Bethlehem, Wed 24.12.08, Afternoon
18:00 - 21:30 PM, Bethlehem Checkpoint: the temperature dropped, the wind increased and the cold is icy.
Two stations are open at the checkpoint, one for people coming out of Bethlehem and one for going in. Traffic is a trickle. The Palestinians are being checked as usual and required to produce documents. Foreigners pass without a check, some even not brandishing passports.
At the vehicle crossing to Bethlehem the traffic is lively, mostly buses. Tourist Ministry people board the buses and distribute to the passengers “birthday” bags, including of course Bamba as appropriate to birthday handouts. Military Police women welcome the tourists with a smile and politeness – and we wonder where this politeness goes to on ordinary days... The taxi drivers are celebrating – at last a chance to make the “daily” income. The (Palestinian) municipal buses come and go quickly, filling up mostly with young tourists. The monks have come on foot from Jerusalem – in sandals without socks, and suffering from the cold even more than us.
All the Palestinians who see us, without exception, come to ask how we are and to thank us for being there despite the cold and darkness.
According to the police, some 90,000 celebrants have crossed to Bethlehem and, until we leave, we hear of no irregular event...