Securing the demolitionOnly 140 building permits were given to Palestinians last year when there is a shortfall of thousands of housing units for them in East Jerusalem. Hundreds of illegal structures get built every year, and hundreds get demolition orders. 80% don’t actually get demolished, but they could at any time. So why Amjad’s house? It was a converted stable, on private land, overlooking nothing, disturbing nothing. When we came to see the family next day, the ICRC had come round with a big tent, mattresses, blankets and emergency supplies. It was erected beside the former home, the family moved some bits and bobs of furniture in, and by nightfall a new dwelling was taking shape. When we visited later in the week, Amjad was still shaken but already planning to build again. What option does he have? Move to the West Bank and lose his Jerusalem ID?

What else has happened? Ah yes, a bizarre incident. Apart from Qalandya and Wadi Nar, we monitor the pedestrian checkpoint of Zaytoun just ten minutes from our hostel down the back (east) side of the Mount of Olives. It is for the people of the former Jerusalem suburbs of Al Azariya (Bethany) and Abu Dis now shut out by the Wall. Workers come in the early morning, followed by professionals, and then lots of schoolchildren. Many of them are just tots, some unaccompanied because parents might not have a permit. It’s important that the Humanitarian Gate be open because they can’t fight grown ups to get in the turnstiles. And if the workers let them all in first, then they are late for work. So we’ve been checking on that, with some success.

But last week, we found six men sitting outside the checkpoint. It transpired they had got into the city to look for work through one of the places where the Wall is porous (heaven knows where they are, it looks so monolithic). They’d been caught, had their documents, mobiles and money confiscated and put out through the checkpoint. It’s illegal to confiscate documents, even from Palestinians. Anyway, after a couple of hours on the phone with Machsom Watch trying to trace the documents, we had to leave the matter in MW hands as we had a meeting elsewhere. On the way back through the checkpoint, the metal detector bleeped as I passed. I was surprised since my phone, etc. was in my jacket on the conveyer belt. ‘Go back,’ shouts the girl soldier. I went back, bleep, again, bleep. To cut a long story short, I went back and forth taking off earrings, necklace, watch, shoes, etc. It was a complete farce. When I had only trousers and t-shirt on, she ordered me into the strip search room where I got down to my knickers. Through the window, I could see the soldier and her female colleague smirking. It was funny, really. I laughed too, although I wasn‟t supposed too. ‘Like at the airport,’ said the soldier. I complied only because I didn’t want to hold up the line of Palestinians. When I finally got outside the checkpoint, the men we had been helping ran to the fence to say the police chief had come out and returned their documents. I phoned the woman at Machsom Watch to tell here about the search. ‘Punishment,’ she said. ‘Oh well, I suppose it was worth it,’ said I.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9