'Anata, Abu Dis, Fri 4.9.09, Morning
Nili and Ophra (welcome reinforcement from the Tel-Aviv Group), Milli M. (reporting)
Second Friday of Ramadan
We reached the checkpoint at 9:50. There were many border police, as well as the DCO representative.
Over the improvised entrance leading to the turnstile were written orders about the ages permitted to cross, as well as a partition separating men from women. It was not specified that only residents of Anata are allowed to cross at this checkpoint. The DCO representative said the order had been announced on the radio and published in the papers.
The UNWRA representative who arrived did not know of the prohibition for non-residents, but checked and confirmed. Non-residents (a new category) were sent to the Zeitim Crossing or Kalandia by special transportation linking the checkpoints. They were not many, but it was hard to watch the disappointment of the few.
A young father with a small girl and an infacnt in his arms was made to leave the bus and allowed to stand at the checkkpoint for a couple of hours, hoping to be able to cross.
Pedestrians were few. Most of those crossing arrived in buses or minibuses, the soldiers getting on the bus to check the passengers. The checks lasted a few minutes and no traffic jams ensued, even when many buses arrived between 11:00 and 12:00. Y., a commander familiar from the past, told me that the crossings had been coordinated with the residents' representatives from the village. Orders were followed strictly; yet the DCO representative accepted a request to call a certain address which was supposed to permit a certain person to cross -- to no avail -- and also waived the prohibition against non-residents in the case of very elderly persons.
The soldiers were polite, with the exception of one young soldier who accompanied his orders to leave the checkpoint with gestures of expulsion and rude language. We pointed this out to Y. who apologized for the soldier's youth, and reproached him for his behaviour. Another officer, familiar from previous years, was very harsh, often using the term "yallah, yallah."
A man who tried to circumvent the checkpoint was captured by the cameras installed on a distant hill. His ID was confiscated and he was taken to the other side of the checkpoint. Young men who were not allowed to cross gathered slowly in front of the entrance to the checkpoint (much fewer than in previous years). The soldiers asked them to leave, but towards noon they surrounded them and demanded vehemently that they move away from the checkpoint. The men complied slowly and when I left at 12:00 the situation had not developed into a skirmish. Order was maintained. And freedom of worship?