Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Sun 11.1.09, Morning
6:50 AM, Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300: outside there are many people waiting for buses and taxis to take them to work. Inside four windows are open, but hardly any people are in the exit hall. The ones we speak to report a crossing time of more than an hour, an improvement over last week when it was three. The ecumenicals report that 1337 people have crossed at 7:00, which is some 25% less than usual.
Problem of the handprint: Several workers are blocked from crossing because of the handprint. One of them just had his renewed last Monday and already his hand has changed! Another one, an older man from Dura, was in fact on his way to the cardiology clinic at Mukassad Hospital and thought to use his workers permit to cross. But his handprint was faulty and he was not allowed in. For both men we called the humanitarian hotline, spoke to the Etzon DCL officers, and one of them finally came over to deal with these cases, ending up by letting them through although neither could pass the handprint test. A third man was also allowed to cross. These handprint tests are tricky and make the crossing even more nerve racking than it already is.
8:30 AM, Etsion DCL: a group of nine men are waiting for us when we get to the DCL. They all have valid permits which were taken away from them when they entered Jerusalem last week without passing through the checkpoint (they mistakenly thought there was a closure). They took their case to the police who gave them an all clear (no interest to the public, it says on the form) but nevertheless they cannot get their permits back. We try to expedite the case, the problem lies in the slowness in which these matters are reported on the computers at the DCL.
Today the list made by the Palestinians themselves is used for the line of magnetic card seekers and renewals. No numbers have been distributed by the DCL officers. The going is very slow at the windows and at 9:30 less than ten people have been admitted (after the special permits were dealt with at the start of the day).
We leave at 10:00. On the way back we count 80 loaded trucks (building materials, stones, tiles, marble) waiting at the entrance to the tunnels. At 11:00 they will be able to start moving after inspection by the tax authorities.