Bethlehem, Fri 18.4.08, Morning

Efrat, Claire (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

9:00-10:30 Bethlehem : The road was blocked by the police at the Tantur junction. We were told that there was some parade going through and that the road would open in a few minutes. We saw young people wearing white shirts. A few carried the Olympic banner. We could not approach them and talk to them and all that the policemen knew was that it was some sort of joint Israeli-Palestinian parade on the way to the old city of Jerusalem. 

The Rachel Checkpoint crossing was pretty empty when we got there. We thought the reason for this was the 10 day total blockade that was declared. As always, when the Jews celebrate, the Palestinians pay the price. Afterwards came quite a few Palestinians – all had permits issued by the church for the celebration of Easter. 

The soldiers and security guards wanted to know who we were. Everything was quiet and relaxed and we had time to explain the positions of “Machsom Watch”.

We noticed that another electronic finger print scanner was added to the checkpoint, which doubled the number of scanners.  

Two people were asked to return home as a result of the blockade (they probably were not Christians and did not have a permit). The only incident in which we intervened (unsuccessfully) was in regards to a 9 year old child who had gone to visit relatives in Bethlehem (he claimed to have entered through another checkpoint). He wanted to return home but did not have the original permit with him but rather a photocopy of it. Luckily he had a cell phone with him and he could call his dad, who told him that he could not come before 3 pm. All our suggestions to check his ID number on the computer or talk with his father were ignored. The soldier called her commander and described the situation but he told her not to let the child through. According to procedures children can not pass on their own. It is necessary that someone either bring them to the checkpoint or pick them up. Only if the father would come would he be allowed to pass.