Bethlehem, Fri 4.4.08, Morning
9.00 to 10.30
Two sleeves were open and very few people were crossing. A small crowd formed only when people arrived from the Israeli side, and were made to wait.
-Why don't they let people coming from the Israeli side just go through to the other side?
Although the answers to our questions were far from satisfactory, the general atmosphere was quiet and calm, thanks to the commanding officer.
The girl soldier who was working in one of the booths finished her shift, and after that only one inspection booth was working. At this booth, Palestinians have to place their hands on a special machine as well as having their documents inspected, and it all takes time. A long line was forming of people on the Israeli side. We spoke to the commanding officer who made a phone call asking for a soldier who would man another inspection booth. A quarter of an hour later, nothing had happened. The commanding officer phoned again and so did we, and eventually a soldier came and a second inspection booth was opened.
A tour leader who is an Israeli Arab and works in Israel arrived. He explained that he is accompanying an American group travelling to Bethlehem for a Mass. They were in their bus which was going through the vehicle checkpoint, but he got off the bus to go through the checkpoint on foot because he knew that if he remained on the bus, there would be problems exiting into Bethlehem, even though he is an Israeli. They kept him waiting a few minutes before letting him through.
We travelled to Beit Jalla to return some money to a Palestinian who is in a legal process to cancel his prevention of entry to Israel.