Bethlehem, Fri 26.9.08, Morning
Bethlehem Checkpoint (Palestinian side), last Friday of Ramadan: The right to religious observance is a foundation stone of the Human Rights Charter. This right has been denied, time after time, to women and men in the Occupied Territories.
Many more women and men are seeking to pass to pray. The women's line is fast without delays, but there is a watch on age. The women are not sent through the terminal, rather by a side route (already described last week).
There is much pressure in the men's line. From time to time, transit is stopped, which augments the pressure on the entrance. People waiting hours in line lose patience. Clearly the bottleneck is in the terminal, at the last check before exiting the building. Why do documents and palm prints have to be checked again, when all have been checked and the entrance to the compound and to the terminal?
From time to time the pressure is lessened, and a group of men are allowed to pass. Quite a few are refused transit because of age. It is hard to watch the disappointment and anger of the refused people.
We moved to observe in the terminal at 12:00. The crowding inside was intolerable, when suddenly a policeman appeared and ordered the opening of a lane without checks. Within seconds the terminal emptied completely. Why couldn't it have been done an hour earlier? Or give up on all the procedure of permits that contradicts the Human Rights Charter - at least for Ramadan!
The presence of the commander of South Battalion of the Border Police, and the activity of the DCL officer on the spot caused proper behaviour by the soldiers. We saw no physical or verbal violence during the whole of our shift.