At the checkpointIn addition, you would think that after each Friday, lessons would be learned and conditions would improve. But no, recommendations made by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (on the basis of a report we made for them, since we are the group that spends most time monitoring) were not implemented. On the contrary, when ideas worked, like opening up the vehicle lanes for women and children when the crush got unbearable, they were discontinued the following week. It’s hard to second guess the IDF, of course, but you can imagine one courageous person in the line of command who does something sensible being overruled the next day by a senior officer who says ‘Hell, you let all those grannies in without going through a metal detector, one might have had a bomb up her frock.’ The vehicle lane didn’t open again.

This meant that on the third Friday of Ramadan, the few internationals present (ourselves, OCHA, UNWRA, and Israeli women from Machsom Watch) witnessed something out of Dante. The day started well at 5 am, with men and women coming into the checkpoint car park from Ramallah through concrete blocks on different sides. The older women were wearing their beautiful hand embroidered dresses, the not so old in colourful hijabs; all were in a good mood, looking forward to the midday prayers. But as the day wore on, and the sun got higher, the permit checking proved too slow, the gaps between the concrete blocks were too narrow for the women to pass freely, and a huge crush build up. Old ladies were squashed against the blocks, screaming kids had to be lifted out by medics, women emerged visibly distressed and some fainted. The soldiers and police started losing their tempers, yelling through megaphones, pushing the women, abusing those without valid permits.

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