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|Palestinian road snaking through a tunnel under route 443|
Since then some of the hitherto closed side roads have been opened up to route 443 for limited use by Palestinian traffic. Several new checkpoints have been built, complete with concrete watchtowers and sophisticated hi-tec steel barriers.
Of course the use of limited stretches of route 443 by Palestinians merely creates some short cuts between villages, and does little to facilitate regional transportation since the direct road to Ramallah remains closed, and Palestinians are forbidden to cross the checkpoint into Jerusalem even if they have a valid permit. To enter Jerusalem they are required first to travel to Ramallah via back roads, cross the city, and enter Jerusalem via Kalandia Checkpoint - adding 1-3 hours to the journey depending on the checkpoint bottleneck.
In the meanwhile route 443 has become a favoured short cut to Jerusalem for many Israelis. The increased traffic has spawned an interesting little business. Just south of the village of Tira a new roadside cafe has made an appearance during May.
I popped in for a cup of coffee this morning and had a chat with the owner, Guy, who is from the nearby Jewish settlement of Beit Horon, named after the biblical community. The settlement was established in 1977 with a mix of secular and religious families, now numbering over 600 people.
|Customers can sit a few meters from the razor-wire fence viewing the Palestinian village on the distant hilltop|
He bought a kitchen/trailer, and with a small generator, a few tables, chairs and sun-umbrellas he created an instant cafe right next to the fence with its 3 rolls of razor-wire to keep out Arabs.
I sampled a breakfast of Shashuka, a local specialty which Guy creates in gourmet style. Eggs are cooked in a pan, embedded in a delicious stew of fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic, lightly spiced. The concoction is placed on a whole-wheat roll with fresh basil. Delicious!
However the setting is bizarre. Literally 200 meters from the separation barrier with additional fencing and razor-wire to create a kind of no-mans land next to the outdoor cafe and boulevard. The other side of the fence is home to thousands of Palestinians living in Tira and beyond. The new road will service the new neighborhood of Gvat Ze'ev, a settlement that stretches out from Jerusalem deep into the West Bank.
During a quiet moment Guy relaxes with me in the shade, nods and smiles serenely when I gently mention the obvious madness of this intermingling of Israelis and Palestinians while gerrymandering the fencing to keep the peoples apart. The mother of one of my daughter's friends unexpectedly drives up for a coffee, and when I query her about the fence she says, "Thank God it's there. we don't need Arabs on this side" . . . . . .
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