Bethlehem (300) - Secong Friday of Ramadan

Hanna Barag (reporting); Translator: Tal H.

Second Friday of the Ramadan Month
When I arrived at the checkpoint at 7:30 a.m. men were already present, but not women. Apparently the women’s track has been moved to a new place, easier for walking.

The new site too has a rather steep uphill stretch not at all easy for some of the women, but at least walking the “cage” is spared them.
Although the age of those applying to get through for prayer has been lowered from 50 to 40 we saw mostly elderly men. Considering that many of the younger men are blacklisted for various reasons, and no permits were issued to the blacklisted, we can understand why we saw so few younger men.  Hebronites, who are the majority of Palestinians passing through this checkpoint, must have decided to stay in Hebron and spare themselves the bother and unpleasantness. Children over the age of 12 are apparently the greatest jeopardy for Israel - otherwise one can hardly understand the utter letter of the law policy on this issue. It hurts and is sad to see what this causes parents and their children. We and our next generations will pay a heavy price for this.

From time to time we saw a group of men led to the exit by employees of the private security firm following them with drawn weapons. Some of the men looked as though they had intended to go to work, not to prayer, but work permits are not valid on Ramadan Fridays (nor on other Fridays…). When the group reached their dispersal spot, they were handed back their IDs that had been taken from them when they were picked up.  No words can describe the humiliation and anger that this “procedure” aroused. The men who felt very comfortable in this situation were the employees of the private security firm, the “heroes” who defended us from the “infiltrators”.

A Red Cross delegation, probably here from abroad to check the crossing, was led by some officers of the Israeli army who forgot to mention that for the past 50 years or more we have been holding 4 million people behind barriers. That we have deprived the Palestinians of their liberty, their freedom of movement, and their dignity as sovereign humans. That the mere demand to show permits for the purpose of attending prayers is a violation of basic human rights and certainly of the repeated declaration of the Israeli government about “freedom of worship”.

The filthy litter all around the access to the checkpoint and the crossing itself is especially noticeable. Why couldn’t this be cleaned up before the holiday? Adding insult to injury, the passers were handed cards with the Civil Administration’s holiday greetings for the Ramadan. The cards were a dark blue – and slowly the entire terrain was covered with a carpet of dark blue. These greetings are mere salt to their wounds…

Some of the Border Policemen wished to find out who I am, and how come I have the “privilege” of crossing back and forth. I tried to explain who we are – and wonder of wonders, they understood right away that we are the women’s version of “B’Tselem”, making provocations and disturbing soldiers. The only thing missing was their claim that we call them Nazis. So what else is new? The soldiers did take care not to eat or drink in front of the fasting Palestinians - one cannot take that away from them. But festive holiday spirit was nowhere to be seen today at the Bethlehem Checkpoint.