Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal) - 3rd Friday of Ramadan

Chana Stein, Ina Friedman (reporting)

Third Friday of Ramadan

The road to Ma’ale  Adumim has been partially rerouted, so that we arrived a bit late at the checkpoint after receiving help from some kind Palestinian men who took pains to show us the new route. For future reference: when the road splits, take the left fork to a-Zaim to access the checkpoint.

After parking and walking up the hill to the permanent Olive (Zeitim) Checkpoint, we arrived at the temporary checkpoint -- on the hillside east of the permanent one --  at 10:45 a.m. There was a steady stream of people coming through, which heightened as the morning proceeded. The temporary checkpoint consisted of three lanes divided by police barriers: one for women, one for men, and the third the Humanitarian Lane – which was used only by people coming through in wheel chairs – situated in the middle. Upon arrival we were approached by an officer from the Border Police, who greeted us (we remembered him from earlier years) and proceeded to ensure us that things were working smoothly. Opposite us, though beyond the checkpoint’s shaded area where we were standing, were two UN observers, who subsequently left with a Jordanian citizen who had been denied entry into Israel, and they did not return before the temporary checkpoint was dismantled at 1 p.m.

Only Palestinian men under the age of 40 who could not produce a permit and boys above the age of 12 were turned back, in each case without fuss (although a few times men came back for a second time in the hope that they could convince  the soldiers to let them pass). The Civil Administration officers checking documents were allowed to exercise their discretion, and in one instance a group of seven elementary schoolboys accompanied not by their parents (as required) but by the principal of their school were allowed through.  After being rejected, a number of the under-40s remained standing a few meters from the checkpoint until it was dismantled. Perhaps they hoped to later try their luck in the permanent checkpoint, where (at least for us) bags and backpacks were checked in an x-ray machine but people were not asked to show their I.D. cards.

Toward the end of the shift, the police commander complained that the document checks were not being conducted rigorously enough and loudly urged the soldiers to shape up, which briefly spoiled the calm atmosphere that the Civil Administration soldiers and Military Police had undoubtedly been ordered to maintain for the holiday. At about 12:35 police and maintenance men were ordered to begin dismantling the checkpoint, so that the lanes disappeared and the (much reduced) number of newcomers were checked by soldiers standing at the side of the temporary checkpoint.

By 1 p.m. the checkpoint was fully dismantled and we left together with the remaining soldiers and police.