Bethlehem (300)

Natanya Ginsburg

 As I had to meet the group that was going to Min al Bahar I went earlier to see what  was happening at the Bethlehem checkpoint. I arrived and immediately realized that the situation was very bad. People rushing past me hurled remarks at me, not clear if  this was at the token Israeli on whom they could vent their anger and despair or complaints about the passage of the morning. Some stopped to tell me that they had been waiting since 5 o’clock, others were more temperate and said an hour and a half and all complained that they could not get to work on time. Some complained about a blond female soldier who was very unpleasant.

 One man who spoke excellent English and Hebrew stopped to show me his arm which had marks on it from the pressure of the previous morning  and said that it had been this way for the past 10 days.  An Israeli employer arrived and argued with the policeman on duty and was sent off  by him with a flea in his ear in anger. He would not tell me what had happened.

The policeman, (Rafael Ben Shosan, should the name go in  the net) was at times very aggressive but to be fair  at other times he seemed to be on good relations with some of the Palestinians.  He shouted at anyone who waited inside for more  than a minute to go outside. He did not try to shoo me outside but acted as if I were not present. He grabbed one man who came through and hustled him into the room at the back and the next moment came out with him and a security guard and they sent him back through the turnstiles. The man tried to speak to them but they made a threatening movement towards him and he went back.

 There are no toilets there, need it be said, and two young women  came through supporting an older woman who badly needed one. All of us who have been in such a situation know how terrible this is and I could not help them.

 At about eight a pleasant  female soldier who said she had been on the other side approached me of her own volition and I asked her why the situation was so bad. I had seen many women and children coming through after 8.00. She explained that because of the school holidays excursion had been organized for  many of the women and children and though they had been asked to come only at 8.00 so as to leave the passage free for  the workers many of them, probably knowing the situation at the checkpoint had some earlier.  She also offered me a chair which I would have been glad to accept but it did not feel right so I refused.

I was very relieved when the lady in charge of those  going to the sea came up to me  and said that all her group were coming through with no problems.

I left at 8.30 and was asked outside to  help two men to whom I gave Sylvie’s phone number. They told me that Sunday was the most difficult day as , according to them, on a Sunday there is not humanitarian gate.