Bethlehem checkpoint, second Friday of Ramadan
07:00 – 10:00
The best words to describe what I saw at the checkpoint today are “sad” and “Despairing”. We were used to reporting hundreds of pilgrims congregating at the checkpoint and dozens of busses on their way bringing people to pray. There were hardly any people at the checkpoint today and only two busses. The Bethlehem Road, which was usually closed on Fridays during Ramadan, was open and all the cars belonged to Jerusalemites preparing for the Sabbath. The “security forces” were idle. Only people who were vaccinated and held permits were crossing, and there were very few of those.
A woman whom we have known was willing to stop and talk to us. She explained that there was a rumor in Hebron and Bethlehem that the vaccinations against COVID-19 are poisonous and cause permanent damage, and are a plot of the occupation. Many people who could have been vaccinated avoided doing so because of the rumors. I explained that many of us are vaccinated and that I have not heard of such serious side effects. She explained that the economic situation was bad because many people who worked in Israel have not gone back to work. Many of the employers took advantage of the pandemic and avoided paying their workers, particularly those who had no permits and who have no means of defense. A man in his 30s saw us talking and joined the conversation. He has been acquainted with Machsom Watch for some time and asked if we are still active and what we have been doing at this time. He works in Israel and has a steady paycheck. Like most workers, he agreed to be vaccinated despite the rumors. He also heard the rumors, but understands the system and knows that the workers received vaccinations because of the need for workers. He has an academic education “that isn’t worth much” because the college where he studied is not recognized anywhere. He works as a maintenance worker in an old age home. The security guard from the civilian company at the checkpoint could not restrain himself and came over to attempt to make me leave. I didn’t go inside and attempted to talk to him and to tell him who we are and what we do. I was not very successful. “You love the Palestinians. Who knows why?” He was hinting that we knew nothing about security. I saw no point in continuing the conversation and left to go home.