Bethlehem Checkpoint - first Friday of Ramadan
First Friday of Ramadan
Opposite Tantur even on that late hour and on Ramadan there were still some Palestinians hoping for the odd job.
At the turning to the checkpoint I saw two women soldiers, one of whom was standing and smoking in spite of the fact that I know that during the fast of Ramadan soldiers are asked not to smoke, drink or eat in front of the Palestinians.
I continued and stopped just beyond the next barrier were cars were being stopped. Only the buses were being allowed through and by the clothes and headgear the Israelis who were going to the grave of Rachel.
I stopped a little beyond that to record what I had seen and immediately one of the police came up to me saying that I was not allowed to photograph the police or the soldiers and I said that I knew that and showed him that I had not photographed them. I was just going to move on when a young policewoman came up and started screaming that me that I was not allowed to photograph. I tried to explain to her too that I had not photographed them but she went into an absolute hysterical tirade. I asked her why she was screaming at me in that fashion as I had answered her politely but she came up to me, pushing her face right into mine. And then she started screaming at me as if to a dog….yalla, yalla. (get away). I asked her if she also spoke to her grandmother like that and she kept on screaming yalla yalla, her language came straight out of the gutter and ended by saying that she would speak to me in any way that she liked and that if I did not move on she would arrest me. The senior policeman standing next to her just smiled and made no attempt to control her. And coming back by the way I had the same experience as to how some of the Israeli police act. I saw some senior officials getting out of a car and asked who was in charge and when I said that they should try to educate their police was told to move on as I had not spoken politely to her….though they had just arrived and to stop interfering with them in carrying out this duties. To the greater glory of Israel . Can you imagine how she treats the Palestinians?
The procedure this year seems very different. Along the road the buses are cordoned off with barriers so that one cannot cross the road at will but you have to go right up to Kever Rachel to go around. When I got to the top of the road I was asked where I was walking to and I explained that I was from Machsomwatch. A more senior soldier asked how I saw the situation and I said that so far I had not seen anything but that I was not impressed by the caliber of the policewoman at the entrance and told him what had happened.
There was a constant stream of people coming through and when I asked how some women how they had found the passage they said that because there was a separation of men and women, it was much easier for them and the women were not checked, only the men. When I was told to move on another senior official came up and said that I was from Machsomwatch and I could stand there. One of the soldiers was calling in Arabic through the bullhorn telling people to go to the first buses so that it would be easier for the buses to pull out in order but the tone was polite and not aggressive. One of the Palestinians offered to bring me a chair and he too told me that people seemed to feel that this year the passage was easier. I did notice that there were fewer young men and boys coming through but as I was only on the Israeli side cannot comment about that.
I went up to also to ask what happened with elderly people who had trouble coming through and the soldier who was in charge was called and told me that they come out through the actual checkpoint and are immediately put on to a bus there so that they did not have to endure the crush of people. He was very polite and helpful and I was told that he had given a talk to his soldiers telling them how to behave and had seen to it that the area where they would eat and drink was not in sight of those fasting. And when I said I would walk around so as to go back he told one of the soldiers to take me across the road instead. He said to some of the soldiers standing there that he considered Machsomwatch as one of the guardians of Israeli democracy. To me he was a light in the behavior of the police.
I was very impressed by his behavour and that of his men to whom he set the example . It seems that Israeli police have two standards of behavior and however unpleasant I found the police at the entrance, I am glad that they were in that area and not actually dealing with the Palestinians who came through the checkpoint to the buses. Better that we should have to put up with such gutter behavior than the Palestinians.