'Anata-Shu'afat, Abu Dis, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed
Our visitor is planning a film about the Separation Wall and its effects on those living close to it. For this reason our tour today is in the shadow of the wall dividing the neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, and we gaze at familiar sites through her shocked eyes.
7:00 Sheikh Saed
The checkpoint is tranquil with very few crossing. The guard regards us with animosity and instructs the border-policemen to ignore us traitors. Why is it that private guards man the checkpoints so frequently? Is their authority above that of the soldiers on duty? The upgraded building is not in use although construction was completed a few months ago. The additional elements are operative: a steep security road, a parking lot distant from the checkpoint, and a high grey wall. Some "upgrade" indeed of the crossing experience for residents!
7:30 Drive from Ras-al-Amud and Abu Dis to Cliff Hotel
To those who have not seen the wall on the Jericho Road in Abu Dis, the sight round the corner is truly shocking: the neglected gas station, the houses peeping immediately beyond the grey wall, the stifling atmosphere. It's hard to believe that Cliff Hotel was once beautiful -- now an abandoned ruin, closely encircled by the wall. The gate leading to a settlement house is open. Make no mistake: an entire neighbourhood is planned around it.
We also show our visitor the spot in the wall which used to be the Pishpash checkpoint, moved after a High Court order, following the struggle of residents of someof the homes to remain inside Israeli Jerusalem. We recall that the results were bitter: the wall was built directly against the windows and balconies of the duplexes. A neighbour shows us a house on the edge that has remained empty because it is surrounded on both sides by the wall. Its owners, residing on the other side, must cross at the distant Olive Terminal to reach it once in a while for maintenance.
8:00 Olive Terminal
This is a good hour to visit -- most of the traffic here takes place between 5 and 7 a.m. The problematic days, we are told, are Friday and Saturday, when there are fewer soldiers and lines grow long. And yet, this checkpoint is better regulated relative to those in Qalandia and Bethlehem 300.
Once again we hear complaints about locked toilets, and decide to bring this up with those in charge so that for Ramadan, at least, the toilets will stay open for a few hours when many arrive from great distances in order to pray in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, a 56 year old man turns up -- he doesn't understand why he is being turned away. We told him to inquire at the liaison agency which appears to closed and he gives up. We persuade him that now it's open, and he tries again. We were unable to understand why he was not allowed to cross. In principle, we discover, anyone over 55 must first acquire a magnetic card (although according to the checkpoint commander, this is not essential).
9:00 Az-Za'ayyem and Shuafat Checkpoint
The metal gate closing the passage to Az-Za'ayyem is already locked. We drove in the direction of Shuafat to show our visitor the road from Az-Za'ayyem to French HIll, a road with a wall at its centre. At this hour traffic at the Shuafat checkpoint flows freely.