Cliff Hotel, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Silwan
6:45 The "upgraded" Sheikh Saed
Work on the checkpoint has stopped; energies have probably been shifted to paving the security road descending sharply from the checkpoint to the Kidron River. Security of course takes precedence. But then something positively poetic takes place: a beautiful young and healthy donkey -- not at all like the wretched creatures we usually see -- breaks into the road and gallops freely along the road, for a moment as though to climb to Sheikh Saed, but then continues galloping south. A beautiful moment, everyone smiles -- children, workers, soldiers and ourselves. Freedom incarnate, all that was lacking was the sound-track of "freedom."
We inquire whether there is a decrease in people crossing, now that the road to Sawaharrah A-Sharkya has been improved. The answer is negative. The road does not permit Sawaharrah residents to cross. It's a long trip to Al-Ezariya, and there's no opening there to cross to Jerusalem.
Today the El-Ad lobby can say "the Wailing Wall is in our hands." And now we wait to see what the Jewish-Settlement brain will invent to join the City of David to the Wailing Wall, and erase other cultures which existed there. It will surely be destructively aggressive.
7:45 Cliff Hotel
It's always painful to see this gem of Jerusalem architecture in its present state -- smashed windows, broken walls, filth everywhere, and now surrounded by a fence. Nobody came to stop us when we crossed the gate into the settlement area. There was someone in the booth, but he didn't bother. The signs proclaimed "forbidden, forbidden" -- and "dangerous".
8:25 Olive Terminal (Ras Al Sabitan)
The wall looks burned. Our inquiry gets two answers. The Palestinians say that in order to prevent infiltration without permits (because the opening between the wall and the checkpoint wall has not been closed), the security forces on certain days burn tires in the opening. The security people tell us this is nonsense, and anyway what does it matter if the wall is coloured pink, blue or black...
Some 15 are delayed, their Palestinian IDs seized after they crossed at this point and tried to get on the bus. The ID of another was taken in the parking lot even though he had not tried to cross. They've been waiting since 5 a.m. for the border policeman to come and sign the reports so that the ID can be returned. The staff at the checkpoint say the delay can be extended by the checkpoint commander for another 3 hours beyond the regulation 3. In the event, within 15 minutes of our arrival, the IDs are restored. And in the meantime we hear people's stories: they arrive from all over the West Bank in search of work in Israel. The pay in the Palestinian authority is 20 shekels, in Israel it's 200 shekels -- worthwhile to take risks.