A thunderous silence at the Ramadan Olive Checkpoint on Friday
Zaitim checkpoint, 23.4.2021, morning.
Observers: Rachel Weinberg, Chana Stein (reporting)
10.30. As we toiled up the hill to the checkpoint we were surprised there no buses or taxis waiting to bring people into town for prayers.
When we entered the checkpoint building we found a group of Border Police in an improvised refreshment centre. In answer to us, a fairly senior policeman said that the activity was already over for more than an hour. True, he said, there were fewer people than usual, but they went through at 7 (for midday prayers?).
We were standing at the time at the top of the hill and could see below the awning of the usual checking point, with some soldiers and Border Police, so went down to explore. On the way we met one or two individuals who told us that only people with permits and proof of vaccination were being allowed through (apart from one man on his way to the eye hospital). We ourselves were very hostilely received by a border policewoman and man who told us that we could get informa tion only from the military spokesman!
At about 11, a trickle of people started arriving at this checkpoint , some brought there by transport (it is a steep climb). There were not separate lanes for men and women – and, indeed, there was no need as there were so few people. All first had their permit checked by one soldier and then another soldier passed a magnometer over their clothing. Bags had to be opened for checking. While there we saw three older men being turned back. Presumably they thought they could follow the old rules of "over 50's" being allowed through without permits. There were one or two younger folk turned back after showing some paper certificate, but from a distance we could not see what this was.
After we were told that in all only 10,000 permitholders were to be allowed in – for all checkpoints together! – we realized this was the reason for the tiny number of worshippers coming through this checkpoint. At 11.45 we decided to leave.
As we came out of the checkpoint building, we saw there were a few buses waiting for passengers. The misinformation we had been given about the action's being over much earlier showed either gross lack of co-ordination on our forces' part or deliberate unhelpfulness.