'Anata, Abu Dis, Sheikh Saed, Tue 1.9.09, Morning

Tamar M. (photographer and Human Rights activist), Anat T. (reporting)

6:45  Sheikh Saed

Festively dressed children crossing, many unaccompanied.  Almost no workmen.  The comapny commander U.,  is present, and that eases crossing considerably because he exercises authority and good judgement, directing the soldiers and guards to an awareness of the special nature of the first day of school.

On the whole, the children cross smoothly without bag checks.  Documents of boys and girls are also rarely checked.  U.,  says the boys and girls bring student identification from their schools, and of course they don't have such a document today and there's no need to check.  Our guest, Tamar, is shocked by the appearance of the checkpoint -- the narrow passages, fenced to an exorbitant height, the daily experience of  small children on their way to school.

7:30  on the way to Anata via Abu Dis

Heavy traffic up the hill towards Ras El-amud.  The Pishpash, as usual, appears fortified, with almost no one coming or leaving.  Riv'a al-Adwaya Street (the street of Mokassad Hospital and many schools) is totally jammed.  We reach Anata too late, around 8:15.

The children's transportations have all left, and traffic is flowing.  There are fenced-off passages on both sides of the road, improving the safety of the children, but this might have been achieved without such high fences.  The aesthetics of the checkpoints are appalling, and every practical "improvement" suggests increasing imprisonment.  People crossing report no problems and smooth passage.  But a look at what happens at the northern entrance to Anata is worthwhile.

9:00  on the way to El Ezariya

We wish to inspect the construction of the wall in the Pishpash area.  There's a new pillbox on the road.  Two guards are sitting under a tree opposite the monastery. The archaeological dig has been disbanded but the caves remain open and unsealed.

The Palestinian workers are hammering steel poles into the concrete wall.  What a wonderful wall.  It passes right up against homes, turns into a fence for a short strip, and will soon link up with the already installed wall in Abu Dis.  In addition, the homes of the villa neighbourhood are strapped between the security road on their west which is protected by its own little wall.  Very secure neighbourhood indeed, though unfit for normal life.

We enter the Lazarus monastery to a chorus of new kindergarten children crying on their first day.  The parents, all from El Ezariya, are troubled by the weeping, but they and the nursery teachers are also troubled by the future.  The wall traverses the edge of the monastery, and the entrance for the children from Al Ezariya will be through the wall.  No doubt special permits will be required, and the children will have to cross a checkpoint each morning and afternoon.