Abu-Dis

Nov-7-2003
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R. M-F, M.Z., B.S.

Passing the Old City, we saw large contingents of both, border
police and regular police, mainly at Damascus Gate and opposite the
Rockefeller Museum. As we weren't allowed to turn right towards the
Mount of Olives, we took an alternative route which eventually took
us up to the street where Auguste Victoria and Al-Moqassad
Hospitals are situated. It seemed as if every single street down
towards the Old City/Al-Aksa was blocked by border police. They
were all over the place.

In Abu Dis, at the wall opposite the judge's house (where the
"official" passage used to be), we were told by transit
drivers that absurdly, in the morning only "shabakhim"
(their word) had been allowed to climb over the wall, while blue ID
holders were sent back. To our surprise, they said that Yehuda
Matzri, the commander in charge of that part of the wall, actually
saw to it that the policy was made more flexible after they alerted
him to the problem.

At the gas station, a sniper was positioned on the roof. At the
hotel, there was no activity whatsoever.

At the "container", there was a larger BP presence than
usual. Women BP with metal detectors checked almost everybody, but
the flow of people towards Abu Dis was steady. We hadn't seen such
quantities of people there on a Friday in a long
time.

After a while, the checking returned to the usual, maddening,
arbitrary style we have seen so many times in so many places - some
went unchecked altogether, others had to open their bags. There was
no obvious logic or system behind it. At some point, a young man on
his way to Bethlehem with a bag was stopped while still at a safe
distance and ordered to show the contents of his bag. He started
taking out clothes, piece by piece, until the BP's attention was
attracted by something else. The young man waited and waited and in
the end returned his things to the bag and passed without getting
the slightest attention from anyone. After quite a number of people
had passed towards Abu Dis without any interference, a young woman
was rudely yelled at and told to return, for no obvious reason.

We tried to help a few truck drivers with animal food on their way
to Bethlehem who were stuck at the checkpoint, but none of our
calls to the usual people were successful. Neither did talking to
Alexander, the rather unpleasant checkpoint commander, do any good.
However, towards the end of our shift, when several young women
were pleading with the BP to be allowed to pass towards Abu Dis, he
walked over from the watch tower and instructed the
"boys" to let the women pass.

We also tried to help driver who wanted to get a load of tar into
Bethlehem but wasn't allowed to pass. Edri told us to send him to
Matak Abu Dis (which we knew had been closed the day before) to get
a permit, making it sound like the easiest thing in the world, but
the man did not seem thrilled by this proposal.

As we tried to drive back into Jerusalem via Ras al-Amud, police
stopped us when we tried to turn right towards Gethsemaneh, telling
us that the streets were blocked because of all the young men who
weren't allowed into the mosque and who were praying on the streets
instead. Going back via back via A-Tur, we still found huge
qantities of BP blocking every way down to the Eastern part of
town.