Heavy traffic jams at the exit from the refugee camp, despite two lanes operating efficiently. No school for most children today, and therefore no pressure of buses.
The barbed wire corridors have been greatly lengthened: c. 20 metres in front of the checkpoint and another 50 metres beyond -- a long corridor for entry, another for exiting. There is no crossing between corridors. On the main road leading into the camp, many scattered stones, and sooty shoulders. There were riots here on Friday and yesterday, and cars have not been allowed to leave the camp for the last four days.
The residents, mostly holders of Jerusalem resident ID's, and very distressed. Each minibus is carefully checked, all boys and youths asked to alight. According to the checkpoint commander (A., a pleasant and efficient fellow), each is checked against photos of the the rioters. I was present at three such checks, and all were released within a few minutes, but by then the minibus had left.
I entered from the east, from the Ma'aleh Adomim road. No security guards at the entrance. In the centre of the village I was stopped twice by masked men holding Palestine flags and clubs, checking cars entering the village centre. At first they asked me to turn back. Fortunately I attached my MW flag to my car and pointed to my name tag, and was able to continue into French Hill.
Our name (reputation) offers passage through the village also during tense times. The masked men sounded like young boys, and seem to be trying to postpone invasion of the village by Sha"bak and security forces after the recent riots -- when Issawiya was headline news.
Village life continues as usual, people going about their business in the streets, with no checkpoint at the exit towards French Hill, only a border police jeep perched menacingly on the hill looking over the road. On the afternoon news I heard that there had been more rioting, and thought of the boys waving the Palestinian flag for a few hours, and now no doubt languishing in the Ofer camp and then jail.
8:20 Sheikh Jarrah
The demonstration site is empty -- the tent is long gone. On the way I meet an ISM volunteer who was there last Sunday, and he reports of spending a marvellously quiet weekend. The rally, too, passed without arrests, and the settlers did not come out afterwards (generally backed by religious rioters) as is their wont in their efforts to spread fear on Friday evenings. Perhaps the Ghawi home will be considered non-kosher for Pesach and evacuated? I photograph the green swastikas which I omitted to do last time, and the neighbours tell me that their complaint will be considered today. Nasser will return on Wednesday (unless a new accusation will be found ...)
9:10 Sheikh Saed
I drove through Wadi Joz and Silwan where things are normal. Baruch Marzel's planned procession for today was cancelled in favour of a "yemenite feast" in Beit Jonathan during Pesach. Anything to unite Jerusalem...
I had to visit Sheikh Jarrah because last week the court's decision, ending the residents' hopes to restore this small neighbourhood to the mother community of Jabal Mukhaber, was published. The decision ordered the IDF and the Ministry of Defence to leave a gate open round the clock.
Much remains uncertain, and the neighbourhood's lawyer, Riad Nasser, has submitted a request for clarifications. To my surprise, the group of youths always to be found at the top of the hill (occupied, for lack of other work, with transportation inside and out of the neighbourhood) were full of hope. They have heard that anyone (even if Palestinian) with "Sheikh Jarrah" named as place on residence on their ID's, will be allowed to cross through the gate which will remain open. To me this sounds like a vain and illogical hope, but I didn't want to say that bluntly. I spoke to May, the teacher, and we submitted (via our complaints committee) her personal complaint protesting conditions at the small checkpoint, backed by the names of machsom-watch women who visit the checkpoint.