Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
06:30 A quiet morning at Bethlehem checkpoint. All windows are open, the passage is flowing without delays and there is no pressure in the lines. Many greet us with a smile; asking us to help them officially escape the list of people prevented from entering Israel. We explain all one needs to know and what to do. The Ecumenical finish their shift that began on the Palestinian side at 04:30 am and they too report on an easy morning.
07:30 before we left we had a pleasant talk with A. the policeman who is once again the commander of the facility. He said he is trying hard to run the checkpoint in the most appropriate way. We asked why is the walkway from the road to the checkpoint so filthy, contrary to the checkpoint itself and the yard, that are clean and well cared for (6,000 people pass through it daily to each side) and his answer was: “where we are responsible - we maintain a high level of cleanliness and landscaping because this is how the population sees us but the passage is the responsibility of Jerusalem Municipality and all the appeals to them are to no avail.”
07:50 As usual people are waiting for us in the parking lot and before DCL opened we were able to respond to a lot of questions. When the hall opened we moved in to fill applications, sign power of attorney for Sylvia and for a lawyer who works with us and helps expedite the handling of cases that are not treated in the usual way. Recently there are a lot of requests for prevention removal that are not accepted at the soldiers’ windows, or accepted but not handled, even though we checked and they were submitted properly with all the necessary documents. Among the usual applicants a young woman with a little girl stands out, she is dressed elegantly - a long black embroidered dress and hijab covers her face. She came to ask for a permit to travel to Gaza to visit relatives she hasn’t seen for about 10 years, since she married a guy form Bethlehem. We explained to her that the chance that she’d get a positive response is slim and we referred her to an organization that deals with passage to the Gaza Strip.
Basma - Fingerprint
This term doesn’t present an easy feat for Palestinians in the West Bank. When the police arrest someone they take one’s "basma" even if one is not summoned to trial. For example, a man who is arrested because he had no permit, is released "only on basma" meaning that he is police prevented for a year and a half. Once the case is closed – the prevention is discarded even before the end of the year and a half. But if the case is not closed (on its own) or with the help of a lawyer, the prevention is automatically renewed and can continue endlessly. One has to check every few months with the DCL policeman, and if the case is not closed one has to hire an attorney to take care of it. Today we met two people who couldn’t pass because of the “basma”. This happens when the fingerprints do not match the biometric identification of the magnetic card. This is a common problem that is usually resolved at DCL. If there are particular problems one is exempt from fingerprints; but until the new occupation techniques are perfected we will continue to check fingerprints and read tea leaves...
We left the busy DCL at 09.30 for a meeting in Beit Jala with two sisters, old acquaintances, who told us about their daily lives nowadays. A pleasant women’s talk with children’s pictures on the phones... just one (of many) of their stories, describing the severe and permanent rationing of water in their household, and the flowing sewage of Har Homa in front of their house, reminding us where they live and where we do in the reality of the city that’s been “united” 48 years ago.