We stayed briefly, all seemed the same as reported by last week's shift.
Car lanes in the direction of Jerusalem, and south towards Behtlehem have been opened. The cars approach slowly, the check takes place slowly, after crossing over humps and spikes. Here and there a car or taxi is directed to a side lane for checking. Others cross unintercepted. At one point the cars from both directions
waited 10-15 minutes while passage was stopped.
Overlooking all is a tower and a building surrounded by a wall. What we report was visible to us only from the direction facing south of Jerusalem; in the other direction we saw hardly anything at all. At first we stood a few dozen metres away from the soldiers' booths, and this they considered too close. Two uniformed men approached us, one young, the other older -- no badges, no identification, no explanations -- and asked us to stand a few dozen meters further away, on the other side of the barrier blocking the entrance/exit to Sawahara Asharkiya. The older man was very angry and hysterical, and it seemed purposeless to argue just then. In any event, from the closer position too, it was not possible to see or hear or make contact with the people crossing. This is one of the purposes behind the construction of such checkpoints.
On the way back we encountered a general strike in Al-Ezariya and Abu Dis
which, we later discovered, was related to the general strike in the West Bank in support of the residents of Al Bustan in Silwan threatened by demolition orders. We drove to Silwan. The strike was reported on Channel 1, accompanied by short
footage of the residents' protest tent.
Nearly 90 houses -- some 1500 persons -- in the Al Bustan
neighbourhood have been served with demolition orders. The houses were built dozens of years ago, some at the beginning of the 20th century. The residents are refused construction permits, as part of the planned strangulation of East Jerusalem. The houses are built on a slope beneath a large building of several stories occupied by settlers of the Elad lobby, across which the Israeli flag is displayed, along with more flags flying from the tops of houses here and there. The intention is to expand "The King's Garden" part around the City of David excavations, and create a seamless Jewish continuity. Or, as they say, with land and without Arabs
. The Elad lobby itself runs and oversees the excavations behind walls, and it is they who decide which visitors to allow. Our host told us that even Yossi
Sarid was denied entry.
A protest tent has been set up in the location. Fahri, a member of the residents' union, told us of the legal deliberations, and that now they are denied legal defence; demolition can occur any day, unexpectedly or under cover of other events as was the case in November when two houses were demolished on the day of the American elections. The families live in fear, especially the children. They tell of a child who packed his toys instead of books to take to school because, he reasoned, if the demolition forces should come while he's away, he will have salvaged the toys, and the hell with homework. On Fridays and Saturdays they are calmer
because they don't expect demolitions to occur on these days.
Armed and protected settlers roam the streets, on Saturdays with other strategies to carry arms and intimidate.
We saw only a few visitors. We said we had no means to help, only to listen, and show that there is still someone who sympathizes and dreams of co-existence despite what the government (and the public in its wake) is doing.