Abu Dis, Container (Wadi Nar), Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal), Sheikh Saed, Thu 17.7.08, Morning
Yehudith S., Michaela R. (reporting)
6:30 Sheikh Sad
A line of about twenty persons, labourers, up the hill. One by one they approach, show their documents, open their bags of provisions carefully, answer a series of questions and listen attentively to the words the guard -- who has something to say to each of them, as well as having plenty of time and is in no hurry to go anywhere. He doesn't "notice" the urgency of those crossing, their contained impatience. All is slow, there's plenty of time. An average of 1-3 per minute cross.
Those crossing give precedence to the few women who arrive.
Towards 7:00 the line is gone.
Yehudith asked one of the military policemen when the checkpoint opens, and he replied that it's open round the clock. The big rush is after prayers at 5:00, and continues until 9:00. He explained the need to be humane: "The same people cross every morning and we know them, and must act humanely." Suddenly a voice on the walkie-talkie inquires: "Who are these women? Don't talk to them." That was the end of the conversation.
Hushed and empty. One man crosses.
7:25 Zeitim Crossing
Sparse traffic. We didn't linger, and hurried to Wadi Nar, as a consequence of the harsh reports from this week.
7:45 Wadi Nar
Even before getting near we saw 2 buses, 2 cars and taxi detained. A young man was taken away to somewhere.
We parked near the houses east of the checkpoint. 2 military policemen approach us one of them A. introduces himself as commander of the c.p. and begins a speech on the practices and particularly the prohibitions of "his" c.p. Mostly he emphasized that people were forbidden to leave their cars. To our inquiry why they should be confined to their cars in the heavy heat he replied that although he is humane, there's no alternative, it is necessary to prevent trouble "balagan" at the checkpoint.
He inquired about joining machsom-watch, but withdrew his interest when he found out that a sex-change would be required.
When we got close to the checkpoint we saw that a large number of people were outside their cars and standing in the shade of a bus.
A soldier came out of the booth with a large package of documents in his hands. First he shouts and not a word can be understood, but the long-suffering folk return to their cars obediently. Then the ritual of returning documents takes place -- they are handed to a carefully chosen representative by the man in power. A few minutes of sorting out and matching man and document, and the happy ones continue on their way, whilst the disappointed continue to wait.
A detained fellow remained stranded at the c.p. after the bus on which he had come continued on its way to Allenby Bridge. He was not released for the duration of our stay there, and all we could gather from the soldiers was that he would not be released and they were waiting for someone to come and take him away.
Earthworks are in progress in the c.p. area, clouds of dust make it difficult to breathe. We were thrown back to the checkpoint's early days when the Container still stood on the corner of the road.
More cars are released, others detained. Someone, A., who introduces himself as a senior commander of the c.p. tels us that a "hot" alert has just been received, and requires that we stand where he can see us. For our security, of course. Nothing at all in the work of the c.p. changes. Interestingly, in recent weeks such alerts arrive precisly during our presence at the c.p. A problem of credibility?
A. asks who we are, and in reply to our inquiry as to why there should be a checkpoint here at all he recommends we drive in the direction of Bethlehem to see the Palestinian c.p. at the entrance to Obadiya -- and then we will realize how humane the Wadi Nar c.p. is. Thereafter we were given a comparative account of the hierarchies of humaneness in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Egypt and Gaza-Hamas -- compared to them, we are a democracy and our presence at the checkpoints is an evidence of that; and it's an excellent thing, he says, that there are checks. The work going on at the checkpoint is intended to improve it, and it will eventually be like the checkpoint on Road 443.