Bethlehem Second Friday of Ramadan
As usual on Ramadan, the approach road to the checkpoint is closed. Many policemen. Many buses wait, fill up with passengers and head for the Old City. There are Palestinian ushers, seeing to keeping order, telling people when to advance, to wait, to enter the bus. When we arrived, police were telling one bus to move away and did not allow people to enter it because it did not have on its windshield a sign saying “Ramadan 2017, permit to pass traffic checkpoints.” All other buses had such a notice.
Most of the people arrived via the bypass road avoiding the checkpoint itself: women, children and relatively older folk. Only younger people are required to pass inside the checkpoint.
Inside it was relatively empty. Now and again some young folk arrive. About 10 soldiers/police/guards are sitting there. When we entered a woman soldier was shouting at a youth ordering him to return to Bethlehem “Go home!” and she explained to her companions “The understand only when you shout at them…!” Apparently it hasn’t been explained that it is Ramadan and that people are fasting – or perhaps it has been explained, but the message not absorbed.
We met one of the veteran officers who confirmed that women pass without a permit from age 50, and men from 55. He added that they are now enlarging the checkpoints so that people would be able to pass more quickly. According to him, on Ramadan 250,000 people pass at Bethlehem each day. He emphasised that this was the case every day.
We returned to the outside spot where the people come out towards the buses. Every now and again the gate is closed to regulate the number of Palestinians. As soon as they have entered the bus and departed, the gate opens for the next batch. In general, the wait is not long and the order is reasonable.
We noticed that the gate in the wall is also open today.