Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
Bethlehem Checkpoint - another difficult morning (Ronit reporting)
06:45 - We arrived relatively late. There is a police checkpoint at the entrance to the parking lot and all the area is busy with people and vehicles that come to collect the workers. So we parked at a distance, next to the base of the police and border guards and walked to the checkpoint. A young border guard stopped next to us and said that the parking is reserved only for those on “active duty” (this is what the policeman inside the checkpoint also said). We made it clear to him that as long as there is no sign prohibiting it we too can park here. He said we risk a parking ticket. Hannah who arrived after us did not encounter a checkpoint, parked as usual at the parking lot and didn’t get a fine.
Inside the hall is full. Five windows are open, window 2 is out-of-order and later on the policeman manages to fix it. On the Palestinian side, M. the Ecumenical volunteer from Sweden, reports that before 05:00 two of the three Magnetometer metal-detectors operated, and later on only one so that there was great pressure. The same man we saw last week trying to help a young man who was with him, once again was taking to the security guards and on the phone. After a while he left alone. Another person, not a young one, caused quite a stir when he tried to bypass the queue at one of the windows, but he kept going.
06:55 – A. our acquaintance arrived from the Palestinian side and said it took him about an hour and a half to pass. He said that the 3 Magnetometers are working now, but the soldiers are very slow. The voices that reach us from the other side confirm that the pressure there continues. A. leaves wishing us a great week. A group of women arrives and the policeman passes them quickly in one of the windows. They approach us and complain bitterly. They have been waiting since 05:00. The Humanitarian Gate (for women, children, the elderly and the sick) is closed ... they had to force their way with the men and it was humiliating, they are late for work ... some of them speak excited Arabic but body language and tone of voice makes it all clear.
The policeman passes between the windows and collects people’s permits. Many people were not passed today and their permits were taken away from them.
07:05 the hall is quite empty, but on the other side the shouting continues. T., the ecumenical, calls his colleague on the Palestinian side and says there are people with children who need to get to the hospital and are afraid to be late. We turn to the policeman who says he will check on the two-way radio. The hall fills up again, but after a while re-empties although the pressure on the other side can be heard loud and clear. We call DCL, the soldier who responds says there is nothing he can do, he consults his superiors but to no avail. At the Humanitarian Center they claim there is a hitch and advices to contact the public complaints officer, but he will arrive only at 11:00...
07:20 – everything is calm in the hall, but not on the Palestinian side. Someone who passes tells us that he has been waiting since 05:40 and that 3 people were evacuated to a hospital today.
07:30 – at long last it is calm on the Palestinian side as well. T. the Ecumenical arrives and reports that there aren’t many people left. It took him 11 minutes to pass.
Etzion DCL (Goni reporting)
As usual, many people who are waiting approach us and relate their problems excitedly, showing the documents they have. We begin to work standing up, responding to their requests; our table are the cars in the parking lot Finally we get to DCL’s waiting hall and continue, this time sitting down. One by one young people approach us and relate their hardships on the way to the anticipated permit - a permit to work in Israel. The spirit of mutual assistance amongst the youngsters is obvious and there is always someone who volunteers to assist us – to translate, explain, and assuage.
This morning we filled 3 applications for people who want to remove themselves from the list of those not permitted entry to Israel by the GSS. The rest of the applicants did not bring the necessary documents, without which there is no point in entering DCL because they will be rejected. We patiently give them a clear and precise explanation about the process of using their rights. Most of them already had their load of unfulfilled promises by soldiers, policemen and shrewd lawyers who charge the highest fees.
Unfortunately, even if they will bring all the right forms and fill them without error – it is uncertain that they will be accepted. There is a sense that more and more difficulties are thrown their way just for the sake of harassment. For example, the paperwork accompanying the official restriction removal request that Hannah wrote for a guy for his work in a settlement seemed to her sufficient and appropriate. But the guy returned in disgrace from the soldier at the counter. Why? Because the date on the employer's letter was the last day in December 2014. Until recently, it was possible to submit an application within two months from the date of the employer’s letter, and then within a month. Now, it seems it has to be a heartbeat between writing the letter and submitting the application. Or maybe he was turned down only because the year had suddenly changed…Who knows? Now go and get a new letter.
I filled a similar application for a guy from Hirbet El Aruv to work in the settlement of Beitar Illit. I carefully examined all the documents and they all looked fine. The guy's turn to submit the application to the soldier arrived just before we left. A moment later, he came back to me embarrassed –they did not accept the documents, told him to go to Hebron DCL because according to his address that’s where he belongs. I go to the soldier and ask for an explanation. He checks (behind the closed window) and says, "Oh right, it is here. OK, send me the guy”. The guy went in and lingered inside. It is late and we leave. Next to the car, he catches up with us -"No, they still insist that I go to Hebron DCL...”
We depart with the hope that someone up there will decide where this guy belongs....