'Atara, Sun 31.10.10, Afternoon

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Observers, Ruth O. Orit Y. and Ilana D. (reporting

Rawabi :
We were unable to go out on our usual day and there were no open slots on Sunday, so we decided to travel out of Jerusalem and observe the construction of new checkpoints and the progress made in Rawabi. As expected the huge terminal opposite Ofer looks already like the enormous compound, which was created to house, the tunnel Checkpoint South of Jerusalem – this one will probably become as big and ugly. On the stretch of Road 443 open to Palestinians, we did not spot one Palestinian vehicle. Only one on the other side of the fence near the new Bitunia Checkpoint, but it was parked.
We continued via the vast construction site of the ‘Institutionalization’ of the Kiryat Sefer passage which assumes the size of an airfield, but were unable to halt due to construction – the pedestrian passage has moved a little and in the mud it will be quite hazardous to reach.
As we had taken the winding “Sharon” road via Nakhliel last time, we now turned right straight to Khalamish on a straight fairly new road which bypasses Arab villages and took us straight via Ateret to Atara. We were pleased to see the checkpoint there abandoned and drove through the village with its newly constructed Ackerstein sidewalks (courtesy of the Germans) and many invisible road bumps till the turn-off to Adjul which led us to the building site of Rawabi.
As one approaches it is very similar to the terraced preparations for construction in Area E1 where Mevasseret Adumim is due to be built. Then we saw a beautiful fence with an unarmed guard who told us to wait for his boss before we took pictures or got information. Meanwhile we marveled at the three flags near the entrance (Palestinian, Qatari and one with the Rawabi logo, which we had already spotted on the road signs) and the brand new heavy equipment also all with the Rawabi logo.  In no time the ‘boss’ turned up and told us that without prior permission he is not allowed to let us in, nor let us take pictures, but if we would write to the company (a joint American, Palestinian and Qatari enterprise) he would gladly take us around the whole area in his 4X4 and explain everything more clearly to us. The apartments are between 160 and 300 square meters, the cheapest cost about 80,000 dollars and 6,000 of them have already been sold. The poster at the entrance looks exactly like a fancy neighborhood in Modi’in - it is supposed to have 40,000 inhabitants. His name is Jacob and he spent many years in Florida (his English is of course very good) and he returned in order not to lose his Id. card.