Midday

13/01/2003
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Abu Dis - through the Islamic college . Palestinians were passing freely into Jerusalem and out of it without being checked at all. There was no sign of any Border Police or any of the other security forces. Wadi Nar - There, in the middle of nowhere , our driver parked behind a line of other taxis. 20 meters down the road, on the curve , at a place called the "kiosk" stood a Border Police jeep. Behind it several Palestinians were sitting on the ground - detained. 50 meters further down, the road was blocked by a simple iron bar, behind it stood a small crowd of Palestinians herded together, - waiting. 2 or 3 trucks (on their way to Jerusalem) were waiting there too. We went to the jeep and asked the border policeman why were all these people waiting. He said he got an instruction from "above" to enforce a total and hermetic closureinfo-icon of the area , prohibiting passage also to the few Palestinians and trucks who had special permits to pass during the "normal" closure . "Only humanitarians can pass" he said meaning ambulances. "Anyway Bethlehem is under curfew he said accusingly , "how did they manage to come out?" Some of the people behind the bar were turning around and walking down the empty road , back towards Bethlehem, many km. away. Some tried their luck through the wadi, bypassing the police jeep. The police were soon after them. One policeman stood at the edge of the cliff and pointed his machinegun at those who tried to escape. When I asked him why ,he answered very rudely "get out of here". T he crowd of Palestinians were getting very angry and frustrated, some of them approaching us , others approaching the policeman. We could give them no answers as to how long the total closure would go on, also after we spoke with the commander of the checkpoint who asked us to leave the place. At one point a Palestinian from Bethlehem warned us (in English) that for our own good it would be better to leave as it was dangerous for us from both sides. We felt the tension in the air and decided to retreat some 20 met away To our surprise once we "disappeared" the traffic started to move. The iron bar was lifted ' some of the trucks and also some of the people were allowed to pass. Others waited hesitating There was no apparent reason for the sudden change of policy . Just the erratic and absurd changes that happen all the time at the "checkpoints" : was it influenced in someway by our presence or rather by our disappearance? Where there any "special connections" between those Palestinians who were allowed to pass and the border policemen? We will never know or understand. All of a sudden a shot was heard from down the valley. We advanced to the jeep and heard the "checkpoint" commander reporting by phone that his men had arrested a suspect , all according to the" legal procedure" of the army. (warning 3 times and then shooting to the air) . It was apparently one of the people from the crowd who got fed up and decided to cross through the valley. After this incident traffic resumed more or less even though there was no change of the official command of" total and hermetic closure". We decided to return to Jerusalem with one of the taxi drivers. He assured us in an all too good Hebrew (very similar to the one used by the policemen themselves) that they never really shot people and they "knew what they were doing " meaning the border policemen. We found out that for a potential terrorist there were many bypasses leading into Jerusalem without meeting any of the security forces. Those Palestinians who did go threw the "checkpoint" were regular civilians. There was no blood spilt at the Wadi nar "checkpoint" yet the brutal use of power stood out all the more distinctly because its only possible purpose was to exercise power itself, to humiliate in order to control.