On our third day of training in Jerusalem, Hanna Bareg (72) gave us some serious food for thought. Hanna is a member of the peace activist Israeli woman organisation Machsom Watch - which main objective is to monitor the checkpoints in the West Bank. Hanna is a small and slim woman, however, her enthusiasm and persistence are startling. For more than one hour she talked, without ever hesitating, about the situation at the numerous checkpoints on the West Bank. She characterizes herself and her organisation as the "complain factory". As an example she told us that it took her 600 letters to the Israeli authorities to open the humanitarian gate in the Bethlehem checkpoint, of which she is very proud.
The Palestinians get their green ID cards produced and given out by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Israeli authorities have now computerized the system and started giving out magnetic cards which will replace the green cards. Previously not all people needed a permit to enter Israel. In Jerusalem, e.g. men over 50 who wanted to go and pray were let in without a permit, except on Fridays. Now everyone needs a permit, even small children - "because they want everybody to come and get their magnetic cards. Israel wants complete control of the Palestinians" Hanna explained. A lot of Palestinians have their work in Israel, hence they need a work permit, and it is the Israeli employer who obtains the work permit for the Palestinian. Work permits generally allow entry into Israel between the hours of 05.00 - 19.00. The employer may stop the work permit when he is not in need of the worker anymore - without even telling the employee.
Hanna ended her hour-long presentation with a few words on Hebron. "Hebron", Hanna said, "there is nothing to be done. It is an absolute hell." The Israeli settlement points in Hebron cause severe and continuous breaches of human rights. "The armed commander there is the best there ever was, but that is not enough." The settlers are extremely violent, but are still protected by the police, which make the Palestinian population suffer. On several occasions even young children under 16 have been arrested.
Turning to the future Hebron-team, Hanna concluded with this challenging message: "If you have sinned enough and think you are going to Hell - and you want to rehearse - go to Hebron!"