Hazeytim (Ras Abu Sbitan) checkpoint - First Friday of Ramadan

Observers: 
Nili Fischer, Ronit Dahan, Ofra Tene (reporting); Translator:  Charles K.
10/05/2019
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Morning

 

Hazeytim (Ras Abu Sbitan) checkpoint - First Friday of Ramadan

We arrived at the checkpoint from West Jerusalem and went to the inspection stations on the eastern side.  A large sign in Arabic in honor of the holiday greets those exiting, and greeting cards are distributed to everyone.  On our way back we came across some that had been torn up.  Crossing was handled efficiently and politely.  (When we approached we heard the warning, “Don’t speak with them!”  OK, we didn’t.)  Like last year, a polite and efficient officer ran the operation.  He said that this year the permitted age range of persons allowed to cross for prayers had been expanded, accounting for the increased number of younger people crossing.  At this hour only those heading for the Temple Mount were allowed to cross, not those with crossing permits who don’t meet the age limits.  They were turned back.

Separate lines had been established for men and for women.  Male and female soldiers conducted preliminary inspections of documents and handbags of those on line; they possessed a limited Arabic vocabulary but an Arabic speaker was also present who could intervene if necessary.  The officer in charge took care to respect those crossing.  At one point, we were told, there was congestion beyond the checkpoint because there weren’t enough buses taking worshippers to the Temple Mount and people had to wait.  At first the officer told the soldiers to slow inspections, and then stopped people from crossing for about 15 minutes.  People waiting were told the reason for the interruption, and the usual sense of arbitrariness that characterizes the checkpoint procedure was certainly eased.  In addition, as the day grew warmer and congestion increased, the officer ordered the soldiers conducting inspections to carry them out in an area where those waiting could stand in the shade.  He declared his desire to run the checkpoint in an efficient and respectful manner, and in fact he did so.  That does nothing to vitiate the fact of the checkpoints and the control of one nation over the free movement of another.  Still, given the increasingly harsh conditions and situations that are developing, that’s something to be grateful for.

In the afternoon the checkpoint turned into a regular crossing.  The officer allowed some latecomers to cross but at some point men and women began waiting on the same line.  Later the dividers creating separate lines were removed and only permit holders were permitted to cross.  We also left, gladly.