Bethlehem, Fri 4.1.08, Morning
At the exit from the parking area in the direction of the checkpoint an officer called Yoav comes to meet us and tells us aggressively that he is the checkpoint commander and that we are not allowed to enter, and certainly not to stand near the inspection positions. He is wearing a steel helmet and a flack-jacket and is accompanied by a guard.
Yoav and the guard stay next to the path near the vehicles. We continue to advance slowly in the direction of the checkpoint, and call our colleagues on the phone, The minibuses fill-up at the usual speed for this hour on a Friday. As soon as we enter the path, Yoav approaches together with his guard, and tells us unpleasantly to return the way we came.
In the beginning, our telephone calls don’t help. Ronny, commander of the checkpoint doesn’t answer, and at the Humanitarian Office they emphasize that they deal only with the Palestinians, and that we should contact the public complaints department at the Central Command headquarters. We return to our car to see if we have brought the relevant letters and to try again to contact people. One of the guards patrols the parking area to keep an eye on us.
Eventually we manage to contact Ronny (by chance or not, to the less well known number). Ronny says that he will talk to Yoav and that we can return to the checkpoint. Of course Yoav is already not there and one of the guards greets us.
2 inspection positions are open with long queues. As we arrive, a tourist group approaches and starts to take photographs.At first they don’t understand that the same inspection positions serve both those entering and leaving Bethlehem.
The queues lengthen and we contact the humanitarian office. Shouts are heard on the far side of the checkpoint. An elderly Palestinian asks one of the soldiers to let him pass through the second channel because the computer in the first channel is stuck. After a few minutes an officer comes out to man a second inspection position and the queues gradually shorten.
0950 We leave