Bethlehem, Thu 7.2.08, Morning
5:30 – 8:30
Rachel Crossing – Israeli side: 5:30 – 8:15 A terrible shift. the checkpoint opened at 5:05. On the Israeli side only 4 windows open, in two of them, digital prints are checked (in one of them, only arbitrarily. The crowding was terrible. At the beginning of our shift it took, a person, from 6 to 15 minutes to pass the checkpoint on the Israeli side. As time went by, more and more people were crowded and mess and confusion ruled the checkpoint. There is no place to relate to "trivial" cases, as someone on whose magnetic card is written valid until 2009, but who is told by the solider that the card validity will end this week; or someone who enter without problems until Tuesday, but from Wednesday he is denied entrance since he is a GSS suspect; or someone who claims his employer has paid for his permit, but does not appear on the computer. Of course, there is no one to whom make a reclaim. And maybe, maybe the computerized system is mistaken? Or, maybe, maybe, the soldier was wrong?
Towards 6:55 another window opens, manned by an official (2 chocolates) whom we had addressed before in order that he tried to solve the problem (and this could have been done sooner). He sat at the beginning at a window which turnstile turned to be malfunctioning. After a while, when realizing of the situation, he changed window, causing extra messing for the people who were waiting behind that window.
The situation is of lack of control, aggression, the Palestinians, push, shout, fight. The guards shout at their turn to walk back' when it was clear that this could not be performed, sometimes they also push them trying to get them back. The tension is very big and the order is given to have the arms ready. Some try to pass through the unmanned positions. Some succeed, others don't. (two are caught, detained and investigated behind the door – we were not able to watch what happened)
At about 6:50, a man in his 40-50s collapsed, we were afraid from a heart attack. The guards from the private company took care to call for an ambulance from Magen David,which arrived after 20-5 minutes. He was checked and a Palestinian eye doctor helped to intermediate between the staff, who did not speak Arabic, and the patient. According to the staff, the man was not suffering from a heart attack, and a Palestinian ambulance was called. The man was taken after about an hour he laid on the floor. It seems he collapsed as a result of a broken rib due to the pushing. We took his details for further check.
There is no humanitarian line: medical staff, women, pregnant women, old people, women with babies, women with ill babies, all have to wait at the same line – or more correctly, try to arrive at the window. Sometimes, soldiers succeed passing them first, sometimes not, since other people in the line are not willing to renounce after having waited for 3 hours, and seeing they will not be able to arrive at work on time. Teachers complain that they never succeed to arrive to their first class. Other women, complain that this crowding really means an harassment to them as women, etc. etc. etc.
The Checkpoint Staff Behaviour
Soldiers: are very young, look inexperienced. They do their work according to the book, or more accurately, according to the computer. There are no personal considerations. When ordered to shut windows (as a collective punishment since Palestinians do not keep lines), they do so; when ordered to reopen them, they do so. The official, very uncommunicative takes a long time to meet our requirement to open an extra window, with the known argument that he has no man power. Finally, he decides to do so, maybe after receiving a superior's order, sitting himself at a window, which, if done before, could have avoided much of the problems.
Private Guards: to our surprise, the most human. One of them, speaks Arabic, from Druse precedence, tries to help whoever has a problem. He also does not try to "educate" the Palestinians and ask for extra soldiers to open more windows. The staff head himself tells us that the situation created today is dangerous.
The Blue Police and Border Police: appeared after the man collapsed and were helpful regarding this case. Regarding the whole situation at the checkpoint, they had only one solution: shout to stand on lines, close windows when this was not complied, and reopen them when they saw the collective punishment was not successful. We addressed one of the officials to let pass the women who were standing impotently. His answer: " They will wait as everybody. You address the Police Commander and get me extra manpower, then I will open another window for them". That is our role as Machsomwatch!!!! But, border policemen to control the mess they themselves have created, he did have!!!!
When we left there were still many people waiting to pass. People complained that this whole week has been like this
Nebi Yunes: 8:30 - we delivered documents.