Yesterday I accompanied a family i have become friends with to east Jerusalem. This involved going through the Zaytoun checkpoint. This has turnstiles with thick iron bars and airport style security scanners. Israeli soldiers bark orders through a loudspeaker. They speak in Hebrew to the Palestinians, not Arabic.
If your identification papers are not in order, or if they take a disliking to you, you can be held for hours and even strip searched.
The latest technology is used, so Palestinians now place their hands on a special scanner in order to be identified. I met an old man who said he has problems with it because after a lifetime of manual work the marks on his hands have become worn away.
As someone with a British passport i got 'have a nice day!' from the loudspeaker. I didn't reply.
Under occupation, the development of basic infrastructure in Abu-Dis (roads, traffic systems, rubbish collection, housing) is continually frustrated, but no expense is spared for the upkeep and maintenance of the Zaytoun checkpoint.
This is what many Palestinian's have to experience in order to go where they have lived, worked and worshiped for generations. The family i was with were only permitted to go to east Jerusalem for a day because the mother had to have a health check up.
I accompanied the family to the hospital before we went for lunch in the old city. In the hospital we met an elderly women who had come for cancer treatment. She had been accompanied by her son but he was turned back at the checkpoint because of a mistake (not his fault) on the paperwork he had been issued with. She was now alone carrying her belongings.
In the evening me and another volunteer went for dinner at the house of a local woman who we are friends with. We were introduced to her family. Her father questioned me about Israel's war crimes in Gaza and the complicity of the British government. He told me that two of his daughters live on the other side of the separation wall and he cannot visit them.
One of our friends daughters sang us a beautiful song, and we looked out over the expansive view from the family home of the surrounding Palestinian towns and Israeli settlements. On the right was east Jerusalem and Abu Dis, on the left the ever growing settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, it's street lights glistening in the dark in neatly arranged rows like a suburb of the US.
A resident of Ma'ale Adumim consumes eight times more water than a resident of Abu Dis. The settlement controls the local water supply, meaning that in the height of summer Palestinian homes are sometimes cut off.