Afternoon

Oct-13-2002
|

17:00: At Bethlehem, after a short tour of the Tantur grounds, we took the "Palestinian route", the more circuitous path leading to the military position. We encountered a long, static, line of maybe 70 or a hundred men waiting for the routine ID check to return to Bethlehem. One Border policeman was in the booth, checking the few pedestrians entering Jerusalem from Bethlehem. Another Border policeman came out and, he claimed later, informed the waiting men that he was short-staffed that day and there would be a delay. He allowed the few women present, and another family with small children, to pass the line up. Many of those waiting had blue, Jerusalem, ID's, while others, presumably had permits to be in Israel. At the booth there were three detaineesinfo-icon. The policeman, whose name was Abraham, the commander of the checkpoint explained to us that one of his men had had to go to his mother's funeral and he was therefore not able to process the transitees as efficiently as he would like. He agreed that it was a problem, expressed his respect for our work and sent greetings to MR with whom, apparently, he had had many interesting discussions! He told us that he was a "lone soldier", his family was in Russia and when he was released from service in four months he would go back to join them, he was very lonely here. At 17:15 we headed off for the Tunnel Road and El Khader. It was already dark, but we stopped by the Hussan blockade where we met a taxi driver, who offered to take us on a tour of the blockaded villages - Hussan, Batir, Nahalin which we will include in next week's shift (there are another three or four places in his taxi, so those interested please notify). Across the road, El Khader was in pitch darkness except for a jeep stationed in the middle of the road, shining a blinding spotlight on those approaching. No ID checks though, neither entering or leaving El Khader. There was quite a modest flow of traffic: women coming from fields and market, workers returning home and people headed for the south, Hebron, Beth Umar via the waiting buses at the crossroads. The earthworks at El Khader have disappeared and two bitonadas have been set up, facing each other, like the gatesinfo-icon of an ancient shrine. The darkness and the spotlight made it all quite surreal and totally incomprehensible. The Border police jeep was joined by an army jeep,and then took off into the night. The soldiers told us that they remain there unitl 9:00 p.m. but that no one passes at night. All around us the movement of pedestrians continued. Two women complained that they had to carry their produce on their heads because the taxis plying between El Khader and Bethlehem, Ramallah etc. were no longer there. Whether this was because of the late hour or because they were banned, is not clear.18:00. The tunnel-road checkpoint was clear. Back at the Bethlehem checkpoint the line had dispersed, and so had the detainees. However, there were five new "suspects": two men laden with luggage going to catch a plane at Lod, a father and son, aged 7 or so, and a "legal" laborer, all headed home to Bethlehem. The two travellers were extremely frustrated including us in their complaints. We connected them demonstratively to the Moked and within minutes they were on their way, as were the Bethlehemites. Coincidence ? Who knows.