Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Fri 10.8.12, Morning
Rahel M., Michaela R. (reporting)
Fourth Friday of Ramadan
In general: our impression is that from week to week there are more arrivals.
The various security personnel appear exhausted, impatient and more contentious with the youths who are refused crossing.
As in previous weeks, the road leading to the checkpoint from the west was blocked. We parked next to a garbage dump as is our wont during Ramadan. This time a border policeman tried to prevent us, but gave up when he was unable to provide an alternative.
We crossed to the eastern side, and soon noticed a commotion on the side of the road leading to the checkpoint. A few skimpy fir trees provided some slight shade, under which a group of youths who had been refused passage clustered. Three very young border policemen tried to fend them off, unsuccessfully. As soon as we arrived, we were accused of being the cause of the commotion which was staged, the policemen claimed, for our benefit. The truth is that the agitation had begun before our arrival.
Within minutes, the policemen got reinforcements, including an officer, and a DCO person. The DCO man spoke the the youths in Arabic and tried to persuade them to disperse. They insisted on their right to sit there, a few meters below the inspection point. The policman, who does not speak Arabic, threatened arrest. One of the men, very determined to protect his rights, did not give in to the threat. He was taken away, apparently for arrest, walking off proudly. A few minutes later a compromise was struck: He could sit in the shade of the trees, but on his own.
The rest of the young men were more determined to cross. They tried again and again, sometimes successfully, mostly not. The patience of the guards was running thin and voices were raised. They kept chasing away the youths who kept returning to the shady spot. Tension was in the air. Someone whispered to us that last week men of Hamas and Jihad had crossed to the Temple Mount; that the fence had again been breached.
This week, from where we stood, we saw no breach in the fence; nor did we see any arrests.
Regulations were strictly observed. A man of 37 wheeled his mother in a wheelchair. Three years short of the allowed age, he had a problem. After an exceedingly careful inspection, both were allowed to cross. A tall, broad-shouldered youth, a little over 12, was not allowed to cross. But his mother's pleas, and perhaps our presence, prevailed, and he crossed. Another man of 39 was also allowed to cross after our intervention. It seems that due to the heat it was easier to refuse crossing rather than exercise flexible judgement. In fact, very many were turned back as opposed to the few whose requests were met.
A 35 year old father wanted to cross with his little boy to show him the sights of Jerusalem. The pair return to the US this week, and this was their last chance. To no avail: the DCO person suggested they postpone their flight on the off-chance that the parent could get a permit for next Friday...