On the way down along the Jericho Road
we saw some overflowing garbage ‘frog’ containers and some where the contents had already been burnt. Since the rubbish is collected only once a week and this week because of the holiday it will remain, there is no other way to clear at least some of the mess.
We wanted to find out what has changed since last year, when the tiny opening of the above checkpoint was closed, and entered the wide open gates of the Convent after parking near the fortified closed CP. A gardener told us he lives in El Azzariya and
Instead of taking his car to the Convent and arriving ten minutes after leaving his house, he now parks it at the Olive Passage and takes a taxi to reach work. More expensive and much longer, but at least he has work. The Convent takes care of his work permit. Two sisters took a little boy who had a head injury into their car and disappeared. Another sister, Sister Theresa, came to talk to us in broken English. It turned out that she is their new “President” – originally from Spain. She arrived only a month ago, but had formerly served in Egypt, so her Arabic is fluent. She said that the little boy had been hurt by metal poles which are used to reinforce the fence above the wall and stated that ‘unfortunately’ this is their reality. She took us inside to the yard of the kindergarten where about twenty well-behaved toddlers in uniforms were waiting to be picked up by their parents. She showed us where children’s illustrations had been painted on the wall and where the fortifications on top will be completed soon. A security man guarded by a soldier with drawn rifle entered, while another soldier was guarding the stairs. The parents park their car at the bottom of the stairs and come up to pick up the children. Most of the children live on the western side of the wall. The teacher lives in El Azzariya and is taken home at 1:00 PM by a mini-bus which also takes another six children to drive them home to the Olive Passage from where another bus collects them and takes them each to their home. Each child pays 300 Sh. monthly for the rides. Since the checkpoint no longer functions there are fewer children from the Eastern side. The teacher has a blue Id. Her oldest son studies law in Tunis; her youngest son is still in hi-school in St. George, but only is in possession of a laissez-passer to go to school and did not get a blue Id, since they do not live in West Jerusalem. “This is our reality”. Meanwhile Sister Theresa had to leave us and thanked us profusely for coming – she was very grateful that we showed interest in their plight and that of the children. The two sisters we had seen in the car returned with the little boy and his mother. The boy had had three stitches and was licking an ice-cream – all the other kids crowded around him and he was clearly the hero of the day. The sisters handed out chocolates to all the other kids. The ‘formal’ education was over; the teacher and the children from the East left and the remaining children were left in the care of two sisters who seated them on mats and put on a DVD for them.
As we left the Convent a Border Police command car approached accompanying another car with a civil electrician to fix some problem with the turnstiles and door that could not open. We were amused to watch how they fiddled along with the red and green lights and tried in vain to open the door to the checking area and in the end left without accomplishing the job. The soldiers asked whether the electrician wanted them to safeguard his trip back to ‘civilization’, but the man said he would manage by himself.