Abu Dis, Sheikh Saed, Anata, Thu 26.1.12, Morning

Michaela Rahat, Nava Jenny Elyashar (reporting)


Sheikh Saed 6:30
Very cold morning, the checkpoint is almost empty.
Normally at this hour there's a stream of pupils, but today there are very few.  Some schools are on vacation, but we were unable to find out why.
One pupil shows us the birth certificate he handed the female soldier.  The older ones are required to present a permit or Israeli ID.
In any event, crossing is allowed only for those whose registered address is Sheikh Saed.
The soldier left idle today addresses us amicably: "Long time no see, how are you?"
Anata 7:30
Near the old checkpoint, located at the exit from Anata, the road is cut off by a new wall, creating an area blocked from three directions, and inside it there are burning rubbish bins spreading toxic fumes of burning nylon across the entire neighbourhood.
The municipality garbage contractor arrives only once a week, removes some half of the garbage and sets fire to the rest.  On other days the residents themselves set fire to the overflowing bins.
We were shocked to discover that the iron gate directly opposite the burning bins is the main entrance to the Jerusalem municipality's elementary school in which 1000 boys are forced to breathe a high concentration of toxins through their school day.
Inside the community behind the new checkpoint, a large parking lot is under construction.  In the mornings it contains the municipal buses transporting 3000 pupils studying in municipal schools.
In addition, there are 5000 pupils attending private schools.  They travel privately in a transportation system which picks them up from their homes, passes through the checkpoint, and delivers them to the schools in town.
Three delegates from the neighbourhood council are in the parking lot, directing groups of pupils to their buses.
In the old transportation depot, the buses entered from the right, drove around the roundabout, collected the pupils and exited from the left.  They had to drive through crowds of children, but at least they moved only forward, never reversing.  In the new pick-up point, parking spots are marked perpendicular to the sidewalk, and each bus has to reverse in order to park in the assigned spot.  This reversing manoeuvre, in the midst of crowds of children most of whom don't stay on the narrow side-walk, is extremely dangerous.
The council delegates herd groups of children around them, directing them to walk only on the sidewalk, but the sidewalk is simply too narrow for the many children crossing here between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.
The buses fill up rapidly and leave.  More buses immediately enter the parking area.