Bethlehem: Rachel's Tomb revelry for the Jews, Calamity for the Palestinians
Bethlehem Checkpoint (300) and Rachel's Tomb, Nabi Daniel and Gush Etzion Junction, Sunday 17.10.21, Muaman (driver), Netanya Ginzburg (camera), Anat Toug (reporter)
Checkpoint 300 and Rachel's Tomb
On the occasion of the revelry of "Our Mother Rachel" at the Rachel Tomb, there is a complete blockage of vehicles at the Gilo junction (Hebron Road to Jerusalem / and Road 60 from the Tunnels Road) in the direction of the Bethlehem checkpoint (300). About 30 policemen and security personnel stand at the blockade, while multitues of Palestinian pedestrians march about a kilometer from the Bethlehem checkpoint toward the junction and Jerusalem, in order to reach transportation for livelihood, studies, hospitals, or visits.
Entrance by car is only allowed to the shuttle bus of Egged leading to the revelry that takes place today and tomorrow. And Palestinians, of course, do not travel on these buses.
Courtesy of a policeman at the intersection, and under the impression of Netanya's crutches - we board one shuttle (almost empty) despite the ban on picking up passengers from Teddy Stadium to the Tomb itself. But the driver refuses to stop at checkpoint 300 and we reach the square in front of the tomb, hidden in an ugly concrete structure. There are plenty of ushers and security people handing out instructions, but it's hard to see how many people are left here now - the revelry started last night and will last until tomorrow at two am. Praying, singing and studying in the Talmud Torah/adjacent settlement - and the women? Well, probably just praying.
Because of the revelry, the Bethlehem checkpoint only opens today from five to eight-thirty in the morning and will be closed all day tomorrow until two at night. Because of the revelry, no vehicles are allowed to drive from a Palestinian checkpoint to any area they want in Jerusalem - a worker, an old man, a patient, a child or a woman. Apparently this is one of the lessons from the disaster in the Meron revelry - an area completely devoid of Palestinians will prevent disasters of any kind.
There are many police and security personnel at the checkpoint itself. Luckily one of them, a female, is cute and empathetic and looks a little embarrassed when we ask how they handle humanitarian cases that are unable to walk this long to public transportation. Contrary to her, the commander of the checkpoint is satisfied with informing the Palestinians in advance of what will happen, and rules that his responsibility ends with the fact that there are no transit problems in the checkpoint area. If you want to ask something - call the head of the DCO or the police spokesman.
We walk back to the Gilo junction and on the way meet workers, family and the elderly Muhammad from the town of Husan, who has already seen everything, including most of his land expropriated to Beitar Illit. He only mumbles, "How, how do the Jews do this?
Back at the junction near the blockade we also met a commander in the police investigation department who was stationed here as part of the general mobilization. We made our claims about the utter lack of consideration for the Palestinians and he muttered, "Maybe next year we will think about doing it differently." I wish, but it does not sound serious.
Gush Etzion - The unsuccessful search for Saad Saleh from Shushhala and what we did instead (not much)
Work on widening Route 60 continues vigorously. Huge mounds of dirt block the charming view of the orchards and the Shomerot (houses inhabited during the cultivation periods to guard the crops). who cares. They also block all the farmers' roads in the area west of Road 60. They can not reach their plots and vineyards on roads that rise from Road 60. The Neve Daniel settlement is surrounded by a security fence, at the end of the settlement there is a closed gate to the Sde Boaz outpost. The village Shushhala lies between them. We received instructions from Irit Segoli, we received instructions from Sa'ad from the village, perhaps the last one who still insists on cultivating his land and sometimes lives in a house renovated by the EU - but in vain. We were unable to get to meet him, tour the area and hear what the state of the blockades is in the harvest and the harassment of the settlers trying to deny the existence of Shushhala as an ancient village. After a few laps we followed a car through the gate of the Boaz outpost, and went down to see Makam Nabi Daniel (read about it all in Nurit and Irit's report from 2019). Mounds of stones between several play facilities and a sukkah. Aesthetics and honor for the prophet Daniel is definitely not the name of the game, but the westward view is gorgeous.
We informed Sa'ad that we had given up, and arranged to arrive another time, with an Irit or Nurit. We continued on Route 60 south to the intersection at the large Gush Etzion square. Every corner of the intersection has two stands with soldiers watching and weapons at the ready. The junction is active, a shopping center on its side, but it's clear we're in a dangerous war zone movie. We tried to understand from a young soldier what are all the many Palestinians working in Gush Etzion doing, whether and how are they being tested. The commander was called to help - he lives in the area, said that the traffic here flows without inspections usually, and the workers must be accompanied by their Jewish employer. Palestinian pedestrians are not allowed to walk around the intersection. He treated us with defiant lordship, and concluded "everything here is ours" - he meant not only Gush Etzion.