We started at the checkpoint, children's hour. There were changes and surprises.
With regard to transportation of children, there will soon be a few changes, presently under construction. These were included in commitments rendered by the security system to the High Court when it approved the construction of a large checkpoint in the heart of a Jerusalem community. But as so often, the community must now fight for the implementation of these commitments because everything is only partial and fragmented. Examples will follow.
So what's new? Since the opening of the checkpoint, pupils have been boarding the buses in the inner parking lot. The large and numerous buses would cross through the vehicular checkpoint and into Jerusalem in the midst of morning pressures with many cars on their way to work.
Until the construction of the enlarged transportation area, the children will cross through a separate gate guarded by a local resident, Sanduka (who doesn't rest for a moment), board the buses beyond the borders of the checkpoint in a special parking lot now under construction, and will proceed directly to Jerusalem. In this way their contact with the checkpoint will be reduced to a single gate, which we hope will remain friendly and always open. Two turnstiles were added to this gate to lessen the pressure of entry into Shuafat and Anata during the noon hours when children return from school.
The basic essay about this large checkpoint and the High Court can be accessed at
And what has changed at the pedestrian crossing? Nothing.
When we returned through the checkpoint, one pedestrian crossing was open, as usual. With few crossing, passage was swift. The female soldiers open and close the gates at random, partly playful, partly "educating" (and annoying) those crossing. At the vehicular crossing, 4 out of 5 lanes are open and passage is fast.
And the surroundings? Dusty and filthy, garbage on the road-side, and near the elementary school the endless smoke from the garbage rises. Over the wall new construction of houses without any attention to standards and safety regulations continues. There over the wall we have created a no-man's-land of anarchy. The only people who care for the residents of neighbourhoods annexed to Jerusalem, and do so with endless devotion, are the community workers.
Along Raba Al Adwiya Road, stretching south from Augusta Victoria along the ridge of the Mount of Olives, there are many institutions, mostly large schools and Al Mokassad Hospital. Children crowd the street in the morning hours on their way to school. This is also the time of border police and their vans. At the heavily jammed intersection of A-Tur Road, there is no traffic sign or light, only a border-police van. Further on, opposite the large boys' school, a bunch of heavily armed soldiers and a group of Palestinian adults urge the children into the school. Further on there is another van and, where the road forks, a bigger unmotorized group.
When we finished our tour and classes began, we saw the vans with the soldiers returning to town; only a bunch of soldiers, far from the school, remained at the A-Tur Road intersection.
If the pretext of protecting tourist buses is true, it must be said that during our presence -- until after 8:00 -- there was not single tourist in sight. When we finally drove away we saw the first tourist bus ascending, long after the border-police had departed.