The first multi-site shift after three months absence because of the Covid 19
Older Palestinians (age 50+) who weren’t required to have permits aren’t crossing; construction on the American road has advanced; the Olives checkpoint DCL has closed; house demolition in the Shu’afat refugee camp.
Seven in the morning. The checkpoint area is relatively deserted, even at this hour. The absence of older workers, who until now hadn’t needed a crossing permit, is definitely felt. It’s an intentional limiting of the number of permitted entry because of the coronavirus. We met a Palestinian who’d managed to get here even though he’s a few months over the age limit. He told us he convinced them he had to get to work – ten people at home waiting for his income after three months of unemployment. We saw two open inspection stations on the Israeli side while we were there, which were enough to handle those crossing without lines forming. A woman said this time it was crowded on the Palestinian side; only one door was open for inspection, but someone else said that now there’s no congestion, even though in the days following Eid el Fitr it was jammed. Many hoped to return to work and faced the new, limiting regulations.
Sheikh Sa’ad checkpoint:
Our contact in the isolated neighborhood told us two days ago that the checkpoint will be closed for two days beginning June 17 for renovation and widening the American road leading to the center of Al-Quds. But that’s the last day of the high school baccalaureate exams which take place in Jabal al-Mukaber, Sheikh Sa’ad’s principal neighborhood from which it’s divided by a wall and a checkpoint. In order to reach the school located 200 meters from their homes pupils from Sheikh Sa’ad will have to go through the distant Olives checkpoint and return from it – at least an hour and a half and two taxi rides. The neighborhood committee already appealed unsuccessfully to the Jerusalem outskirts liaison office. We also contacted them as well as the northern outskirts Operations office, and finally spoke with Chana B. who got in touch with Ir Amim. Amir Tartarsky promised to deal with it. We learned he’d succeeded – the work was postponed to June 18 and was completed the following day without any closure.
Residents thought the pillbox on the hill opposite the checkpoints was to be demolished today. The soldiers know nothing about it, nor is there any heavy equipment near the pillbox hill.
Olives checkpoint (Ras el Sbitan):
Many taxis, minibusses and two buses are evidence that many people cross here in the morning. We cross to the Palestinian side (Area B) and discover the entry of transport vehicles from Azzariyya has been blocked by concrete barriers placed at the edge of the parking lot. Now people arriving at the checkpoint must walk up a long, steep way to reach the checkpoint. We were told the barriers were erected for Ramadan and were simply left there. When we reached the inspection station after a short wait on line we learned (in response to our question about security coordination with the Palestinian Authority) that the Israeli DCL on site has been closed and moved to Qalandiya (where there’s already a DCL; has it been reinforced?). An additional difficulty for someone in the southern outskirts of Jerusalem wishing to obtain an entry permit and a magnetic card – they’ll have to drive to Qalandiya in the north and wait in a long line. We decided to find out the reason for the additional burden, and report what we discover.
Shu’afat refugee camp: Our driver reports he heard over his radio that a house is being demolished in the refugee camp and there are many security forces present. G., from the neighborhood committee, confirms that an extension to an old house in the Sheikh Khaled neighborhood is being demolished – two structures and three shops. There’s a huge security presence – three or four armed police/border police stand at the corner of every alley and street, and there’s a long traffic jam of cars heading toward the Jerusalem exit stretching to the middle of the neighborhood. Many shops are closed, there are no gatherings and people are moving around as usual through the neglected streets (the camp is part of the Jerusalem municipality, residents pay property taxes but don’t receive municipal services in return). G. says there are more demolition orders on the way, but only these buildings have been demolished for now.
We end our shift with a drive along the wall bordering the apartheid road from Anata to A-Zayyam toward E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim. A-Zayyam, smack on Jerusalem’s municipal boundary, is today connected to it and to the south via two checkpoints: A-Zayyam checkpoint on Highway 1, accessible only to Palestinians holding blue resident ID cards, and a metal gate checkpoint in the separate wall toward A-Tur, primarily for pedestrians holding entry permits to Israel. Before Ramadan, the gate was open 6-8 AM and 12-6 PM. The bus to and from East Jerusalem went through here. After Ramadan, the hours were reduced: 6-7 AM, 12-3 PM. That makes it harder for workers crossing on foot, and the bus is forced to make a huge detour to enter the neighborhood via Anata. Why? We’ll try to find that out as well.