Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem Checkpoint (the Israeli side),
Bethlehem Checkpoint (Ronit reporting)
06:35 - Outside a little less people and cars than usual, probably because of the Christian Holidays. We are greeted by a sign hanging on the bamboo fence (which was raised in honor of the Pope's visit), that greets one with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ... (see photo). I meet A. sitting with his friends outside. He and his friends say that during last week the situation was good. It is unclear whether this is because of the Christian Holidays, or as a result of the reportage on Channel 1, but all hope this will last. They say they met the journalist (Yoram Cohen) and talked to him and that on Monday two officers from the Civil Administration came to see what goes on at the checkpoint, and they talked with them too. They believe that the good situation right now shows that everything depends on the will of the soldiers whether to facilitate or complicate.
Inside 5 windows are open. The hall is full and busy, but orderly. At window 1, which was closed at the beginning and opened later, the carousel is still broken and one needs to slip through its arms in order to pass; another annoying little obstacle on the way out.
A soldier standing outside of the windows asks who I am and the answer "MachsomWatch" satisfies him. At one point an ecumenical volunteer arrives with a group of young foreigners. She shows them around outside, explains about the place and then they go back to Bethlehem.
Just after 07:00 the place empties. A security guard we meet for the first time becomes available to talk with us, and later we are joined by his friends that we already know. The conversation goes smoothly despite disagreements. The guard is surprised to hear that we believe that there is an occupation ...
Etzion DCL (Sylvia and Goni reporting)
We arrived at DCL a little before 08:00. All is very gray since the sky is overcast; winds are blowing on the hill, it is freezing cold. People are gathered around us, and work begins when we are halfway to the waiting room of the DCO.
Usually the waiting room opens at 08:00 am (even if those allowed to cross the carousel are only permit seekers or people who come to deliver applications for restriction removal. As we know, on Sundays they begin to issue magnetic cards only at 12:00, but at least people can wait inside). Today time passes and the door doesn’t open. We, along with the rest of the crowd, are shivering from cold and wondering.
We call DCL and alert them about the delay in opening the door. From the response we realize that “This morning the door will not open till 11:00 because we have a ceremony in honor of the new DCL commander ". They did not post a sigh about it, didn’t deliver an oral message; let them wait…
We tried to convince the soldier who answered the phone to at least open the hall, allow tens of applicants a shelter from the freezing cold, even if they will not be handled till 11:00, but the door remained closed...
We sent a text message to Adva, the deputy to the liaison officer at DCL, as follows:
"Hello Adva! How are you? We are at Etzion DCL. As you know, DCO is closed because of a ceremony in honor of the new Commander of DCL. Why can’t they open the waiting room? It is very cold outside! This is real harassment…. there is here a family with two small children. They are sitting outside in the cold…This is not okay! Please… "
We tried calling the Public Complaints Officer and he did not answer (maybe he too was at the ceremony). We sent him a similar text message. Not one of them responded to our messages. So this is what the new area with the new commander heralds: that people will wait outside in the cold ... not that in the era of the departing commander of DCL the situation was any better...
We escaped the cold wind into the car and “received people ", simultaneously, from both sides. The steaming tea brewed by Abu Jihad never tasted better than it did today.
Receiving people was as usual - advice and guidance in detail and with endless patience as to what kind of documents need to be submitted in order to remove restriction, signing proxies and applications we filled, and referral to other companies (police restricted to Haya, military restrictions due to a debt to Ada) After 09:00 the pressure subsided and we went back to Jerusalem.
Dozens of applicants continued to wait outside until the hall will open at 11:00 as promised ... some of the people will have to wait longer – since the issuing of magnetic cards begins only at 12:00. Among those waiting there were two people for whom we filled applications for the removal of restriction and they had to submit them at the window. They informed us later that DCL was eventually opened at 10:15 and not at 11. Some joy.
On our way back finally some rays of sunlight managed to penetrate the heavy clouds and a piece of blue sky gave us a sliver of hope that 2015 will be better, inshallah.