Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew

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tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

East Jerusalem

On Friday, I joined Ir Amim for a tour of East Jerusalem. The only information I knew about the non-profit organization was from their website, and the short email they had sent me:

The route of the tour is Gilo (view to Beth Lechem) – Har Homa – Jabl Mucabar – Ras El-Amoud – Abu-Dis – Mount Scopus (view to Maale Edumim and E1 area) – Pisgat Zeev – A-Ram.The tour allows the public to see for them selves [sic] Eastern Jerusalem and the reality of every day life in it.

Also, we talk about the effect the security barrier has on life in Jerusalem as well as it’s security, humanitarian and political aspects.

A few friends had done this tour and spoke highly of the organization for being fair and unbiased. I gave it a go.

Everyone on the tour was given a map of greater Jerusalem; the lengend was explained, including the Old City’s boundaries, the Green Line (the 1949 Israel/Jordan armistice line), the 1967 municipal boundary line, the route of today’s barrier/wall, the sites of major checkpoints, Israeli built-up areas beyond the green line, Palestinian built-up areas, and industrial parks. A brief history of each changing boundary was also given, including the militaristic, historical, and ideological reasons for each change. We discussed population change in the Israeli settlements and Arab areas, challenges faced by both populations based on where they’re living, whether or not the wall/barrier was increasing security (though the concept of security was never discussed, it was always framed as “safer for the Israelis/Jews”), and what the humanitarian cost of the wall/barrier was to those who live next to it.

The view from Nof Zion towards the old city. Nof Zion is a settlement that is currently under construction in Jabel Mukabar. It’s privately funded, mostly by Americans and French, and the sight was intentionally selected so that Palestinians wouldn’t be able to claim the empty hillside as part of their own future-territory. (See articles like this for more information.)

We stopped near the checkpoint in/out of Sheikh Sa’ad to talk with a Palestinian woman who lives there. She’s involved with her neighbourhood’s court case to have the wall moved – to allow Sheikh Sa’ad to be inside the wall/barrier. She explained how there’s only one road in her neighbourhood, that basically goes in a circle. So there are folks who had cars before the wall went up; their stuck driving in circles now and kind of serve as taxis. Those who own cars on the Jerusalem side of the wall leave their cars on that side of the check point so that they can use their cars to get around town, go to work, etc. Most of the people who lived there were able to prove that their life centred around Jerusalem, thus allowing them to relocate to other Jerusalem neighbourhoods. Of the 3500 from that area, only 800 still live there now.

IMG_6576.JPG IMG_6577.JPG
IMG_6578.JPG IMG_6579.JPG IMG_6581.JPGMany sections of the wall/barrier are covered in graffiti, paintings, posters, and other forms of political and/or beautification statements. Along this stretch, a lot of the writing had to do with support for Palestine (“Scotland Supports Palestine”), and dismay or disgust at the wall (“I’m sorry my taxes helped pay for this SHIT!” and “No good comes form this evil wall”). The large posters that were ripped down can be seen in other spots around Jerusalem. They’re of two faces, one Arab and one Jew, whose faces are slightly distorted (think Mac Photo Booth’s bulge effect), to show that we all look the same, we’re all the same, we’re all humans, our differences are minimal. … And why is there barbed wire along the top of the wall? Kids were able to shimmy/climb up the wall, by pulling themselves up the crevices, so the army added barbed wire to the top. *sigh*

From this same stretch of the wall/barrier, you can easily see some building poking out over top. A mosque, a school, and the Palestinian parliament building. According to the tour guide, the building was built following the “1929 Oslo Treaty,” which was looking at a two state solution, and stipulated that the Palestinian and Israeli parliaments had to be equidistant from the Temple Mount. (So this photo to the Temple Mount is the same distance as the Temple Mount to the Knesset.) But doing some research online failed to turn up any supporting evidence of this treaty. (Specifically, would this have been signed before or after the “Palestine Riots of 1929”?) Either way, it shows that there’s long term support for, and suggestions of, a two state solution.

Two Palestinian boys on their donkey, stopped beside us near French Hill/Issawiyya. (Photo taken mostly because of the reaction of the Australian woman who was standing next to me: “Well, crikey!, they’re riding an ass!”) This was while stopping to look over the E-1 area from Mount Scopus.

Looking from Pisgat Ze’ev (the white home on the left is in Pisgat Ze’ev) across the wadi, and the wall/barrier, to Shuafat Camp (refugee camp). The camp was established after Palestinians were [chased / fled] from their neghbourhoods in what is now the suburbs of Jerusalem to the Old City, which was already quite crowded, so they needed homes elsewhere. Jordan asked the UN to build the camp, which happened in 1966, in an area which was then just outside of Jerusalem, but in 1967 was declared part of Jerusalem. Pisgat Ze’ev was the largest neighbourhood built in East Jerusalem, with a population of 60,000. The people who live in the camp do not have Jerusalem IDs; the wall didn’t follow the 1967 declared munincipal boundary, so the result is that about 30,000 people need to cross the wall, through check points, for school, work, etc, every day. The grey buildings are UN, the white are private houses (the UN is exempt from the regulation to use white Jerusalem stone for all buildings). The wall was later put up as some people who moved into the camp didn’t want peace or stability, and the proximity to Pisgat Ze’ev meant they could use guns to harm their Jewish neighbours instead of needing missiles.

The final stop was up near Ramallah. On the way, we had to stop at a temporary road check point. Then we saw the big Ramallah check point that is the most high tech in Israel. The road we took cuts through Beit Hanina; it effectively forced the creation of a “second” Beit Hanina, Beit Hanina al Balad. The current proposal is to “cut off” this northern tip of the wall/barrier, meaning it would no longer be considered part of Jerusalem by the Israelis, and would be handed over to the Palestinians. If you look on the above-linked map, it makes sense: the population in this northern finger is almost entirely Palestinian, and would include the two Beit Haninas, Qalandiya, Kafr’ Aqb and on to Ramallah.

The tour was good, but I didn’t think it went too in depth (though, how in depth and controversial could you be in 4 hours?). I plan on doing longer tours in the upcoming months, including programs that will actually cross the wall. Unfortunately, people who make aliyah (Jews who immigrate to Israel) are not permitted to go to Beit Lehem, Ramallah, or Hevron. So for them, a tour like Ir Amim’s might be the only glimpse they get at the issues facing those whose daily life is impacted by the wall.

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Filed under: israel, palestine, politics, travels, war, wtf?

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