Natanya Ginsburg (reporting) Bruce Shaffer, visitor, photographing
5.15 - 6.45 am
Last night I had been at the Christmas celebrations in Shfaram. We arrived back past 11 pm and I was very tired but the adrenalin flows and hard to get to sleep. But this morning at Bethlehem as Bruce and I walked up from the corner of Tantur the contrast between the previous evening and the misery of a Sunday morning at Bethlehem kept playing themselves off in my mind. The difference between the lot of the Israeli Palestinian Arabs and that of the Palestinians of the West Bank is hard to grasp. It is not a question of kilometers but two completely different worlds. The decorations of Shfaram last night, so colorful and joyous, the Christmas music, compared to the sad decorations of the gray morning with its heavy silence. The poor decorations here look down on the cold, dark and filthy scene of men walking along already tired from getting up at heaven alone knows what hour so as to get to work on time and maybe already thinking of the difficult way home. Hoping not to be stopped in Jerusalem for papers, questioning, maybe to be arrested for some unknown reason. And again the pictures of the excited children of Shfaram, beautifully dressed, some dressed up as Santa or even one little one as monk, with parents buying them gifts, ice cream and other good things……and I looked at the men of Bethlehem and wondered how much time they have to spend with their children, not money just time.
As we all have noticed, it is good to see things through new eyes. Although Bruce has been through the checkpoint many times he has never seen it at this time of the morning. Very different from Qalandiya where he has also been with me. It is hard to remember what was said at that time of the morning but I remarked that Qalandiya seems almost civilized compared to Bethlehem while Bruce says he felt that it was the opposite. As one walks up from the corner of Latrun to the checkpoint and one sees the men sleeping, eating, praying on the dirty pavement, often surrounded by even more litter as one goes along. The men at their fires in the fields. The make shift falafel and coffee stands where others make their livings by serving those going to make their livings, if one can call it that. Maybe thinking back on it now when I have had some sleep I would say that Qalandiya is sterile in appearance while here life has a bitter and almost brutal energy of its own.
One man stopped and asked angrily why Bruce was photographing a man wrapped in his coat sleeping on the pavement. I said so that people should see how they exist. I did not say that most Israelis prefer not to know or to see. He said, “Abu Mazen, this is the way we live and he puts the money in his pocket. I said drily that that could be said about our leaders too.
The checkpoint itself was as usual. I heard one man saying, “What do you mean… denied. I have a permit” but I could not find out the reason and just saw him turning back. There was only one security guard on duty and he completely ignored us. I had told Bruce not to photograph inside.
Again women complained bitterly about having to go through the checkpoint with the men who all to often see this as a golden opportunity of harassing the younger women especially. A woman who speaks English stopped to ask me if we could not do something about it. I spoke to Hanna Barag who said that she would again for the thousandth time write to ask that the humanitarian gate be opened.
I left Bruce there still photographing but was sorry that I had not suggested he come back with me past Latrun where one sees the slave market of men who have no fixed job