Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sun 29.7.12, Morning
Rahel M., Michaela R. (reporting)
In general: A serious effort has been made to improve conditions at the crossing -- but occupation is still occupation, and freedom of worship and movement are restricted.
We arrived at 9:45, and recommend arriving earlier.
Women crossed without restrictions of age. The young were radiant with the unthinkable: the right to cross. When the authorities permit basic rights which should be self-evident, the impression is of a miracle.
Men of 12-45 require permits. Children unaccompanied by a family member are not allowed to cross. These restrictions cause considerable discontent and affect a significant number of persons. Two young Armenians with passports were not allowed to cross. The DCO representative explained politely why, and what they should do to cross in the future. On the other hand, there were impatient border policemen who simply drove men away shamefully.
At the entry a policeman imposed his authority with a shrill whistle -- for instance when a young man did not move fast enough, or another spoke on his cell phone. The conduct was blunt, humiliating, and absolutely unnecessary.
Two checking points were set up, both shaded. This is a significant improvement. Although thousands crossed, the lines were not long and moved briskly. When crowding occured, the commanders initiated the opening of another track.
Veiled women were checked by female soldiers. They tried to turn aside, but the checking still took place in public.
The front-line checking point was situated on the road under the awning. Between that and the awning wall there was a disgusting pile of garbage. Security guards, refused Palestinians, and veiled women being checked, all had to wade through this muck. That was also where the soldiers' drinks were located -- and in contrast to previous years, drinking took place in public.
The Red Crescent was present in the parking lot to help with the transportation of persons in wheelchairs. But in the road there was no passage for wheelchairs which had to negotiate between the lips of sidewalks, the unpaved spaces, and the piles of garbage. It occurred to no one to open the gate directly into the western parking lot for crossing of the handicapped.
On our way back we saw busloads of people arriving from Bethlehem. It was clear that these people would never reach their destination in time for prayers.