Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Wed 17.6.09, Morning
6:50 Sheikh Saed
One of the frustrating and kafkaesque events we encountered at the checkpoint:
There were no lines when we arrived, and traffic was flowing. Inside the neighbourhood a pregnant woman, H.M., approached us and asked for our assistance in crossing. This was her story: the 8-month pregnant woman (she showed us the weekly record tracking the pregnancy), due to deliver at Almokassad Hospital, does not possess a blue identity card. She told us of suffering pains early that morning and decided to go to the hospital for a check-up. Of course she has no permit. The soldiers would not let her cross. We began a round of phone call, including to Dahlia Bassa in charge of medicine. N. from the Jerusalem Envelope DCO (with A. in the background, the new officer representing the DCO at Zeitim Crossing) got back to us to say that the woman has a one-day permit to accompany an ailing person, and that she can cross only with that permit, even though Dahlia Bassa asked to let her cross.
At first H. claimed she had no such permit, then remembered that her sister had requested one to accompany her to the eye-doctor today, but she had not collected it and had not accompanied her sister. Thus the kafakaesque situation unfolded (truly kafkaesque to our perception -- none of the soldiers or civil administration personnel thought there was anything odd about it): The civil adminstration claimed the woman had a permit to cross (as companion to a sick person), but would not let her cross as someone suffering pain in the 8th month of her pregnancy, even though this was confirmed by the person in charge of medical permits in the administration, because she did not have the permit to cross as a companion..
The reasons, of course, are bureaucratic, as befits the kafkaesque. If she's caught without the appropriate permit she will be in trouble (with the checkpoint and the administration). Their suggestion: go to the Palestinian DCO in El-Azariya (30 minutes along a rough road...), bring the permit and then cross to go to the hospital. All our efforts to point out the absurdity or the health hazards, were of no avail -- their insistance was across the board -- so that finally H. sent a young messenger to bring the permit from the DCO and, feeling unwell, she returned home to wait.
At this point we decided to continue to the rest of checkpoints, taking her phone number to keep track of the matter. A few hours later the woman reported that the permit was found not at the Palestinian DCO (we were not entirely surprised) and her messenger returned empty-handed. We called A. angrily and asked him what was going on. He got back to us with the reply that the head of the Palestinian DCO had said he had the permit and that no one had arrived to pick it up; and that he had phoned the woman to tell her of this. What exactly happened, and who was lying, was no longer the issue. The entire episode could have been avoided with the exercise of good judgement: and 8-month pregnant woman in pain with a permit on the computer was unable to reach the hospital that day. (We spoke with her later,and she told us she would go to Bethlehem or Ramallah is the pain increased.)
So frustrating! I tried not to think of it all week.
Another event we tried to deal with concerned Mussa M., a resident of Jabel Mukhaber, owner of a Palestinian ID, an illegal resident on his own land, and in the middle of delayed proceedings for family reunion since 2005. When he crossed the checkpoint to Sheikh Sa'ed in the evening hours to visit his sick mother, he was stuck in her home -- the soldiers would not let him cross and ordered him to fetch a permit from the DCO. This could take a few days; till then he must remain on the Palestinian side. A., the Envelope DCO officer at Zeitim, told us this was not a simple matter, there is a problem issuing such a permit to someone who, although he has a permit not to be expelled from Israeli territory, has no document allowing him to enter Israel. Did we say kafkaesque? His mother lives a few hundred meters away from him, but when he goes to visit her he can't return home. And no one in the adminstration finds this absurd.
That same night Mussa crossed the checkpoint and returned to his home. He was warned "not to do this again" -- to cross only with a permit from the DCO.
8:30 The Pishpash
The checkpoint is quiet. We entered to inspect the work of shifting the wall. It was possible to observe the route of the security road and the fence east of it, a few meters apart from each other, with a row of homes in the middle.
9:00 Zeitim Crossing
We crossed to the Palestinian side, then returned. Two corridors are open, and crossing flows.
Addition from Thursday, 18.6.09:
Mai A, the charming teacher and peace activist in Sheikh Sa'ed called at 7 a.m. to complain of being detained, and refused crossing with the main instrument of her work: her laptop. Several phone calls to the control centre, the area battalion commander, and her calls to A., the DCO officer at Zeitim Crossing, helped -- after 20 minutes. But Mai claims that there is a soldier, M., who regularly stops her, both entering and exiting -- delaying her each time for more than half an hour. I promised we would send a complaint, and informed Hanna Barag of the matter. I also encouraged Mai to complain at the Civil Administration