After getting stuck last week for an hour in a giant traffic jam caused by the CP at Lil/Jabba checking cars traveling from West to East (Qalandiya to Route 60), Natanya and I decided to do our MW shift at Etzion this week in the hope that we would return home at a more logical hour. We had no idea that we would find the DCL offices so crowded when we arrived at about 4 PM. The waiting room was full - 40 to 50 men of various ages, most of them complaining about the long wait, since early in the morning, required for renewal of their magnetic I.D. cards. We phoned the number posted on a sign near the carousel at the entrance to the office and asked the soldier who answered what the problem was. He explained that one of the machines they used had broken down and that the three soldiers on duty would not be able to issue cards to all those waiting. We suggested to the soldier that they make a gesture and extend their work day by half an hour but he replied that it was not in his power to make such a decision and suggested that we talk with his superior officer, who never answered our repeated phone calls. We also called Hannah Barag, but she too was unable to help.
From our conversations with those waiting we learned that the problem was how the work load was organized: each Palestinian village and town is allotted one day a week on which its residents can come to the DCL and receive a magnetic card (for which they have to pay). The “villages” assigned Monday include Bethlehem, Beit Jalla and Beit Sahur, towns with relatively large populations so that one day a week is not enough to cover demand. Although the method seems rational, the problems are built-in and no one seems to care enough to solve them and improve the service.
At 4:45 in the afternoon, there were still about 45 men standing by the carousel in the waiting room when the soldiers announced over the PA system that the office had closed and no more applicants would be received. People were quite angry. One man hung on the carousel and shouted to the soldiers that he had been there yesterday and had been told at the end of the day to come today and he would be served. He had been waiting since morning and not received service!
We left the waiting room, following a group of men who were trying to speak to the soldiers as they left the office. We too attempted to talk to the departing soldiers and one of them told us, in answer to our questions, that they were aware that the system wasn’t working and that changes would be made in the near future, including allocation of more than one day a week to residents of Bethlehem. Let’s hope this is true.
Another story: In the Etzion parking lot we met a woman about 45 years of age accompanied by a young man (her nephew). They came to Etzion from Bethlehem to get a permit for the woman to enter Jerusalem to see her brother (the young man’s father), a building worker who was hospitalized after falling from the building where he was working. The soldiers had told the woman that she had been categorized as a “security risk” and the woman was in a state of shock. She and the nephew had called in an Israeli attorney to help them and he had succeeded in getting a one-time permit for the woman. The woman, who was crying uncontrollably, devastated by stress and in a state of nerves, kept asking why they couldn’t issue her a multiple-entry pass to relieve her of the burden of stress and the cost of an expensive taxi ride to Etzion DCL. We echo her question.