Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem, DCO Etzion
06:40 – I arrive at a completely empty parking. It appears that the regular exit has been closed and that the people have been directed to go out at the back of the checkpoint, opposite the parking, because of a suspicious object. The entrance on this side seems to be of another world; flowerbeds, a stone paved path, bamboo fences, climbing vines with clusters of grapes –very pastoral…see picture.
On the side close to the door, there are four open windows so the hall is not crowded. A., one of the ecumenicals observing on the Palestinian side, confirms that there are few people since the Hebron residents are still prohibited from working in Israel because of the kidnapping of the three Israeli adolescents and the resulting events. According to them, 3,500 persons have passed through today. There are many soldiers and they are more nervous than usual. An officer, together with a soldier, comes up to us. The officer says that we may stay but the ecumenicals are requested to leave. We leave together with them and talk outside. After a few minutes we are all told to move away and the checkpoint is closed. There are large security forces all around – soldiers, border patrols and policemen. Sappers have arrived to deal with the suspicious object. All the people and the cars are sent away and the traffic stops. Our friends Hanna and Silvia are stuck in the jam.
While we are waiting, we meet our acquaintance A. He tells us that the road blocks that had been put up at Jala and on the way to Walajeh were already removed on Saturday. The fence has been heightened by half a meter and cameras have been added. Residents from Hebron, who wanted to go north, were allowed to pass through the Container checkpoint. A. is waiting for his friend who does not arrive, so eventually he sets out alone on his way to moshav Ora. Evidently, the suspicious object has been neutralized by a robot, since we haven't heard any explosion. After 20 minutes the traffic starts moving and we return to the checkpoint, this time through the regular drab entrance. Hanna and Silvia have joined us. Y., the boy with the transplanted kidney, and his mother pass through together with a number of women. The mother asks for our help: A young mother with a baby, who has to be on time for his dialysis, is waiting at the checkpoint. There is a problem with the permit and they are detained. The baby is sick, the mother is pressured, the ecumenicals are trying to help and Silvia is trying to get an answer from the DCO. In the meantime a volunteer from "the Road to Recovery Association" has arrived to drive the woman and her baby to the hospital. The security guards are pressured by the tumult that has been aroused. They ask the women to go outside. Police officer Y. arrives and promises to take care of everything. He asks us to wait on the side. And indeed, after e few minutes the woman and her baby pass through. We wish them luck and a quick recovery.
It is already 07:30 and the place is empty. The cleaning personnel start working. Many security forces are still around, mainly border patrols. It appears that a young man has run away. We leave. Outside there is no one to be seen.
On our way out, we meet another acquaintance. In his opinion (we understand that many people on the West Bank are of the same opinion), the kidnapping has not really happened; it's only a pretext for massive searches by the IDF, especially searches for Hamas members. He isn't afraid to say so. He claims that he has connections on Facebook with G'. from the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. They write to each other in Arabic and he expresses his opinions…
We arrive late to the DCO where there is a small number of people waiting, most of them for their magnetic cards to be issued. They have already taken a number knowing that they will be received only at 12:00. One of them tells us that he was here a week ago, but he did not manage to enter. They closed before it was his turn. Therefore, he has arrived this early hoping that he will be luckier today.
A number of people, whose applications for the removal of the restriction to enter Israel we have filled in, enter to hand them in. They return with receipts showing that the applications have been received. On the receipts it says that they will get the answer in three months. Until now it said two months; another delay. But one positive change has occurred – they have lowered the volume of the announcements through the loudspeakers that explain the stages of the issuing of the magnetic cards. Now it is easier to listen to the explanations and it may help those who cannot read.