Bethlehem

Jun-1-2003
|

We woke up today to the news that:
"the general closureinfo-icon on Judea and Samaria has been
lifted". The Israeli public and media swallowed the
declaration for fact. Yet there was no redeployment whatsoever. Not
one checkpoint removed, not one roadblock dismantled, not one unit
pulled out from the midst of the Palestinian
territory.

Etzion, 07:30: The usual. Checkpoint, soldiers, Palestinians denied
entrance to Bethlehem, bitter bus drivers, etc. A German TV crew
had IDF permission to do a feature story about the promised
"lifting". As long as they remained, treatment of
Palestinians by soldiers was generally good and relaxed. Gestures
at Etzion were confined to the reduction of the minimum age for
passage from 45 to 35 -- conditioned upon permits to work in
Israeli settlements. One young man remarked: It's time that we all
send our fathers and grandfathers to work for us and our children.
Despite the fact that many of the young men were not allowed to
re-board the busses and were sent back home, the atmosphere was
less tense than usual, mainly because some of the soldiers in
charge (a new group) were willing to reconsider some cases. It was
worth to give a fight at Etzion today.

Al-Khadr, 09:00. We were surprised to re-encounter many of the men
who had passes at Etzion earlier. Apparently, the border policemen
who staffed the junction - three jeeps, policemen and officers -
were commissioned to counterbalance the effect of the grand
gestures at Etzion. Where are the facilitating measures?, six of
our detained acquaintances cried out when they saw us. Their IDs
were confiscated as soon as they set feet at the junction, and they
were at the mercy of a bully officer who kept lining them up. One
of the men pulled a pack of medicines out of his bag; he was on his
way to see a doctor and could no longer stand the combination of
the harassment and the sun: My heart is turning more and more
black, he said in Hebrew. The officer contacted blue police in
order to get rid of us, but we were faster: calling the
border-police officer from the Bethlehem unit proved to be the
right step. More reinforcement was sent to the junction, and one
officer's appearance did miracles: in no time the detaineesinfo-icon were
released, and the bully officer was now petting the heads of
El-Khadr junction children - the 8-10 year old tea and coffee
vendors who commute between the improvised cab station and the
western roadblock, unable to sell more than a cup every 20 minute
or so. Approaching us with a broad smile, the officer said: Don't
even dare think that my arrival here had anything to do with the
men's release; what you have just seen is the regular, legal
procedure.