Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
6:30 – as usual, there are many people outside. The checkpoint area continues to undergo a facelift. They painted the curbs red and white (the parking lot is in black and white ), the gardens are neat and the parking lot area is quite clean. On the fences surrounding the checkpoint area and the road near the bus station they stretched outdoor decorative bamboo fences. Later, when we left we saw that they are cleaning the road leading to the checkpoint. Municipal employees are sweeping and a sweeping machine passes and cleans.
Our acquaintance says that after a few ‘good’ days at the checkpoint, on Thursday and today it wasn’t so great. "The soldiers are taking their time with us," in his words. He means that they don’t regulate properly the passing. They open, close, let in too many people at once and then too little and too slow, etc. The outcome is great frustration for those waiting.
Inside 5 windows are open and the waiting hall is packed. There is no security personal in sight (except the soldiers inside the inspection windows, of course). But after a moment an officer arrives and opens the gate between the windows. In the first moments there is some shoving and yelling of people who abandoned the queues and switched to the fast lane in front of the gate. The officer, with some of the audience who teaches him to say "Shwoye shwoye" (slowly slowly), try to calm them down and passes people quickly. We heard the speakers call from the Palestinian side of the checkpoint to resume the flowing (i.e. pass people). After about 10 minutes the pressure decreased. We saw a child with full bags who was not allowed to pass. The officer escorted him back to the Palestinian side and then returned and opened the gate. At 6:45 or so everything calmed down and the gate closed.
From the Palestinian side arrives A. the French Ecumenical. She reports that the first half hour was fine and about 1,000 people passed. Then pressure began to build and they started to close every now and then the carousels and stop the passage, which increased tension even more. She described the lines on the other side: the fences separating one line from another are not high and when the lines get longer people skip over them and go from queue to queue hence raising stress and anger. The construction work has not yet ended and no passage for women has been opened. Most of the time the men let them integrate into the queue, but the situation in which they must squeeze between men is certainly not pleasant for them. A. says that on the Palestinian side they painted in white part of the wall on the road leading to the vehicles checkpoint and erased some of the graffiti.
Now began the passage of groups or families who seemed as if they are not on their way to work. A group of hospital workers arrives, mostly young women on their way to a trip to the south. The hall is filled with the sounds of joy and smiles abound. But then a problem arises: one of the young women forgot her permit. An older woman from the group, who seems to be in charge, turns to the security guards for help and they are helpful. Per their request the woman soldier checks the computer for a permit with the young woman’s name. But there is no permit on her name. One of the guards, who speaks Arabic, allows her to pass and wait for the woman in charge while he talks on the radio and on the phone (probably with DCO). Periodically several members of the group approach them to find out what goes on. The security guards politely ask them to wait outside. After a few minutes the problem was solved and the girl was allowed to continue on her way with the group.
7:00 - Meanwhile, another wave of workers passed and it’s calm again. A few minutes later they were hardly any people left. Even now the security guards politely turned to the people who lingered inside (usually waiting for their friends who haven’t yet passed) and asked them to wait outside, and they of course complied. Did our conversation with one of the security guards (who we did not see today) Help? What is certain is that the relaxed atmosphere prevailed.
7:30 - now there are only 2 windows open and it is enough since there are just a few people passing. Among them is Y. from the Ecumenical group. We left on our way to DCO.
When we arrived a little after 8, the parking lot was already full. The door is open, but people are standing outside and are not entering. The soldiers ordered them to wait beyond the concrete checkpoints. Only those who come to get a permit to enter Israel can enter. Most people wait for the issuance of magnetic cards. We went in with someone who needed to apply for prevention removal. Inside there were a soldier and a woman officer, who took care of the machine. When she finished she said that according to the rules we are not allowed to be in the waiting hall. We said that we always are there and asked if it is a disturbance. She repeated that according to the rules it is forbidden. We stayed.
After the officer and soldier left the people who waited outside entered and went to get a number from the machine. There was some confusion, but they had a list prepared earlier and they took numbers according to this list. Now they will have to wait until 12. Only then they will start handling those waiting for issuing cards on Sundays.
Meanwhile we filled out application forms for prevention removal for several people. One of them, an older man, wants to pray at Al Aqsa mosque. Another, a young man fluent in English, is a nurse. He did his internship overseas because they didn’t grant him an entry permit that would have allowed him to do the internship in Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. Since he returned to Israel he has to help support the family, his parents and younger siblings. He found an employer willing to hire him in settlement construction and is hoping to get a permit and work and maybe in the future to get a permit for East Jerusalem, so that he can practice his profession. We wrote the application for him and he went in and submitted it. The first step was made on the way to find livelihood and perhaps later professional and personal fulfillment...
We were already outside the DCO waiting hall when a man approached us with an order to report to the GSS at Har Manoah. He said that soldiers came at night to search his nephew and since he was not home they took his work permit and said they would return it if he brings his nephew with him to the GSS. His nephew was with him but we did not see him because he was sitting in the car. The man thought he had to report to Etzion DCO – where all citizens from Hebron area report to. But we told him that Har Manoah is the largest Hebron DCO. The soldiers wrote it in Hebrew without explaining. So his permit is confiscated, and he not only has to hand over his nephew, he has to run around searching the meeting place ... and it’s unclear if his permit will be returned. This permit is probably the bread of a large family, so that’s why the nephew is ready to be arrested so that the uncle could feed the family.
On our way back to collect one of the cars in the parking lot of the checkpoint we saw that the road leading to the checkpoint is clean and polished as we haven’t seen it in a long time.