17:15 Shuafat refugee camp checkpoint
In the square outside the camp stand Palestinian public transportation "transits" and there is plenty of movement but no traffic jams, and only a few older boys sit and wait (boys of 16 and above are not allowed to cross in the pupils' buses). Garbage everywhere. The parking lot for buses has been renovated, and now there are a few separate points of access (sorts of bus-stops), with curbs, so that pupils can embark without risk. We attract much surprised attention: "You're Jewish?" seventh-graders ask in Arabic. It seems their only contact with Jews is via security forces. They tell us of shooting from the pillbox, and much "fauda". While we are there, the buses intended for the children are stuck in traffic at the entrance to the camp, together with a "Red Crescent" ambulance. This is due mostly to people trying to overtake in the exit lane from the camp, thereby blocking the entrance.
The traffic jam from the camp to the checkpoint is enormous. Drivers honk in frustration, but the cars move very slowly. Approximately 100 meters from the checkpoint there is a red traffic flight, and from here until the checkpoint the area is "sterile". Cars cross one by one to the inspection point (the commander says this was done to prevent the running-over of soldiers at the checkpoint).
Jamil Sandoka stops for a minute to tell us that the situation is really bad both in the morning and the afternoon, when leaving for or returning to Jerusalem. Yesterday, a meeting was held with municipal representatives, border police, and the regular police, who promised to improve the traffic arrangements. "But you can see that nothing has changed" he says. We can only join him in hoping that this is only because of the time required between the decision and the issuing of orders...
The pedestrian checkpoint is totally blocked. People tell of two-hour lines, from time to time, every day. Only one checking point is operative, and dozens of people -- men, women (also with babies), and boys who cannot cross in the pupils' buses -- anxious people, late for work, school, appointments; all of them possessing blue Jerusalem-resident ID's. From time to time shouts are heard from the sound system. Crossing at the single checking point is hopelessly slow. When we cross after three quarters of an hour, we find two soldiers on duty -- one busy with his phone, the other checking documents with a conspicuous lack of urgency. Youths stand alongside the entrance to the empty checking point shake the turnstile aimlessly -- one can imagine a violent confrontation developing. A fair number of them give up, don't cross for school, and return to the camp. Another recipe for violence.
Strangely, the second checking point has not been activated since its installation. There is a magnometer, no x-ray machine, and the commander complains that there is no manpower (which is odd because there are around 8 military policemen, border policemen, including reserves, and guards, none of them exactly busy...).
We call the headquarters of the Jerusalem Envelope, who promise to call and check; the humanitarian centre, who send us back to the Envelope. The tempo of crossing picks up a little, and from our second conversation with headquarters we are directed to the officer on duty who now wakes up. K. promises to speed up matters, and it seems that he succeeds. The line starts to move more quickly, but there are still dozens waiting. We call the woman in charge of centralizing activity (Mabrook!) and she asks for a report a.s.a.p. to inform all concerned: our new checkpoint committee, Hanna, Betselem, Human Rights Society.