'Anata-Shu'afat, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal)
6:45 Shuafat Refugee Camp
Military police and private guards are at the checkpoint -- no border police. We don't know whether this will be the regular combination. The turnstile leading to the pedestrian crossing at the exit from the camp is not operating, but the the gate next to it is wide open. One turnstile less is fine -- not clear why so many turnstiles were required in the first place.
Transportation of children studying in Jerusalem leaves as usual, and we chat with the locals. The dispute with UNRWA workers is not over, but the committee of the camp's residents has received donations from Europe, which they use as much as possible for cleaning up operations while the money lasts. In the wake of the UNRWA strike, the children in the camp have not been studying for 2 months! -- with the exception of the municipal boys' school in the market building next to the checkpoint.
With respect to the terrorist from Ras Al Hamis, affiliated with Al Queida, and caught before he managed to perform an attack in Binyanei Ha-Ooma and elsewhere, the residents say that he is not a veteran local but arrived only a short time ago. The place, they say, is a paradise for illegal operations because the nearby parking lot is a site for widespread drug trafficking at night to which many come, including youths from the Jerusalem area. The residents suffer from the crime and violence but are unable to do anything about it.
Vehicular traffic is smooth, with short inspections. Again, no border police around, and the guards follow in the footsteps of the military police.
8:00 Olive Terminal (Ras al Sabitan)
The checkpoint was very crowded when we arrived, only one station open, and plenty of irritation. But soon another station opened, and the pressure decreased. On the Palestinian side, 30 whose ID's had been taken and not returned, stood and waited. The new difference of procedure lies in the fact that the ID's were appropriated not when they tried to cross the checkpoint or pass over the barbed wire covering the remaining opening between the wall and checkpoint fence -- but took place in the parking lot during a collective check by border police at 6:00 a.m.
We immediately called the DCO representative at the checkpoint, who said he would look into it. When nothing happened, we called the checkpoint commander who said that in principle the police and the border police are allowed to take documents for inspection also in Area B, and this is what they do for the General Security Services (Shabak). We said that this is a delay tactic which on the face of it cannot be legal since no misdemeanor was committed. He said the documents would soon be returned, and indeed this happened within a few minutes.
A young man, almost a boy, came up to us and showed a permit torn to pieces which had been returned to him. He said it was a perfectly valid permit issued by the liaison office in Hebron. Most of his friends refused to leave and said they would wait for him because he's a family member. Again we spoke with the checkpoint commander, who said that the permit was indeed valid, but issued to a merchant for a business meeting, and the young man admitted that he had bought it in Hebron for 3000 shekels in order to be able to cross and work in construction in Jerusalem. He said there are networks dealing with the sale of improper permits for vast sums; people buy them in the hope of crossing without too many questions and acquiring work. The youth looked very miserable, and refused to accept his misfortune, also when those surrounding him explained the situation. Who knows what he had had to do to acquire such a vast sum? And did he not think that his youthful appearance would betray him?
We left with a heavy heart -- Palestinians, in their desperate situation, are easy prey to every kind of scam, including lawyers who charge exorbitant sums and do nothing.
We gave Silvia's phone number to a couple of older men who are trying to figure out why they are refused. The work of Silvia and her colleagues is blessed