Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Tue 2.6.09, Afternoon
Chana G., Rahel W. (reporting)
We decided to return to Sheikh Saed after being away from there for many months. The passing has been further fortified with double rows of fencing and barbed wire. (We did notice that near the garbage heap to the right of the crossing, some of the barbed wire had been moved downward so that it would be possible to get across if one managed to escape the kleig lights and spotting of the soldiers in the tower.
When we arrived, dozens of children were returning from school. However, the area where thriving shops once stood now appears to have been abandoned. There was not a soul around. We tried to speak to the border police there but they pointedly ignored us.
We continued on to Abu Dis (which was almost deserted) and the Cliff Hotel whose state of disrepair has only grown worse. There is now permanent metal fence across the crossing area which is opened only upon presentation of appropriate documents. Some visitors from the US wanted to visit their family but could get through only after their relatives came to the checkpoint and identified them.
We walked between the houses to get a look at the Moskowitz settlement (which seems not to have changed at all). Also, the still incompleted wall is unchanged. However, as we looked off into the distance, we noticed a large complex of new buildings (still apparently unoccupied) to the left of the UN center. We asked one of the local residents what that was and he said it was a new settlement! in West Sawahra. He did not know its name. He then went on to say "they are building everyplace. What can we do"
We continued on past the Zeitun crossing which was quiet but we could see very little. On our way back, the main road was blocked so we were diverted to side roads. A most pleasant man stopped his car (apparently surprised to find two clearly Israeli women wandering through the area) and asked if we were lost. We told him we were en route to Augusta Victoria and he graciously directed us. I never stop being amazed at how so many people maintain their sense of decency in spite of the hardships to which they are daily subjected.