Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 23.11.08, Afternoon
15:15 PM, Etzion DCL: the parking lot is full. Some 20 people are crowded in front of the turnstiles, among them 3 women, about 20 more men are sitting on the benches. All are seeking magnetic cards (those needing permits on humanitarian grounds do not wait in line with all the rest), The men huddled against the turnstile refuse to disperse. No wonder, since according to some of them, they have been here since 5 in the morning.
Things look pretty bleak for a man having just come out of the office with the windows and the computers tells us there are 15 people still inside. Thus, during half an hour only 4 people are let in, and then 2 young women, who had numbers preceding those that had already gone in, but were scared to push and shove their way towards the turnstiles.
An older woman turned to us for help. She has a pacemaker and therefore cannot pass through the detector. She has no number, but nevertheless we accompany her outside to the soldier at the gate. He says he will see what he can do.
About 20 minutes later, major N. comes into the waiting hall and order is set in. He gets everybody away from the turnstiles and demands the queuing people not to stand even on the stairs. He then calls out for the people who did not have numbers because they had minor problems (such as with their hand print) and were told in the morning they did not need numbers and would be let in without them. There are 5 of those. Next, he differentiates between people needing a renewal of their existing magnetic card and those applying for a card for the first time. Sensibly enough, he orders the people coming in for a totally new magnetic card to stand back and let the others line up before them. Renewing a card is a much simpler procedure, he tells us. He also explains that the slow pace is partially due to problems with the computer printers. Last, but no least, he sees to it that the elderly woman, with the pacemaker, enters the office form the other side. All in all, it seems that everybody with numbers will still be attended to today, perhaps even those without them, who, as usual, prefer to stay put, waiting hopefully.
16:40 PM, Bethlehem Checkpoint: by the time we got there, it seems the daily hustle and bustle and the regular long lines had been taken care of. Though people continued to come rushing in from work, 4 stations were operative and it took one or two minutes to go through to the other side.