Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Fri 28.8.09, Morning
Ora K., Tova S., Michaela R. (reporting)
First Friday of Ramadan
9:00-11:00 Zeitim Crossing
Generally speaking, much fewer people than last year. Crossing is orderly.
According to UNWRA count, by 11:30 28 buses each carrying 20 persons had left the parking lot.
As in the previous year, there are 3 points of selection before entering the checkpoint area: one in the upper section just before the entrance to the turnstile, and in addition a preliminary check under the pillbox; 2 more points in the lower section, close to the parking lot. In the upper part there were ten security personnel, and as many in the lower part, "blue" policement with a reinforcement of cadets from officers' course, border police, and two unidentified guards. The crude and inappropriate behaviour of these last two was conspicuous.
Children over 12 were not allowed to cross, even when accompanied by their parents. Some returned to their homes alone, others accompanied by a parent who relinquished the right to cross. There were many bowed heads and angry looks.
All the rest crossed according to regulations -- women over 45 and men over 50 -- by presenting their ID's. This year there was considerable strictness regarding age, even those who will reach the cut-off age in the coming month were not allowed to cross. Younger folk with a permit were allowed to cross. This year valid permits were given not only for Ramadan but for purposes of work and health as well.
A young woman who was denied her right to worship at the Temple Mount stood staring at the retreating back of a family member and weeping. An old man in a wheel chair was accompanied by a son without a permit: the son was denied passage on the pretext that the wheelchair was motorized and therefore not need of a companion. And how would he mount the bus? People will gladly volunteer to help, the policeman said. Ultimately A., the checkpoint commander, gave them permission to cross, and also demanded the guards use their good judgement.
In the lower part there were separate passages for men and women. A welcome idea -- except that the signs announcing this hung behind the checking point, in small Arabic script compared to the size of the English letters. Most failed to notice the signs, causing the guards to make impatient and sometimes insulting remarks. There was no response to our remark that the location of the sign made it hard to see.