Bethlehem Checkpoint, Friday (third) month of Ramadan
9:00 to 10:30
There are slightly less people than last week, but it is difficult to accurately assess. Still waiting for the people, a long line of buses. Almost hypnotic to stand aside and watch seven buses, standing adjacent to the closed yard. The yard gate opens when the buses are ready to receive the 50 fasters who are happy to finally come up and sit down. They already forgot the hours they passed in the heat and the crowdedness since they left home, and now they are smiling, waving to each other, making sure that all their relatives passed, urging everyone "the first bus, the second..." and within a minute and a half they all are sitting and ready to move on. The buses leave on their way and others arrive and the gates reopen again and again.
Inside the checkpoint again in conversation with the veteran, moderate commander. He changes a bit the numbers he provided last week. Not 250,000 people pass every day but close to 50,000 on weekdays. He believes there are Palestinians who stay overnight in or around Jerusalem for a night or two to avoid the mornings’ crowdedness in this difficult checkpoint. He claims that on last Wednesday and Thursday about 40,000 Palestinians passed every day, but – less returned.
He also tells about the preparations for the mass prayers of early morning, but the flow of people is smaller than expected. He says that there is almost no need to fend off people who arrive without permits. By now everyone knows the rules and arrives equipped with the necessary papers so that the passage is smooth and there are no clashes.
Today I didn’t see soldiers, police officers and security guards drinking or eating in front of the fasting Palestinians.