'Atarot, Qalandiya, Wed 30.9.09, Afternoon

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Ruth O. and Ilana D. reporting

From 1:30 till 4:00 PM

Atarot CP,  Industrial Area and Vocational High School, Givat Zeev CP and Nebi Samuel 

We drove along the Ramot Road and turned right at the Ofer Junction. The road there was (again) newly asphalted - shiny black with bright yellow markings. Two bored soldiers were hardly watching the traffic at the Atarot Checkpoint. On our way back, however, when the traffic had increased, we counted about thirty cars waiting amongst which even a police van.

Huge billboards and signs announce the ‘revival' of Atarot  and in addition to the construction of more industrial buildings the roads are widened with lamp posts in the middle - the economic crisis has not struck the industries in the territories apparently. Two polite civilian Arab guards man the entrance and told us that they know most of the cars entering and otherwise they ask and investigate (we, of course, had not been questioned). They told us that not only Jewish enterprises construct new buildings and that the entrance in manned 24 hours a day.

We proceeded to the school where we saw the older students just leaving for the weekend and were welcomed by the guard with a broad smile. Two teachers also left, one addressing us in German and one in Hebrew. Mr. Wasfi Tamimi the acting Headmaster told us he is glad he has not been appointed Headmaster, since he has to answer Jordanian qualifications and claims they do not understand the needs of a school in Jerusalem.

He told us he now belongs to the Israeli school system and will have to meet with the Jerusalem Municipality's Education Dept. The decision was purely financial: Instead of 400 Sh. per student he now receives more than four times as much from the Israeli government, which of course was the incentive. He would like to have an administrator with experience as his boss and he himself would then concentrate on the educational aspects of the job. He is currently doing research for a Master's degree and investigates the detrimental influence of an illiterate background on the motivation of students. He told us that in East Jerusalem often twenty people live in one room where the father is a drug or alcohol addict and where incest is rampant. We asked him about dropouts and whether he is allowed to dismiss teachers and send students home. He told us with pride that he had added the tenth grade in order to instill in students even more of a desire to learn a trade. He was pleased to inform us that his students from Nablus and Hebron now received a three months' permit to remain in Jerusalem and sleep over. They can now return home for the weekend without fear and return on Saturday early in the morning. He has about forty students in the boarding school, but no one stays for the weekend, when the place becomes spooky and he is all alone with his wife and babyinfo-icon on the premises. He told us that students and teachers from Ramalla wait for more than an hour in Qalandia in the morning - although the hand-machines have been installed and notifications were handed out re checking on the way out, this is fortunately still not implemented. The most popular department is that of Hotel Management. They have the space to equip a proper hotel and look for a donor who would furnish the place, so they could host pilgrims on the way to Ben Gurion Airport (which is very close via Road 443). He wants to organize courses for girls in computer sciences and also have them participate in the Hotel School curriculum which includes amongst others cooking (the Deputy Chef of the Notre Dame restaurant teaches cooking).

The Givat Zeev Checkpoint with its many fences, gatesinfo-icon, sleeves, walls and security roads now appears almost finished and is an enormous complex for the few Palestinians who are allowed to use it, namely only those who work in the construction of the various suburbs of Givat Zeev. The civil security guards knew exactly who we were, one of them remembered ‘us' from Tarqumiya. However the commander, an elderly Border Policeman, had no idea and called his officer to ask whether we could go in. He was instructed to tell us to watch from far away. Since there were hardly any people passing, we didn't insist and left, deciding to return some other time at a later hour.

There were many cars parked and it looked like another busy day at the holy site of Nebi Samuel. Our friend, the owner of the grocery store, was trying to sell some fruit at the entrance. He told us that ‘they' come all the time to chase him away. We promised to come to take photo's next week. We continued into the village, which looked even sadder than before, if at all possible. A donkey was nibbling on dried thistles and a young man was galloping on a horse. We saw no sign of the settler.