Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Silwan
After a 4-month absence, we were deeply shocked. The promise to upgrade the checkpoint turns out to be a blast of concrete disfiguring the hill. Instead of fences near the checkpoint, concrete everywhere -- on the steep security road up the hill; on the small box-like building through which the residents must pass (the approach to which is impossible -- there will be steps and access for the handicapped, but after so much flattening of slopes and rocks, why do nothing to ease the residents' access?). The approach for vehicles has been cancelled. Above the building a massive canopy has been set up, and where there used to be a gate (with a key) to the homes abutting on checkpoint (by court order) a wall has been built -- who gives a damn for court orders!
The spectacle is depressing, and so are the residents of this divided community. Sour looks, and no good morning greetings. At the moment they cross past the building in the direction of Jerusalem. Women and children cross fairly freely without unnecessary inspection. The future will tell.
Traffic flows slowly on Wadi Hilweh Road, in the direction the of the Old City walls. No police or checkpoints in the area, nor is there visible presence of the new settlers. We saw no signs of violence or stones on the road. Only an ostrich (or was it a large peacock?) wandering distractedly on the road.
God's zoo, indeed, in this crazy place.
8:15 Olive Terminal
Here too considerable sums have been invested in surrounding the checkpoint with concrete walls. The wall blocks the Jerusalem side of the checkpoint entirely, and contributes (so the people say) to the sense of suffocation and incarceration. Almost no one is crossing at this hour, and yet a couple holding an x-ray awaits the humanitarian opening to the DCO which is supposed to open at 8 a.m. The DCO officer tells us on the phone that they're open, and that people must cross through the nearby lane. Why is nobody informed? Why do the soldiers send this couple back to the humanitarian crossing? These little misunderstanding embitter the lives of those who need to cross. In the end, they do so.
What we gather -- and the DCO confirms this -- is that, for the present, entry into Israel without permits is granted to every Palestinian above the age of 60. We hope this will continue. We did not see many elderly Palestinians availing themselves of this privilege.