Morning

Nov-7-2003
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Bethlehem CP 300 8.45 a.m.V.Z., A. G.We went to Bethlehem because of the previous week’s “storming” of the cp and BP treatment of mostly elderly Palestinians who had wanted to go to Friday Ramadan prayers at Al Aqsa, which is an Islamic duty – one must attend every few years in order to be a pious Moslem, rather as one should do the “haj” at least once in one’s life.Barriers were in place at the junction leading to the checkpoint so it was impossible to gain access to the checkpoint itself; it would have been pointless to sidestep the BP sentries, as (a) there were about 30 BP stationed throughout the area (including at least 3 jeeps) that we could see and (b) in trying to monitor the checkpoint itself we would have been moved away by the BP. So we interviewed many people to learn secondhand from them what the conditions at the checkpoint were and remained for 90 minutes as a presence next to all the BP at the junction.Men over 45 and women over 35 were allowed to go to pray; no children (no matter how small) were allowed through and certainly no youth. No escort was allowed for the handicapped. Women told us they were body-checked as many as six times. Any luggage was spilled onto the floor, everything being taken out of bags and any vegetable produce that people were taking for sale was also strictly checked.We met a lawyer who had not been allowed to go to Jerusalem for three years, despite the requirements of his job vis-à-vis needing to go to the law courts; he had heart trouble and therefore even walking was hard for him. People were passing at a rate of approx. 1000 per hour, including a few settler buses, and we were told that a helicopter was chasing people in the wadi who had been trying to avoid the checkpoint. At times the BP arrived at the barriers next to us in various vehicles and deposited detaineesinfo-icon.A crew of AP cameraman and driver appeared, filmed the checkpoint for some 15 minutes and returned to Jerusalem, where the piece was sent out.We received a report from a priest at Tantur, who said Palestinians are regularly detained at the Tantur gatesinfo-icon, where BP “round them up”. Yesterday some 100 detainees had been held by 5 BP, as they tried to go through Tantur gardens. A few days earlier, Tantur staff were approached by a woman whose son had not returned home in the evening; they had gone to the checkpoint and found 20 detainees who had been detained for more than two hours, not having eaten or drunk all day. One man had made a sign of praying to them and asked “Are you from human rights?”The checkpoint had been completely sealed for the past 3 days except for settler buses, as it was apparently the anniversary of Rachel’s death, so there had been all-night parties at the checkpoint with much dancing, noise, music, portable toilets, day and night bus arrivals and at least 40 buses present at any one time.By the time we left at 10.00 a.m., some estimated 1500 people had been allowed to go to pray in Jerusalem. Al humdulilah.