It’s Ramadan and Second Lieutenant Ravit Dotan is extremely busy. As a civilian coordination officer, she has one job: to do her very best to serve the people who pass through the Bethlehem crossing.
During holidays such as Ramadan and Christmas, the crossing becomes much busier. Open hours at the crossings are extended and many people are able to cross without a permit.
2nd Lt. Dotan is responsible for a team of 12 soldiers “Our goal and the IDF’s goal is to do the best job possible,” says Lt. Dotan, a 20-year-old who began her service in an Intelligence unit and eventually transferred to her current position at the Bethlehem crossing, where she decided to become an officer. “Even though we are required to carry weapons, we do not use them. Our role is simply to assist each person going through the crossing.”
One of the things 2nd Lt. Dotan loves about the job is knowing she is helping people fulfill their religious duties by approving their border crossing permits.
She also enjoys speaking with the people passing through on a personal level, learning their stories and speaking their native language.
During most of the year, an average of 5,000 people pass through the Bethlehem crossing per month, but during holidays such as Ramadan, the number balloons to 21,000 as Palestinians visit relatives, attend prayers and visits Muslim holy sites. On the first Friday of Ramadan this year, over 90,000 people crossed into Israel in one day alone. It is estimated that by the end of the year, over a million visitors will cross into .
Lt. Dotan’s job is to approve permit requests. During religious holidays, most of the permits are for visiting religious sites, visiting family and travelling. The length of visits are not restricted.
“It’s satisfying to be able to help people cross the border so they can go to pray in Jerusalem and practice their faith,” she says.