Abu Dis, Container (Wadi Nar), Sheikh Saed, Wed 26.11.08, Morning
6:45 Sheikh Saed
A few childlren and pupils, and almost no pedestrians. No lines. We meet a resident of our acquaintance, Masud Mashaara, a permanent resident of Jerusalem. The checkpoint was built literally at the entrance to his home, and the gate constructed for his passage has been locked for several months. According to what we were told by the sector's officer of operations, there is a key at the checkpoint for the use of the residents whose homes were blocked, but of course there's nothing of the sort in practice. As always, we watch unemployed youths on the hilltop, waiting to turn 30 in order to acquire a work permit in the town that lies on their doorstep. But in the meantime they have a few more years to be angry, to tangle, to despair and to turn extremist. We have a good conversation with the checkpoint commander, a pleasant man with a sense of service not common in his line of duty.
:4 5 The Pishpash in Abu Dis 7
We went down to take a look, after reading in last week's report of a "re-education campaign" for the few residents allowed to cross there. The pretty-eyed but tough woman soldier ignores us with hostility, as does the soldier with her, whom we remember from the former Sheikh Sa'ed checkpoint. A group of Russian pilgrims crosses without hitch to the Bethany Church on the Al-Ezariya side. And when will the Wall be moved up to the church as the courts decreed a few years ago?Al-Ezariya is amazingly clean and prosperous compared to Abu Dis and all the rest of the areas of metropolitan Jerusalem which pay municipal taxes. We wonder why this should be so, and simply enjoy the sight. We decided to drive from Al-Ezariya along the road leading to the Zeitim Crossing in order to check whether there is a real possi bility of widening the access road for Palestinian buses. Not a chance, it seems, unless a large number of houses are pulled down.
We asked an acquaintance from the transits near the checkpoint to bring a sample of a resident's demolition order next time. Perhaps we'll understand better what is going on here -- this entire issue is murky, and even the experts do not understand the plans or their purpose. At the checkpoint we check once again the toilets which the commander promised to unlock. A stench of urine pervades the premises -- people arriving from a long distance always find the toilets locked. The c.p. commander, Yossi, claims he unlocked the toilets for a couple of days and the result was vandalism and extreme filth. Is that a sufficient reason to keep the toilets locked? At this well-run checkpoint there are plenty of sanitary workers who constantly scrub the area (while those who need to cross have to wait for long minutes). The problem can be solved. We decide to submit a formal complaint through our complaints committee.
9:00 Wadi Nar
A lot of bustle at the crossing, and long lines on both sides. After 15 minutes traffic begins to flow and the lines disappear. Asphalting today; the workers have not yet arrived but the DCO representative tells us they gave thought to ways of easing the crossing while work goes on. "Donkeys Gate" is blocked by barbed concertinas. (This is the name we gave the gate because donkeys are tied to it for an entire day, waiting for their owners to return and take them home circumventing roads closed to Palestinians.) The vegetable vendor who used to cross to the homes near the checkpoint in the direction of Kedar is no longer allowed to cross as he used to (only sometimes). Suddently the gate for traffic to Al-Ezariya through the wadi was closed; to our inquiry the reply was that there had been an urgent security order from the area. We try to call the sector's company commander, and the DCO representative anticipates us. The security alert has passed and the gate opens.
9:45 Sheikh Jarrah -- the Al-Kurdi family's protest tent near The Grave of Shimon Ha-tzadik"Today the tent is replaced by an improvised mourning tent. The family patriarch died this week of a heart attack, and his widow, who was evacuated about three weeks ago from her home, still sits day and night on the empty lot and refuses to leave the naeighbourhood. The previous tent was destroyed by the municipality last Wednesday, after fining the occupants two days running for an illegal building. The municipality also sends the tax authorities and the police once in a while to harrass those who arrive at the location.We are graciously received, and conduct a troubling conversation with a car dealer and his wife, from Beit Hanina, who have come to identify with the non-violent struggle of those residents faced with eviction. The man is very elegant, a Canadian citizen, and he skilfully summarizes for us the futility of Israel's actions regarding peace and the treatment of Palestinians. His credo: "Day and night you make sure we continue to hate you. You positively invite it with each harsh action you perpetrate against us -- so come on, be violent, hate, and despair of living side by side. True, we too have violent people just as you do, but we have no choice." The organizers of the protest once again ask us to try to persuade Israeli citizens and Jerusalemites to come and identify with their just cause. There are about 1500 visitors every day, and the only Israelis turning up these last three weeks are a handful of machsom-watch women at the end of their shift. Ayala and I decide to circulate a call for visitors to the tent, so close to Route 1 and the American Colony Hotel. Good people sit there waiting for us to come and share in their ordeal. Do please come if you can.