Virginia Syvan, M. and S. (guests from France), Ina Friedman (reporting)

The Routine of Occupation

This morning felt almost like a rerun of last Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Only four (rather than three) checking stations were open when we arrived at 5:30 a.m.. -- but the strategic light by the entrance to the shed had still not been replaced by a working bulb. Lines were long; progress forward was moderate; and checking station 5 did not open until just after 6:00.

A 6:00, when an infant arrived in a stroller on the way to the hospital, we called the DCO line to ask that a Civil Administration soldier come out to open the Humanitarian Gate. At about 6:15 a military policeman made it possible for the infant and her parents to go through the gate but did not allow any of the other people waiting there through. At 6:20 he was followed by the near- arrival the Civil Administration officer  in charge of the gate. But it turned out that the latter was locked out of the area where he checks the permits to allow passage through the gate. A number of phone calls were made and within a few minutes a security guard arrived to allow both of them in. They immediately opened the Humanitarian Gate, which functioned smoothly thereafter.

At 6:30 trouble began to arise due to men attempting to jump the queue at the cage on the left. And at 6:40 – coincidentally, the same hour as the previous Tuesday --the lines collapsed, creating a mob scene. In contrast to last week, however, lines slowly began to reform relatively quickly and by 7:00 they were more or less in place.

Earlier in the morning we were approached by East Jerusalem teachers who asked if we could help changing the conditions under which they are allowed through the checkpoint. As it stands, they can go through the Humanitarian Gate (unless Policeman M. is present, for he alone does not allow them to do so). But since the gate is not opened until 6:15, at the earliest (whereas they were led to believe that it would open at 6:00 and, indeed, that is when many of them arrive at the gate), they proposed that they be allowed through the checkpoint on buses—either a bus they would arrange for themselves or individually on the standard buses that pass from north of the checkpoint southward onto the heart of East Jerusalem.

We were also approached by a resident of the West Bank town of Beit Surik—where the perpetrator of the killings at the Har Adar checkpoint over two months ago hailed from--who reported that all the entry permits of Beit Surik’s residents had again  been cancelled and expressed the extreme distress of the villagers. We referred him to members of MachsomWatch who deal with such issues.

At 7:45 we joined the shortest of the three lines moving  through the cages (about 5 or so meters from the entrance to cage). Nevertheless, just as the week before, it took us one hour to reach and proceed through the checking station—which surely cannot be an acceptable rate.

It would help if all five checking stations are open well before 6:00. It would help if the soldier in charge of opening the turnstiles and the soldiers in the checking stations were supervised. It would help if the Humanitarian Gate were opened at 6:00. Yet there’s a sinking feeling that the law-abiding folks who are forced to go through the checkpoint, day after day, month after month, year after year, have been totally abandoned by the system--though this, one must admit, is hardly news.