Bethlehem, Thu 17.4.08, Morning
5:00- The Bethlehem CP was closed. We could hear yelling from the Palestinian side. Five posts were open on the Israeli side.
5:20- The CP opened and the laborers on their way to work started inrushing. Two security men from the "Ari" company were at the premises. Our guest, who had a journalist card, tried taking a photo, but a security man immediately arrived and started threatening that "this is a closed military zone, and you can't take any photos". The first contact with was made in a very blunt manner. When we tried explaining that journalists are allowed to take photos, he only got more aggressive and an argument had erupted and the security man started threatening us very quickly. Fast enough another security man arrived; he was even more blunt then the first one.
Our journalist guest gave up on his camera- he was scared they would ruin the few pictures he had managed to take. He told us that he had already passed through this cp several times before, but never during the early morning rush, he said he had never imagined than this was the situation.
6:15- We gave the ecumenists a note and asked that they hand it to the last person waiting at the Palestinian side. We got the note back after an hour and 47 minutes- that was already after the first rush hour. People who passed during the first rush hour said it took them over two hours to pass.
The soldiers at the inspection post wouldn't stop their conversation for a minute. We complained to the officer at the military police headquarters. She said the white phone were only for the use of inner calls. We explained to her that the soldiers can make the calls to each other during their free time. She promised it would be taken care of- we can only hope that something will be done. When the soldiers talk to those in front of their booth they do it impolitely and with yelling. "Don't you dare move until I tell you that you can go"- this was referred to an elder man who according to his appearance probably understood Hebrew.
Apart for the inhuman behavior in that cp every day and the terrible conditions, we must also make note of the horrible behavior of the civil security men. Yelling and shouting, physically pushing people with all their strength, they never stop threatening- terrible violence. We demanded from one of the security men that he "prove" his authority, he did show us a card but covered his named and the specifications of the limitations on his authority, so we couldn't make it out. None of the security men have a name tag- there is now office to which we came complain. The Palestinians we talked to also said things had gotten worse ever since the civil company had been running the CP. Ititzik Zarhan, the police man in charge of the cp, behaved terribly- we had also noticed this in our pervious shifts.
Our journalist guest from Germany had to pass the cp in order to meet us. When she arrived she told us she was in shock. She said that she had read about the checkpoints and specifically about this one, but after what she had just been through had made it clear to her that there is no way in which one could describe what was going on and that one has to go through it to understand. It took her a while until she felt she was ready to interview us.
The cp was full of signs that said that smoking was prohibited- but that was probably true only for the Palestinians. The bully security men smoked all the time.
One of the security men, that couldn't help himself but to make some obscene remarks about us the whole time we were there, was probably one of those people with whom you better not get into an argument about a parking space…
7:45- Suddenly three post closed even though the line was still long. It was time for breakfast- and the fact that there were still people waiting made no difference. Obviously there was no one to complain to- "Ari" had won the tender and ever since it's just anarchy.
Many people came to us with complaints, but they also pointed out the importance of our presence there during the morning rush hour. The women who passed complained that there wasn't a humanitarian lane which forced get crowded with the men who took advantage of the situation and sexually harassed them.
It was a hard and depressing shift- one of the harder shift we had in this horrible cp.
Tonight the closure begins- it horrible when you think of what it means for those thousand of workers who won't be able to get to work and provide for their family.