Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Jaba (Lil), Tue 23.12.08, Afternoon
Etzion DCL: there were about twenty men and six women in the waiting hall. The men were waiting for magnetic cards and the women mainly for travel permits for Christmas. Four of the people waiting didn’t have numbers and after we made some telephone calls all of them were quickly allowed in. The women all received permits valid for a month.
Jaba (Lil) Checkpoint: we received a request from a laborer who lives in the village of Tsurif (on road No 354) and works in Beit Shemesh. His travel permit requires him to go through Tarqumia, but this route very much lengthens his journey and he wastes a lot of travel time each morning and evening on his way to and from his work. He told us that everyone who receives a permit from the Etzion DCL can pass through the Jab’ah checkpoint, and only those whose permit has been issued in the Hebron DCL are discriminated against. Our efforts to help him came up against a brick wall, and we learned that the checkpoint is for Israelis only. This information did not fit-in with what we had heard from the laborer and we decided visit the place. The checkpoint is situated on the Green Line, on road No 367 a bit before the intersection with road No 357. Only a few Palestinians are given a special permit to pass through it. Usually the permit is issued to employers who can pick-up all their workers at the same meeting point. In the past there used to be access by car to the road from the village of Tsurif, but today there is a checkpoint on the outskirts of the village and the road is lined with concrete barriers on each side. The few who have permits climb on foot to the top of a small hill and wait for their employer on the road. The soldiers at the checkpoint, who were not well informed, were pleasant to us and ready to answer our questions. We heard that in the morning there is quite a lot of traffic through the checkpoint, but later in the day very little. “Do you check them all ?” we asked, “yes, because maybe infiltrators will try to enter Israel, and then what will people like you who object to the checkpoints say ? Don’t you understand how dangerous it is ? Do you want to be killed ?”. “Not exactly”, I answered, “actually I prefer to die in my bed and not in an explosion”. My answer greatly amused the soldiers. The checkpoint is run jointly by a checkpoint contractor and the army. After we had visited the place, we phoned the Palestinian who had requested our help and told him what we had learned. Then it became evident that he works in Israel but he is the only Palestinian who works for his employer, and all the others are Israelis. He told us that he had requested our help because he had heard that “ you have people who know how to open all the checkpoints for us to pass through”. We were pleased to hear that we had such a good reputation but were sorry that it wasn’t entirely justified !
Checkpoint 300 – Bethlehem: a large red sign , put there by the Tourism Ministry welcomes everyone “ May you have a happy festival and a good new year”. We wondered – what could be good in this situation and what could make everyone happy. Many laborers were returning from work. They had already prepared their permits for inspection, immediately placed their hand on the inspection machine, and hurried out of the checkpoint. An employee of the security company stood under a no-smoking sign and smoked at his ease. From time to time he went to the checkpoint entry to make sure that everyone was standing in a straight line and were not pushing, and he did this in a in a rough and aggressive manner. We tried to call him to order about his smoking, and you can guess his answer “I am forbidden to leave my post, so how do you want me to be able to smoke ?. “Maybe you shouldn’t smoke – if a Palestinian smoked he would immediately be punished, correct ?” “what business of yours is it ? everything is always bad ? you are all mean women “. What could I say ?. We left in a sad mood.