Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Tue 3.7.12, Morning

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Anat Toeg, Nava Jenny Eliashar (reporting)


A young man sitting next to me sums it up: "Every soldier is a government".
7:30  Sheikh Saed
A hot morning.  Few crossing -- it's a school holiday.  We entered the checkpoint's inner space.  The taxi drivers wait patiently for custom. A man is travelling to Sawahara -- 30 shekels; three young persons to the university -- 5 shekels each; the trip to Olive Terminal -- 40 shekels.
The atmosphere at the checkpoint has been tense in the last few weeks.  But this morning a smiling policeman mans the post and spreads a positive atmosphere.  It's helpful, also in these circumstances.
A taxi driver in his 20's greets us as usual with "Where's Luna?"  We remember the American tourist who joined us two or three years ago, and whose charming smile captivated all hearts, including that of the young, handsome, married driver, locked inside the pale of green ID owners.
"I want life" he says.
"What's 'life' for you?" Anat asks.  It takes him a while to figure out that we're asking about his dreams.
"It's all  in my head... want to be an engineer... lots of money..." and he rattles off the benefits of all the universities on the West Bank, of which he prefers Bethlehem.
Three or four men are waiting in the square.  When we approach them they refuse to speak with us.  "Because of the cameras" he says, pointing in the direction of the checkpoint.  "They film everything."
A car arrives and a man wearing a black yarmulka disembarks.  "He's in charge of transportation" we're told.  He speaks good Palestinian Arabic, and doesn't answer our questions in Hebrew.  Who is he?
"A trip on the minibus from the checkpoint to Jerusalem costs 5 shekels" the driver of a private car tells us. "But we're faster, we collect four passengers quickly and off we go, the bus takes longer."
We entered the checkpoint -- which is empty.  The toilets are open and cleaner than last time, but there's no water.
On the Palestinian side too there are taxi drivers -- mostly private cars -- waiting for passengers who don't arrive. "Daily wage? 60-70 shekels, at most 100 (which also pays for gas and other expenditures) -- not great, what?... 3 shekels to Al Ezariya or Sheikh Saed and back, 4 shekels to the University."
We ask why they don't take fares to Ramallah? "Because people don't have money to go and spend there."
8:40  Olive Terminal
In the crossing to the DCO the light is read -- but there's no one waiting to cross anyway.
We exited the checkpoint.  A border police jeep stops and two youths are taken off the minibus. They sit in the shade at the bus stop, and now it's a matter of time, lots of time, until things are decided one way or the other.
One is from Sawahara, the other from Abu Dis, one has an ID the other doesn't -- he calls his wife to fetch the ID.
A taxi driver explains the absurdity, as he perceives it: "...One is born here, grows up here, and needs a permit to work? It's not right, doesn't make sense... for overseas, passport, OK, but here at home you need a permit?... In no country do they have two kinds of ID's... Give them a chance to work..."
Meanwhile the policeman speaks on the wireless: "One of them doesn't have a permit, I'm taking him to Atarot..."
"Take both" is the reply from the other end.  The policemen write out their reports.
It's not clear why they should go all the way to Atarot -- there are bases closer by -- until we remember that only in Atarot are there Shabak (Security Services) invetigators.
"Every soldier is a government" says the young man sitting next to me at the bus stop.