Bethlehem (300)

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Yael I., Ruth O. and Ilana D. (reporting)

From 6:00 till 8:00 AM



There were many cars parked along the road waiting for workers and a constant huge stream of Palestinians exited the CP when we arrived. They all looked angry and told us that the crossing had been difficult. When we entered we saw that five windows were open and the queues in front of them were very short. However, in the background we heard the well-known noises of overcrowding, and realized that the turnstiles leading to the space which we could observe were only opened sporadically. A civil guard who hardly spoke Hebrew asked us whether we intended to stay; he may have thought first that we were tourists on our way into Bethlehem.

The Palestinians adjusting their belts and running on their way out, all told us that they had waited since 4:00 AM and that every day has been as bad lately. A limping woman told us that she had been hurt and bruised by the turnstiles and that only one sleeveinfo-icon was open at the other end. We tried to call a number which had been given to us by Chana of the Sunday-morning shift, but it was disconnected. An officer explained to us that he had not enough manpower to ease the flow and even if there were more soldiers, he would have no space to lodge them. It is clear that this is the policy from above and that the men on the spot cannot do much.

Apparently at some point a second sleeve was opened at the Bethlehem side and all of a sudden the lines in front of the windows in front of us lengthened and the pushing and shoving started there too. A couple of tourists (with cowboy hats) on their way to Bethlehem asked us whether we too were waiting to enter ‘against the flow’ - we directed them to the first window where the Palestinians were removed until they had crossed.

By the time our friend A. arrived the pressure ahd already eased somewhat – he told us that he had only arrived at the Bethlehem side at 6:30 and that there had been two open sleeves. When we left there were still quite a few Palestinians waiting outside, but no more contractors to pick up their workers. Soon a bus arrived and about a hundred men squeezed inside.