Bethlehem (300)

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Nayanya Ginsburg and Hannah Barag (reporting)

This is already the third week of our reporting passage at this checkpoint during the Ramadan, and remark that it is relatively swift, mentioning the number of pedestrians and sending in pictures. This information is also provided by the Israeli army spokesperson, proud of the morality and consideration that is shown by its ‘enlightened occupation’, enabling the Palestinians to come for Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount. Enabling? Doing favors to the occupied? Deciding who may and who may not? Sending a 13-year old boy back home while his parents get through for prayers? And this is called freedom of worship? Enlightenment and morality?!

We arrived at the checkpoint at 9:15 a.m. As ‘Israel-hating leftists’ we were forced to park relatively far from the entrance to the checkpoint itself. Naturally, had we said we were on our way to Rachel’s Tomb (Jewish holy site) we could have parked close by – but we have this strange habit of telling the truth!

Women and men in the thousands hurry through on their way to pray at Al Aqsa. Strict observation of the age restrictions was kept absolutely, and here and there those turned back were being shoved around. According to the UN count, about 40,000 people went through today on their way to prayer.

Women are required to climb the hill towards the exit and from there, pass another long track to the buses. In the summer heat and wearing their traditional dress this is quite an ordeal. Sweat pours down and at times help is needed from their friends in order to complete this exhausting ‘trek’.

The men need pass only one gate, unlike the women. Entry here requires syphoning the crowd from the open area into a narrow passage, similar to the bottleneck situation created by traffic merging from multiple lanes to a single one on a crowded highway. 34 degrees centigrade heat and the fast make for withheld rage – but the destruction of the Palestinian social infrastructure and fear of the occupier’s tough hand prevent the Palestinians from rebelling and demanding at least their minimal right to a more decent passage.

At the bus exit from the car park, a high metal gate is seen open which is normally closed. During the Ramadan it is opened for pedestrians to reach the buses. When their crowd grows, a waiting line is formed by the buses which arrive at a brisk pace. The soldiers block the gate “until things quiet down”, forcefully and violently facing women, the elderly and children – another Ramadan ‘wonder’.

We did not see soldiers eating or drinking in front of the Palestinians, and things were carried out mostly without yelling or rude talk. People who were refused passage wait around the checkpoint, assuming that in the later morning hours they will be allowed through.

We left at 11:45 a.m.