Fine-grained: Bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem

by Toine van Teeffelen
Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem

This Sunday I took the Palestinian bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem over the bridge and through the tunnels, along the new road 60. This is a road mainly used by Israelis from the settlements in the southern West Bank who commute to Jerusalem. The Palestinian bus takes passengers from Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Most of them are Jerusalem ID holders, as the checkpoint system is so fine-grained in its restrictions that Palestinians from the southern West Bank in the possession of a permit are only allowed to use the other checkpoint (300) between the Bethlehem area and Jerusalem.

The checkpoint leading to the bridge and tunnels is – how shall we call it – a more ‘flowing’ checkpoint to suit cars from the settlements. They should not be too much hindered in their movements. Note that Israeli cars rarely stop in front of the checkpoint; they usually just keep driving slowly. Israeli drivers do not need their IDs to show, their cars are waved through. Palestinians have to stop and are checked.

Anyway, at the terminal bus station in Bethlehem the driver warned the passengers that those without a valid Jerusalem ID should not join because soldiers were strict these days. When caught, people would have to walk from the checkpoint back to Beit Jala for quite some distance and uphill. I suppose he himself and the bus company also did not want to get into trouble.

When arriving at the checkpoint 6 or 7 passengers, mostly middle-aged or older, did not have a valid Jerusalem ID. They were taken out. The moment the bus left we saw them remain sitting at the checkpoint, humiliated. Passengers in the bus clicked with their tongue. What a way to treat people...

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