Bethlehem, Mon 12.11.07, Afternoon
From 2:00 till 6:30 PM
El Khadr, Herodiyon-Har Homa (Liebermann) Road, DCL Etzion and Rachel Passage
On our way south we stopped across the major road and construction works of the underpass to El Khadr. Large signposts announce the name of the contractor and all sub-contractors. The taxi-stand which used to be across the road and then had consequently been moved to El Nashash is now located at the Eastern entrance to Hussan (forbidden for vehicles except those for construction) – this is where the buses from Jerusalem turn around and the yellow cabs pick up passengers to Bethlehem, Hebron, etc. We expect the usual market place to develop soon.
Turning left near the entrance to Efrata we continued to inspect the progress of the Liebermann Road and found it fully operative. It cuts through mountains and settlers passed us hooting, since we were driving leisurely, observing the landscape. The stretch from the entrance to the Herodion till Har Homa took a mere ten minutes, including the check of our Id’s at the huge CP under Nuaman. We asked the soldier whether one could drive up to the village and he said no. We forgot to ask him since when this road is in full use, albeit only from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. There are no lampposts along the entire stretch yet. There is a sign to El Khas with a closed barrier and another closed road for use of security vehicles only. We turned around and did the same stretch in the other direction – it is easier and faster than driving via Road 60 and the tunnels. We entered Nokdim to see what it looked like and saw four other hilltops around it in various stages of being settled.
There were a couple of cars outside the Etzion DCL, probably belonging to people invited for an interview by the Security Services, there was no one in the waiting room, the toilets were not smelly. We left.
At the Rachel Crossing a civilian security guard prevented people from entering if there were more than three or four persons waiting at the windows. He told the others to stand and wait outside in a straight and single line – fortunately it was not raining. At the first window one of the workers had left a small plastic bag. The soldier inside left his post thus causing a longer queue and started smoking a cigarette. When we protested he asked whether he was not entitled to a few minutes break. Then another civilian guard accompanied by a nasty Border Police Officer appeared and started shouting at everyone (including those already at the windows, to go out, move back, further and further, because of the ‘suspicious object’. Yalla, yalla!! To us they added ‘please’. We were moved all the way out, the gates to the compound were closed and then we were chased across the road and North beyond the side entrance for cars. We were unable to reach Ronny, the Commander - a code is needed to get to him. Meanwhile buses arrived and unloaded continuously more passengers and the crowds were growing. It took a long time for the police destroyer to arrive and we were amazed how quietly and meek everyone was waiting, knowing that possibly all vans and yellow cabs to take them home to Hebron etc. would have left before they would exit. Some shared private taxis to beyond the tunnels along Road 60, a large hunk from their meager wages. They were all joking about the atom bomb and the terrible security risk of a plastic bag with a sweater. But also angry about the tourist buses, which were guided without any inspection through the motor-access. Hanna was called, but said it would be difficult for her to interfere. Carmela Menashe said she would investigate. Some workers suggested that the big gate towards Rachel’s tomb be opened and have the soldiers check them as in the past. They feared to be crushed once the green light was given. Indeed after a wait of almost an hour and a half the OK was granted and a stampede entered the terminal. We heard shouting and apparently it took some time before the men had formed ‘neat’ lines and were allowed to proceed. Altogether it took twenty minutes after the first had passed for the entire crowd to dissipate, less than we had expected - all five windows were open. Those who emerged from the other side were very angry and remarked that although they were grateful for us being there, we had not been of much use.