Ina F. (reporting), G., K., G., and G. (guests from Australia and the USA who had been on our English tour) Transl Judith Green
A shift with unsullied eyes
It is always interesting to have a shift with guests, who see what is happening at the checkpoint for the first time and to listen to their responses. Their standpoint is different from that of the volunteers who have come to the checkpoint for years by now and have seen both better and much worse things than those that happen today at the checkpoint.
The checkpoint is empty and every new arrival goes immediately to the waiting line at the entrance, to one of five inspection booths which are open. A few minutes later, in turns out that booth #5 is not operating, although the sign above it says the opposite; it opens at. Lines begin to form by , and by people are arriving at the roofed entrance area, but the flow inward improves right away when a policeman arrives and instructs the soldier in the aquarium when and for how long to open the turnstiles. This morning they are using two out of the three passages called the "cages".
The fifth inspection booth is closed and opens again at 5;55, when when they announce that the x-ray machine in it is not working and people need to be aware of this when they choose a booth. This announcement is frequently repeated during our shift.
The DCO officer responsible for the Humanitarian Gate arrives. A small group of people are already standing there and others join them when I report to them that he has come. From then on, the situation at the Humanitarian Gate is not clear to the new arrivals. Since the officer has chosen to sit in a place where one cannot see him from the area of the Gate, people often run back and forth between the Gate and the lines through the cages, since they cannot decide where their chances are better to get through more quickly We report to the older women and men who are standing in line through the cages that the soldier responsible for the Humanitarian Gate is present and opening the Gate, but we also cannot promise them that it will be faster for them if they go over there and wait.
In another instance, we see a woman next to the Gate trying to get the attention of the DCO officer. He approaches her, but, because of the distance at that minute (we are standing near the cages) we can't hear what is happening between them. Afterward, one of the guests from the USA (a young man who studies at a Yeshiva that puts emphasis on "Jewish values") tells us what happened.
"That soldier is really a piece of work!", he says, with a mixture of astonishment and anger, relating to the DCO officer. He says that he didn't understand what the woman said to the officer, but the officer looked her straight in the eyes, turned his back to her, and returned to sit down. We also don't know what happened, but we can guess that she asked him to open the Gate and he sent her to the regular lines (or he didn't even answer her, as the student reported).
In any case, the young man was quite disturbed, because he did understand the general attitude of deep contempt in this exchange - an exchange that (we know) happens often enough in the administration of the Humanitarian Gate. We suggested that he talk with the officer and express his impressions of his behavior towards the woman, but he preferred to hold back.
The lines disappear and all those who arrive now go through the open turnstile at the end of one of the cages immediately.
On our way out, we stop for coffee and tea at the entrance to the checkpoint to summarize the visit with the guests. A young man has temporarily replaced the owner of the kiosk, and the second American guest (who studies at the same Yeshiva) turns to him in Hebrew (interesting that he takes for granted that the Palestinian youth will speak Hebrew) and orders tea. You can see from their faces that they are happy for the chance to meet and the conversation that develops, half in Hebrew, half in English. And you can see how easy it is to create a human connection between people whose worlds are separated, if only you start off with good intentions and a smile. Maybe that was the major lesson learned this morning.