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History of Al Walajeh (near Jerusalem)

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 04.05.2008:

Al-Wallajeh (Jerusalem) – A Story of Multiple Displacement

On 21 October 1948, nearly all the homes of Wallajeh, located in the district of Jerusalem, were demolished by the Israeli army. Most of the residents were forced to flee to refugee camps in the West Bank and Jordan, where they number 12,500 today. More than two-thirds of the village lands were annexed to Israel, inaccessible to the villagers themselves.

Between the wars of 1948 and 1967, many of the villagers had set up temporary housing, living in caves or makeshift structures until, realising that it may take a long time before they would be allowed to return, they rebuilt homes on the village lands that had remained in the West Bank under Jordanian rule. In 1967, after Israel occupied the West Bank, including the new Wallajeh and nearby Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, it became very difficult to obtain building permits in Wallajeh. Homes built after 1967 without permits were now subject to Israeli demolition proceedings.

Further, in a bizarre twist, Israeli government surveyors who mapped the occupied West Bank lands that were slated for annexation to Israel unwittingly included the Ein Juweiza neighbourhood of Lower Wallajeh. The move was not made public until 1981, when Israel’s Jerusalem municipality was “correctly” placed in charge of demolishing “illegally-built” Wallajeh homes. For more than 14 years, these residents with West Bank identity cards had no idea that they were living within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, since the Israeli municipality had provided no new schools, utilities, or services to the growing population.

Meanwhile, Wallajeh’s land was coveted. Its springs, fields, and olive trees had been eaten up by the Biblical Zoo, Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, and the Teddy Kolleck Stadium. Israeli municipal authorities have asked Ein Juweiza residents, who comprise about half of Wallajeh, to sign a document recognising that their homes are in eastern Jerusalem, and that they, holders of West Bank IDs, are residing there illegally. Moreover, Israeli soldiers commonly arrest and fine Wallajeh residents while in their homes for entering Jerusalem without the proper papers.

In 2004, Israeli city officials announced a new plan to construct Giv’at Yael, a settlement planned to house more than 55,000 Jewish residents, on the lands of Wallajeh and nearby Palestinian communities. In addition to the 49,000 dunums taken from the villagers in 1948, an additional 7,000 dunums have been confiscated for the settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, 1,000 dunums have been confiscated for Israeli by-pass roads, and approximately 4,000 dunums have been confiscated for the Wall and settlement expansion. The houses on the remaining 3,000 or so dunums of Wallajeh are under constant threat of demolition; 50 homes have already been destroyed by Israeli authorities, and 86 cases of demolition orders are currently being examined by the Israeli courts. The small Palestinian community is now completely encircled by Jewish settlements and the Wall, enabling the Israeli army to imprison its residents simply by closing down the one remaining access road.

This Week in Palestine

May 2008

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