Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Mon 5.5.08, Afternoon
14.30 PM Etzion DCL: When we approached the Etzion DCL, we were surprised to see many cars in the parking lot (on the preceding visit there was not even one car). We counted 13 private cars and 3 large yellow taxis. In the hall there were 3 people : two brothers, one of whom was accompanying the other who needed an exit permit to enable him to get to a hospital in East Jerusalem. The sick brother was a GSS denied person, and already the day before had been at the DCL, but apparently was sent back and told to come again today. We didn’t succeed to find out if he had received the permit he needed.
Another man waited to be received in the GSS office. According to him he had been on the GSS denied list for two years already, doesn’t know why he is on the list and had come to try his luck again and to get the decision changed. Sylvia has been trying to help him for three months already. The man waited for several hours, went in for one or two minutes, was refused again and sadly went on his way. He told us that he has six children whom he doesn’t manage to support; his only income is from casual building work every now and again in Betar Elite.
16.15 PM: A Christian Arab family from Bethlehem arrived in order to renew work permits for the father, the daughter and her husband. They were particularly anxious because the daughter who works in a hospital in Bethlehem cannot leave her work at any other hour of the day. They drove fast in order to reach the DCL before it closed at 17.00 hrs. When they called through the turnstile to the female soldier at the window, she told them that it was already too late and they should come back the next day. We went to the window and asked why it was too late when there was still 45 minutes left before closing time.The soldier replied that there was still a lot of work to process for the people who were already inside the hall and that there was nothing to be done about it. We asked politely if it was possible for the family to wait until the other people had been attended to. The answer was a rude one.
We asked for the name of the responsible officer and were told that this was “classified information”. We then phoned our acquaintance, Tedasa, and he answered politely, asked if there were many people waiting and wouldn’t they be annoyed if one of them was allowed to go to the head of the queue. When we told him that only this family was waiting, he gave an instruction for them to be received, and in less than half an hour they had all received their work permits. It was clear that without our intervention, the daughter would have lost a day’s work and the whole family would have wasted many more hours.
This is one more example of the arbitrariness and absence of any sense of obligation to help, by the soldiers in the DCL.
16:30 - 18:30 PM. Checkpoint 300 - Bethlehem crossing: There was a very long queue that stretched outside the hall, in the sun. The civilian contractor’s guard strictly enforced a “sterile distance” between the people standing in the queue and the entrance. He arranged the queue in two lines, and called the waiting people to enter two at a time for inspection. Two windows were in operation and the speed was reasonable. There was no reaction to our request that more windows further away should be opened so that people could stand in the shade, while still maintaining the “sterility”.
One of the Palestinians asked if a closure was expected the next day. We asked the guard and he confirmed that indeed a closure would start at midnight. Most of the Palestinians didn’t know about this and almost certainly would have come before dawn to cross through the checkpoint. We asked the guard to inform all the waiting people about this but he answered that he would only tell those who asked. We phoned Ronny, the checkpoint commander, who in the past has usually agreed to our requests, and asked him if it was possible to put up signs at the entrance of the checkpoint to inform people about the impending closure. His answer was that the closure had been publicized through all the media and everyone already knew about it. It was not his job to inform people. However, we managed to pass word of the impending closure to several tens of people who were passing through the checkpoint, most of whom had no idea of its existence!