Abu Dis, Sheikh Saed, Silwan, Mon 6.6.11, Morning
Ada Gorni, Anat Tueg (reporting)
6:45 Sheikh Saed
A long line, mostly labourers. They say the've been waiting for 30 minutes, and in recent days crossing in the mornings has been very slow. Most Palestinian schools are on vacation, and there is no pressure from school children. We make a round of the usual phone calls: the Humanitarian Centre will report our complaint after they figure out where Sheikh Saed is; the battalion commander does not answer at this hour; headquarters of the "Envelope" (police, border police, army) argue that there's no cause for intervention since all the checks are apparently necessary; officials of the Jerusalem Envelope civil administration are willing to act and even know where the checkpoint is located and how it operates. They will call and find out what's going on.
The result (?): 15 minutes later the line decreases and evaporates. We part from the soldiers without really understanding what caused the delays.
Meanwhile we talk to a young man with a Palestinians ID according to which his place of residence is Sawaharra (by the way, northern Jabal Mukhaber is also called Sawaharra Al-Arbiya). He has a valid permit to be in Israel for reasons of family reunion, and he lives in Jabel Mukhaber, but has come to Sheikh Saed to visit his aunt and is not permitted to return to his home (nearby) through the checkpoint. He asks to return through the Zeitim Crossing, a 40-minute drive away partly through roads in very bad condition. We call the civil administration but are told that these are the regulations. Only residents of Sheikh Saed with permits or blue IDs from Sheikh Saed and Jabel Mukhaber may cross through the Sheikh Saed checkpoint, and that's the way it is.
Paving of sidewalks close to City of David continues. Tractors and all kinds of machinery park in the yard of the residents' committee's protest tent. Will there be sidewalks along the entire length of Ein Hilweh Street? Not clear. The workers claim that one-way traffic northward is not just temporary but there to stay. There are no barriers exiting the street, and no checks.
7:40 Mary Magdalene Convent (the former Pishpash area abutting on Al-Ezariya)
A new gate blocks the entrance to the wall area. The area is open only from the direction of the security road along the cottages near the wall. We talk to a nun about the kindergarten operating here. She says that last year the kindergarten catered to c. 150 children from Al-Ezariya. This year, with the closing of the crossing in the wall, the numbers went down to 40. Then the children began to travel with the kindergarten teacher from Al Ezariya to the Zeitim Crossing, and from there back to the kindergarten -- twice a day, of course. Slowly the children from Al Ezariya dropped out, both because of the high cost of transportation back and forth, and also because of the waste of time and unpleasant crossing. Next year there will probably be no children from El Azariya. She says the Vatican has appealed several times to the Israeli government but was turned down. She invites us into the kindergarten to show us how spacious and well-kept the place is, then leads us into the well-appointed courtyard with her own paintings on the wall to make it look like the wall of a kindergarten...
8:20 Wadi Nar
The situation has not changed, and the anticipated changes in traffic are not yet in place. A brief argument ensues with the soldiers at the checkpoint about our positioning hear the yellow barrier close to the checkpoint. We insist, and are backed by the border-police command of the area. The new commander is A. Today there is a dog and her trainer for detection of dangerous materials. The procedure is fairly fast -- roughly 10 minutes.