9:00 to 11:00
It’s been a long time since I saw Bethlehem Checkpoint so busy on a Friday! Long lines all the time, technical problems at various terminals, rigorous checking also for the very old, people with Israeli identity cards waiting in line for a broken device, even though they are not even supposed to be checked (that way two boys were stuck for over half an hour and when I asked why not let them pass the security guard replied: "it does not make sense that these two young and healthy pass at once while those adults are waiting." The guard is right - it would be desirable to let the elderly pass immediately!
Many were surprised to find out that only at the age of 60 one can pass without a permit, men and women. They claimed that it said on the news that they would allow passage to women over 50 years old and for men over 55.
The security guard, the officer, the women-soldiers at the windows – didn’t misbehave, did not raise their voices, they all "worked" quietly. But the situation was intolerable. People were waiting and even when they at long last approached the window there were problems and they had to wait again. There were three open windows, but none of them was working properly. They tried to open a different window and there, too, there was a problem. Only at 10:30 they opened windows 7-8 and these worked properly. There were a lot of people in line in front of the different windows and the pressure subsided very slowly.
A number of people were not allowed to pass because of their “tender” age, not because they had no permits. A 61-year-old woman discovered all of a sudden at the checkpoint that she is prevented from entering Israel. She asked me to pass her details to Sylvia. Someone else was interested in MahsomWatch, listened carefully to my explanations and asked how a relative, prevented from entering Israel, could be helped. I gave him Sylvia’s mobile number.
There were also many children passing today. Well-dressed little children were waiting patiently and then run happily toward the buses. A father arrived with three children. The youngest one looked worried, tense. After the four of them passed the checkpoint he beamed happily and danced for joy. Isn’t the way we make Palestinian children happy touching?
A very elderly, quite bent woman arrived. She passed the window without paying attention to it and began to walk out. The soldier called the security guard. The Palestinians in line asked: "What do you want from her? She must be 80!" Still, the security guard approached the old woman (It should be noted that he did it gently and politely, clearly feeling uncomfortable in this situation – he is probably new, and doesn’t really know what to do). She immediately pulled out an ID card, the security guard returned with the ID card to the soldier and she made sure the old woman was not a ticking bomb.
Some of the time there was also an ecumenical volunteer on shift.