Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal)
Third Friday of Ramadan
In a word: sad
We arrived around 10:00 oclock when only a thin stream of people were crossing. We soon realized that at the first booth hundreds were turned back, which obviously grew to thousands as the day wore on. The women, who had crossed freely in the previous weeks, were particularly disappointed. There were arguments, but no flexibility or lenience. Families were separated, and those allowed to cross were hurried rudely through the checkpoint, with pushy body language, while those separated from them were trying to exchange baggage, babies and equipment. No time was allowed for decent farewells.
In contrast to the festive atmosphere of the previous two weeks, the tone today was gruff and impatient. We too had a taste of this antagonism when they tried to push us into the blazing sun, away from the position we had occupied in the previous weeks -- for the sake of our security, of course.
Many of those turned back crowded in front of the checking booth, some sunk quietly into their disappointment, others talking amongst themselves, unable to accept the refusal. From time to time policemen came down to physically push them away. "To clean up" one of them said -- to remove human garbage away from the seeing eye!?! There were no Palestinians today to assist with the cleaning up.
A man arrived with a permit that had expired. The person checking tore it up. The man asked for it, to help in the process of renewal, but the checker said the document did not exist. A female soldier said tearing up documents is not what they do. When we pointed to the man's hands which continued to scrunch up the document, she said that in any case it was not valid. The DCO representative who happened to be there, dealt with the matter very sensitively, he made the perpetrator apologise, and the Palestinian was allowed to cross today, and probably on the coming Fridays as well.
In another case, the Red Crescent people intervened on behalf of a blind man accompanied by a youth. The youth did not have a permit, and the blind man could not continue without his assistance. In previous years, the need for a companion went without saying, but today prolonged persuasion was necessary to allow the couple to continue.