Bethlehem, Fri 28.9.07, Morning
Third Friday of the month of Ramadan
7:45 - Bethlehem CP
Outside the checkpoint, on the Israeli side there is a lot of activity - dozens of people and vans for picking up passengers. There is no correlation between the commotion outside and the activity within the terminal building: there is very little traffic, there are three lanes open and none of them have a line of more than five or six people. The apparent reason is the restriction on entering Israel. In contrast to the few Palestinians in the terminal there are approximately fifteen security personal: police and military patrolling the lanes and the area above us. In a response to our question we are told that only men above the age of fifty and women above the age of forty are allowed entrance. In one of the lanes we notice an argument developing between a waiting person and the soldier in the checking booth. He is fifty years and four months. She says he must be over fifty. We explain to her that above fifty means any day past one's fiftieth birthday. After about ten minutes he is permitted to pass.
An officer approaches us. She tells us that she was instructed to escort us outside. We ask her who issued the order and she says it's from her commander who got it from Roni the Terminal commander. We leave and call Roni who tells us he will instruct the soldiers to let us stay.
Back inside there is a lot of noise of the soldiers reading instructions to waiting Palestinians through the loudspeakers. We can hear especially rude language coming from one of the checking booths: “Go! Get out of here! Go home! Come on, go! Don't speak to me in Arabic! I don't speak Arabic!” She speaks in a loud voice to the people waiting in line. We tell her commanding officer who tells us she will talk to the soldier. We mention her behavior to a senior police officer who is on the scene. He can hear it to and feels uncomfortable. He tells us he will talk to her. Most of the people get through (most of the people who came today meet the permitted profile to begin with). However, every now and then a father and son (the son is fifty five), a mother and son or a couple (in their sixties) are told they must separate. They are told (usually the man) the he is restricted. We can see surprise, hurt and frustration on their faces when they are told. A thirty nine year old woman arrives; she wants to pass and pray. We can see the hurt in her face - only women who are older than forty can pass.
We leave at 9:00. on the our way we get a report from the Ecunemical Accompaniers that there are hundreds of people waiting on the Palestinian side.