Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem Checkpoint (the Israeli side), Etzion DCL
06:30 – as usual, outside there are many people and cars. Already on the way from the parking lot we hear cries, shouts and whistles and a lot of noise, coming probably from the Palestinian side. Inside there are 5 open windows and a few people but clearly the Palestinian side is overcrowded. A group of people are standing in the hall; their IDs were taken for inspection. At a certain point a security guard arrives and gives back their ID cards. Only two from the group passed, the rest were sent back to Bethlehem, the security guard opened the gate for them. Later we saw another group that was sent to the inner rooms of the checkpoint until their ID’s were checked. This time they all passed and left the checkpoint.
The hall is almost empty, but the shouting continues from the Palestinian side. It is unclear to us why they don’t let people go through the security check on the Palestinian side and from there to the hall in front of the checking windows on the Israeli side. Only around 07:00 the hall starts to fill up. One of the security guards tells us that one carousel is broken, hence the pressure. It seems that this is not the only reason, since for long minutes the hall was nearly empty (that is, the two carousels that were functioning passed hardly any people).
The people that pass complain about the stress and slowness, especially on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. People are late for work and some do not get there at all. A., our acquaintance who finally arrives, confirms what we heard. Women complain that they don’t open the Humanitarian Gate for them. At 07:00 the hall was completely full and the shouts from the Palestinian side subsided; apparently they began to increase the passage there. A policeman arrives and they briefly open the gate between the windows and pass people quickly, without a computer check. When this gate was closed the commotion continued.
At 07: 15 A. the Ecumenical volunteer arrived with another young woman from Sweden. They passed to the Israeli side with a group of women who were allowed to pass through the exit route because of the tremendous pressure and in the absence of the Humanitarian Gate. A very old man arrives, wearing headwear and leaning on a stick from a tree branch. He also complains about the pressure and absence of the Humanitarian Gate. He says it took him two hours to pass. He also complains that they did not give him a permit to go to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Twenty years ago he went to Mecca twice.
07:30 the hall empties and there are no more shouts from the other side, and again it fills up. Outside of window 7 someone stands and passes people without checking with the computer so as to relieve the pressure.
07:40 - We left when the hall was still full and 6 windows were operating. Until a few weeks ago at this time it was already empty and there were only 2-3 open windows.
On our way to DCL we stopped at the entrance to Husan to meet Jamila’s son and buy olives and excellent olive oil. In recent weeks they placed concrete barriers on the side of the road at the entrance to Husan and soldiers are standing next to them almost always (even in the pouring rain) and sometimes they set up temporary roadblock and check some of the vehicles. We wondered whether they’ll react to our meeting there, but when we arrived there were no soldiers at the concrete barriers. Only a military jeep was on the nearby square and the soldiers inside did not react to our presence.
When we got to DCL it was already open and, relatively, there were not many people. Those waiting for permits were let in. The majority are waiting for magnetic cards. On Sunday the work begins at 12:00. After taking numbers from the machine most of them preferred to wait outside in the pleasant wintery sun that came out after a rainy week. Abu Jihad graced us with delicious tea made from rainwater. We helped several people with instructions about the necessary documents required for submission of applications for restriction removal and we referred police restricted to Haya.
We left around 09:00.