Abu Dis, Container (Wadi Nar), Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Mon 6.7.09, Afternoon

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Orit Y., Ilana D. (reporting) & distinguished guest Shimshon Y.

From 2:30 till 6:00 PM

The streets in Jebel Mukaber looked unusually clean and all the green garbage bins were empty. A resident told us that the roads are going to be improved; we will wait and see.

The traffic light at the bottom of the CP of Sheikh Saed didn’t work (the light bulb probably has to be exchanged); but the one above for down-going traffic (if any) was, of course, on red.

A young woman with a babyinfo-icon was let off at the pedestrian crossing underneath the CP and she was informed by an extremely noisy loudspeaker that the dropping-off site was further down the road. The commander of the CP told us that for security reasons he could not allow cars stopping close to the CP, for the same reason he also moved parked cars from near the exit of the CP on the top.

Some drivers greeted us and offered to buy us cold drinks. They complained about their lot and one was given Sylvia’s number after he had told us that a private lawyer had taken more than US$1,000 and ‘done nothing’ to help him with the Security Services.

Since the last change of Border Police soldiers during the nights have been unbearable, since the soldiers have made it a habit to scream or record music from their cell-phones through the loudspeakers at all hours of the night. When they had told the commander, he replied that ‘his’ soldiers do not do such things. We promised to report.

As we left a new group of civilian guards was dropped at the exact same spot of the pedestrian crossing where Palestinians are not allowed to stop – some people are more equal than others.

Near the spot which we had considered a new settlement off the Road of the Americas down in the valley we asked a bus driver (whose identity was hard to guess, since he was bearded and wore a large yarmulke and his views sounded like those of the settlers, but he DID drive a bus full of Palestinians) re the owner of the project; he said it was a Palestinian.

We drove along Ras El Amud, down to the wall in Abu Dis, up to the Cliff Hotel to show our guest, past the Pish-Pash, which was empty and continued via A-Tur to the Olive Terminal, where we parked.

We were not checked at all when crossing to the East and immediately a couple of drivers greeted us with enthusiasm and showed us with disgust that the toilets had been shut down and the site which is now used by people who have to wait for hours in the morning to reach the DCL. The water fountains are also not functioning as all the pipes are now closed off.

Apparently there had been some vandalism by Bedouin kids who had come to fill their jerry cans and of course the entire population now has to suffer collective punishment. A more creative solution, to open the toilets and the water fountains during the ‘office’ hours has not been implemented.

The pumps of the water company serving the 40,000 inhabitants of El-Azzariya had been broken and a piece had been sent to the U.S. for repair. Meanwhile Mekorot had deigned to provide the area with water for a couple of hours every three days. Of course the houses in the higher locations only received a trickle and it had been very difficult. Meanwhile the broken part has been fixed, but since the pipes are rusty and the infrastructure very old, the pipes keep bursting al over the place and twenty workers are kept busy to try and repair the damages temporarily, since of course the entire system has to be renewed and changed.

On the way out we had to proceed one by one through the turnstiles, the magnometer, show our Id’s and put our belongings on the conveyor belt. A piece of metal on the underwear of one of us kept setting off the alarm and finally she was told to enter the special investigation cell where she was told through the reinforced glass window how to undress – no one was in the cell with her – because of the high risk involved and no one was allowed to go through the CP until she was cleared. Fortunately there were only two (very amused) Palestinians waiting and no big crowds.

At the Container CP  we were met with a huge traffic jam. A long line of cars from the direction of the garbage dump was trying to find a way to merge with the kilometers long line from the direction of Abu Dis. A truck was held up at the CP in the direction of Bethlehem and nothing moved. No one hooted. We had never seen such a huge pile of cars at this spot. After the commander had spotted us the truck at the front of the line was released and the queue started moving slowly. One cab was taught a lesson for trying to merge into the line and told to remain on the side. We were told that he might have caused a traffic accident, but if an accident had happened fifty yards further up the road at the intersection in the middle of the traffic jam, beyond the CP, it would not have been of any concern to them.
There were four soldiers on each side and both lanes could have been opened to ease the pressure, but the cars were allowed to move only very slowly. After a while a jeep with four soldiers arrived and we hoped that this would solve the problem, but instead of four, eight soldiers were now chatting, smoking, laughing and spitting, but not making any effort to shorten the queue. We were counting vehicles and measuring time and finally the line moved. Again a driver was punished for greeting us and held up. We left when he was released and there was no longer a line.

The traffic from the direction of Bethlehem moved smoothly and hardly any car was inspected. Many of the drivers greeted us happily.