Bethlehem

Jun-29-2003
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Etzion chedckpoint, 07.20. We were
approached by three bus drivers, all of them long time
acquaintances, for help. Nearly all the buses (previously)
permitted to move on the El-Khadr-Halhul route were attacked by
settlers during the time period when these busses were forced off
the road. Window glasses were smashed, and some of the vehicles
suffered damage reaching 20,000 IS (which the drivers fixed at
their own expense, of course). The drivers filed a complaint, but
based on experience are not very optimistic. More urgent were
today's measures: Over the last three weeks or so, these drivers
were by and large banned from carrying passengers, except for three
days last week (Thursday-Saturday) and two days the week before.
This morning, when they arrived at Etzion, soldiers prevented them
from continuing the journey in both directions (Bethlehem and
Hebron) and confiscated their IDs.

The soldiers dismissed the bus-drivers arrogantly, not bothering
even to listen to their claims. They conditioned giving back the
IDs upon the drivers' immediate withdrawal from the zone. Another
day with no income whatsoever began.

A family of seven (mother, father, 4 young kids and a babyinfo-icon, arrived
at the checkpoint from the direction of Bethlehem. They came all
the way from Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah), where they
live, to visit the wife's parents and family in al Fawwar refugee
camp (south of Hebron). The wife and kids were allowed to continue,
husband refused. We offered a ride to the woman and kids, while the
husband would manage somehow. After much hesitation, they agreed.
This was the first time in two and a half years that the woman
visited her family. She and four of her sisters are married to five
of their first cousins in Jalazun, and she had never previously
travelled unaccompanied... ("They make us believe we can not
manage on our own"). With not a single Palestinian car, bus or
cab on the road we watched as women and men of all ages walked and
walked and walked in the direction of Halhul.

At the Halhul junction we watched them climb over the first
roadblock and walk safely to the next one, behind which they could
find a taxi to the next roadblock. We turned back, taking more
passengers - two women from Arroub refugee camp and a man, who had
been waiting in vain for hours (together with dozens of others) for
a bus or cab. We decided to help more people to get to and from
Halhul. We gave a lift to three women (one in her late seventies,
one with two small children) from al-Arroub who were walking uphill
in the direction of Beit Omar, struggling with the heat and
exhaustion. At Halhul roadblocks we were confronted with new
problem: one of the bus drivers was apparently caught by soldiers
when attempting to board passengers. He was immediately ordered off
the road and his ID confiscated. Unable to help, we loaded new
passengers - two women engineers from villages in the Hebron
district, and a librarian. All had been waiting at the
junction/roadblock since 6AM (three hours) for a bus that never
came.