Abu Dis, Wadi Nar, Silwan, Sheikh Saed, Mon 4.7.11, Morning
Idit Shlesinger, Anat Toeg, (reporting)
7:00 Sheikh Saed
Y. of the border police greets us, sitting with his back to the checkpoint and armed with impressive military equipment. He forbids us to climb the hill, to the other side of the checkpoint -- a waste of time since beyond the Sheikh Saed checkpoint it's still Area B, and we've been through this argument and resolved it often in the past.
By the way, there are almost no persons crossing. School children are on vacation and workers would have crossed by now. We call the Emergency Humanitarian Centre and the control centre of the Jerusalem Envelope (both in charge of security in the Envelope area). After a few minutes we are informed that they will talk to the soldiers at the checkpoint, and -- in response to our question -- Y. says "Go". We try to imagine the impression made by a soldier of this ilk on the children crossing, to say nothing of his interaction with the local population... (Hanna B is familiar with this persona and has complained more than once about his conduct at the checkpoints. She will complain again this time.) We conduct a short conversation with the drivers on the hill who express concern about livelihood. They tell us that two elementary schools are operative in Sheikh Saed, and 10 containers receiving supplies from Al-Ezariya, a 30 minute drive away.
Miracles never cease. Many sidewalks have been created after the Supreme Court's order to undo all that had been constructed up to now. Not clear whether this is with the residents' agreement, and not clear whether this is a breach of the court order. At the end of the road there is a checkpoint with 2 policemen and 3 guards. They stop cars, check blue IDs on the computers -- including youths travelling on public transportation -- delaying traffic until the check is concluded. While this is going on we notice a Jewish vehicle bearing down with total disregard for the "no entry" sign. Apparently they have nothing to fear, after all what could happen to them if they're caught.
Anat talks to the Operation Department and the spokesperson of the Jerusalem police about this impromptu checkpoint and the checking of Israeli citizens travelling on public transportation. In answer to the question why here and not, say, in Beit Hakerem or Jaffa Road, the spokesman says that in the northern neighbourhoods, where he lives, this is common practice. This dialogue is not going anywhere and meanhile -- a disturbance. A suspicious bag is found in the vicinity of the policemen. Sharp-eyed Idit tells the soldiers she saw the person who left the bag. He denies. The soldiers summon reinforcements and sappers, ignoring Idit's insistence that she saw the man putting down the bag (a Jew, who has disappeared in the meantime -- they never thought to apprehend him). Twenty minutes later, with traffic at a stand-still, the man in the red shirt reappears out of nowhere with a police cap and a sign saying "drill". The policemen are astounded. Idit is relieved , she was not hallucinating. Needless to say, there is no word of appreciation from the policemen, but we feel we have earned our appellation -- machsom-watch, in more sense than one.
8:20 Wadi Nar (from El-Azariya)
This time we witness a greater number of vehicles observing the signs directing traffic from the checkpoint in the direction of El-Azaria on the one-way route, slightly longer but more secure. The difference is probably due to the presence of a block of wood laid across the road, slowing down the drive into the steep descent. It permits the driver a few seconds in which to lift his eyes and obey the signs indicating the traffic changes. A further narrowing of the passage would be even more helpful.
A young detainee sits at the checkpoint, and after 15 minutes his friend arrives, carrying the ID he had forgotten at home. Both are released. The soldiers ask us, in a tone of surprise, whether we are not afraid to be here. The truth is that the many barking dogs at the checkpoint are scary...