'Anata, Abu Dis, Container (Wadi Nar), Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Thu 17.9.09, Morning
We left late because it is no longer daylight-saving time in Palestine and we wished to observe the crossing of children.
At the pick-up point the man in charge told us that the previous night, the night of El Khader, there had been riots at the checkpoint and a journalist had been hit. A conversation with the officer confirmed that there had indeed been problems.
The crossing of pupils was orderly. A special track has been set aside for them to cross swiftly, and only those who look older are checked. There were few pedestrians at this hour, but the line of cars was very long, its end out of sight. Checking of vehicles was efficient, performed by several guards.
We met a couple from Shuafat on their way to the Ministry of the Interior (he with a blue ID, she Jordanian with Israeli visa for family reunion). The husband argued with border police, but they refused to let the woman cross. The couple apparently gave up. The woman picked up their little daughter and intended to turn back. We turned to one of the border policemen who presented himself as the commander of the checkpoint (he was not an officer and his identifying tag was wrappped around his epaulette) who insisted vehemently that he was following orders. When the husband said it was the woman who has been summoned to the ministry, the policeman said he should go instead of her and bring a note. Back to the merry old days of Mapai! In the meantime an officer arrrived, asked the policeman to move away, and explained to the man that there is a representative of the Ministry of Interior in the government compound in Kalandia where they could go any day. In one short informative sentence a solution was offered. We hope the information was accurate.
When we crossed eastward we noticed there were no people inside the checkpoint. When we reached the outer turnstile we saw a crowd of 25-30 persons, and the turnstile locked. Inside was a child of about 5-6, a bag on his shoulders and documents in his hands, trapped and staring fearfully at the locked turnstile. We called A., the commander, but before he got back to us the turnstile was opened. People rushed in, and an older boy took the child under his wing. Two minutes later the child was back, crying bitterly. We failed to calm him down or communicate with him, and all we could do was draw the attention of the female soldier, sitting in the cubicle busy with her own affairs and totally blind to whatever is going on around her, and ask her to open the exit turnstile. Milli helped the little one to push the turnstile, and he went on his way still crying bitterly.
In the meantime A. got back to us, heard us and promised to check. Shortly after that he called again:
a) The female soldier in charge of the outer turnstile seems to have gone to the restroom, a perfectly natural action, he said, which you too (i.e. me) would have performed. And why was she not replaced? Because people has been working till midnight the night before due to El Khader, and there was a shortage of manpower.
b) And what about the child? There had been nothing of the sort. I asked him whether I had been hallucinating. He promised to check and get back.
After a while, another call from A.: yes, there had been a child who was crying because his mother smacked him. But the child was alone, no mother in sight. A. claimed she had crossed before our arrival. If so, why had the child returned? The question marks remained, and there were no answers.
When we turned back we entered the checking corridor. I held up my ID to the window and the female soldier stared at it for a long time. Her companion came to her aid, and I was asked over and over again, over the loudspeaker, if I understand Hebrew. Finally the soldier said: "I'm amazed! I never saw a Jewish woman here, what are you doing here?" while the line of persons waited impatiently.
Traffic flowing, more or less. Routine and random delays.