Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
An insight: the improved attitude at the checkpoint during the holydays was temporary
6:30 to our delight the parking lot is open and it's easier for us. We take our usual place at the entrance hall to Bethlehem Checkpoint. Four windows are open but only a few people are lining up to go out to the Israeli side of Bethlehem. On the Palestinian side there is uproar and real screams. You can feel the unrest in the air and the rising tension. The faces of the passers this morning are particularly sullen and the smiles are rare. Many mutter angrily serious complaints - "you don’t treat animals that way". They report that because of the great pressure today two people collapsed and were taken to the hospital. An elderly woman, gentle, wearing a white, pristine scarf complains that for a month now the Humanitarian Gate is closed and the friction between men and women is terrible for her. Another one murmurs with a frightened face: "War, war."
More men and women arrive; they look stunned, waving their hands in large movements asking: "What will happen?" Unusually, this morning there are no Israeli officials in the waiting hall, except the women-soldiers in the windows. No policemen, no security guards and no checkpoint commander. There is no one to talk to, no one to complain to. The Humanitarian Center doesn’t respond. It goes on that way till 7am. The waves of shouts are rising and subsiding from the other side and here, the stream of passers is sparse and quiet. Sometimes it seems as if the exhausted people ran out of words. They speak only with their hands and look on with despair and anger. Many waited more than three hours this morning; they were late to their transportation and had to return back home.
Suddenly there is a small riot at the opposite window. A man raises his voice in protest against the soldier who took the work permit he received only 5 days ago. He is joined by another man from the neighboring window who has the same complaint. Suddenly a border policeman comes out from the staff’s room, inquires about the commotion and tries to chase away the complainers. We intervene and demand he investigate what’s going on. At first he shushes us roughly "You, do not talk to me!" We insist and finally he enters the windows, checks the stack of the confiscated permits and finds the two permits of the complainers. Like with a wave of a magic wand they get back their permits, thank us excitedly and go out to the anticipated work-day.
Toward 7:10 the inter-gate probably opens and the flow of people increases. The pressure now shifts to the waiting hall that fills with noise and crowdedness. As usual many are turning to Sylvia with questions and requests to address the problems of their relatives’ preventions. Despite the overcrowding we notice that in this hall, at the edge of despair, we can detect a considerable effort to act orderly and with restraint. Palestinians quietly pass us, nodding faintly, as if their last drop of energy has been drained. Another day of work with meager wage awaits them. In this sad atmosphere a guy appears all of a sudden, he just came out of the carousel, advances toward the entrance hopping, a broad and grotesque grin on his face and he is singing and waving with exaggerated cheerfulness: good morning, good morning to you! Like a scene from a Roberto Benigni movie.
We left at 7:45, the hall was still quite busy, unlike on other days.
8.10 Etzion DCL
A pleasant sun welcomes this morning on DCL hill. A group of guys are waiting for us in the parking lot. We decided to start working out of a car and not enter the hall. Most of the people today want to find out about their situation, their chances of getting out of it and requests to check their paperwork, fill power of attorney forms and applications for the removal of prevention, which they will submit at DCL. There is always someone to help with translation and today it is G. our acquaintance, the cute boy who instead of studying in school is here serving hot sweet tea. Lately we encounter more cases of "100 Years of prevention" perhaps this is the Israeli version of Macondo, inspired by Gabriel García Márquez novel.
9:40 we head back to Jerusalem to handle a multitude of applications waiting for us on the computer.