earlier application he filed) last July (2013). Therefore he can’t ask again for removal of prevention till July, 2014. He remained waiting, hoping he’ll be able to refresh his magnetic card.