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Al-Walajeh, a Village Soon Surrounded


November 23, 2011 - The village of al-Walajeh, 4 km northwest of Bethlehem, is in the thorny position of sitting right between Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement block. After years of land confiscation and housing demolitions, the fate the residents of al-Walaja have to look forward to is the complete encircling of their village by the wall. At the protest in the village last Friday I was able to see how work is coming along. Despite appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court, trees are being uprooted and the way for the route of the barrier is being cleared through the village’s agricultural land. Residents complained of explosives being used to clear the way through the rocky hillside. There’s construction going on across the street from where I live and I know even that little amount of noise causes me no small amount of sorrow. If it were explosives going off near my house--and I knew it was to prepare the way to build a wall to pen me in--I can’t even imagine how I’d feel....

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Al-Walajeh, a Village Soon Surrounded

by Aaron Rotenberg

Construction has been underway on the wall surrounding al-Walajeh for several years (Brendan Work, PNN).

November 23, 2011


The village of al-Walajeh, 4 km northwest of Bethlehem, is in the thorny position of sitting right between Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement block. After years of land confiscation and housing demolitions, the fate the residents of al-Walaja have to look forward to is the complete encircling of their village by the wall.

At the protest in the village last Friday I was able to see how work is coming along. Despite appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court, trees are being uprooted and the way for the route of the barrier is being cleared through the village’s agricultural land. Residents complained of explosives being used to clear the way through the rocky hillside. There’s construction going on across the street from where I live and I know even that little amount of noise causes me no small amount of sorrow. If it were explosives going off near my house--and I knew it was to prepare the way to build a wall to pen me in--I can’t even imagine how I’d feel.

The plan for al-Walajeh allows for one access road and a couple of gates for villagers to get to their fields outside the wall. The reason given by the army for the unique construction of the barrier around the village itself is the usual: to protect Israelis from terrorists. But so far there has never been a terrorist to come from al-Walajeh.
 
A quick look at the map makes clear what the real plan is--surround al-Walajeh with settlements, with plans to build another one as soon as the wall is complete. To borrow an analogy that someone used on Friday, somebody hopes the village will just be squeezed out like a pimple.

Half of al-Walajeh is actually under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem municipality (although none of the residents themselves have Jerusalem IDs). A plan to create what will in effect be a ghetto in Jerusalem is pretty shocking. Personally it’s what brought me out to protest this past week.

After a lull during the summer following harsh responses to protests, including many arrests in the village, the army seemed not to be expecting us. After surveying where construction on the wall was happening, we made it down to the Israeli-only bypass road that cuts the village off from around half of its historical land. I assume because there were too many of us to arrest, once the army jeeps came they just made sure we stayed to the side of the road as we marched back to the center of the village.
 
At very least our presence on the road reminded those driving by that something is amiss here—and that’s something that is often easy to forget in my experience in the settlements, with separate roads and buses, with systems in place to prevent too much intermixing or contact, with plans in place to keep sorry situations like this hidden behind a wall. 


Aaron Rotenberg is a PNN reporter based in Tel Aviv.

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:: Article nr. 83362 sent on 24-nov-2011 19:14 ECT

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