The renovated Bethlehem checkpoint opens on April 1. Truth or hoax?
6:15 Bethlehem Checkpoint (300) There are four gates for automatously crossing (with a magnetic card and photography) and three more manned passages, where they check the permits on computers. According to people departing, the crossing to Israel "flows" today. We ask about the situation on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, where it was badly overcrowded this week and hence two people were severely injured and had to be evacuated by an ambulance. They told us that during the last two days the situation improved and more magnetometer windows were opened. On the bridges over the heads of the passing people, armed soldiers and policemen are patrolling, and down, there are security soldiers and even two members of the Civil Administration. We hear that on the 1 of April the new crossing with all its innovations would open. Hopefully, this is not an April 1st prank...
7:30 a-Sheikh Sa’ed Checkpoint: We climbed to the checkpoint from the lower parking lot. On the right (east) there is an electronic fence and a supporting wall, which prevents from seeing what is happening on the secluded hill from Jabal al-Mukabber’s neighborhood. The checkpoint is big and imposing with its concrete dimensions, although it turns out from passers’ testimony that only one passage is open. A cute boy is waiting impatiently for the only door that opens to the outside. It turned out that he waited for a woman and two small children. When she passed, they all went their way. We did not investigate the scenario of this morning's meeting. In all likeliness the situation of separated families is not uncommon in these neighborhoods. For those who do not know, the exit from this checkpoint to Jerusalem is allowed only to residents of a-Sheikh Sa'ed and Jabal al-Mukabber – they of course have permits. That way, if someone from a different neighborhood in East Jerusalem enters, or even a resident of Jabal al-Mukabbrr without a permit, he must go back through the a-Zeitun Checkpoint, which is very far away - about half an hour's drive on inadequate roads. Although a-Sheikh Sa’ed is an area B, it means for our shift that to see what goes on during the passage, we will have to take the risk that they will not let us come back through this checkpoint.
On the way back to the car we meet N., a resident of a-Sheikh Sa'ed and a neighborhood activist, the principal of a Jabal al-Mukabber high school. We haven’t met for three years, and he says that a lot has changed.
A. The beltway road that will lead from Route 60 to the Old City is already in the process of being paved. We see evidence to this on the journey from the checkpoint to the turn to Silwan. Contrary to what is expected of beltway roads, it seems that the road will expand and shrink in a strange way: there are places where there are two tracks at work, and other places where there is no such option because of built houses and rock walls. N., says that the problem is critical especially on the road at the foot of the checkpoint, where work has stopped. But the checkpoint cannot be undone, since there is a ruling by the Supreme Court, that there has to be a passage between the mother neighborhood and the daughter neighborhood that were separated because of this barrier.
B. Something good happened: they began working on the regulation of sewage streaming from all of Jerusalem into Kidron Valley, namely, to bury pipelines and build a sewage treatment station. The plan has been around for a long time, but was delayed because of disagreement between the municipality, the Palestinian Authority and residents living along the route. According to the plan they are going to expropriate many farmlands on the slopes of a-Sheikh Sa’ed. N.’ believes that objections have to be filed by next week, and the lawyer of a-Sheikh Sa’ed does not get responses. We suggest to approach "Bamkom" organization, dealing with the rights of urban planning, and connect Sari Kronish, who is in charge of Jerusalem, with this lawyer. N., will provide photographs of signs on the expropriation and dates of submission of objections and “Bamakom” will visit the location and get updates. We will continue to follow.