The small historic village of Al Walaja is located between Beit Jala and Jerusalem, near the Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. Since 1967, the village has seen its land usurped by the continual expansion of Jerusalem as well as the two neighboring settlements. The result is both expected and tragic. The loss of farm land has forced many farmers to give up their traditional means and work in Jerusalem. That could all change soon, though, as Israel is attempting to continue the illegal apartheid wall on the village’s land. The wall would surround the village on three sides and cut its inhabitants off from their employment lifeline in Jerusalem:
Recently, Israel has started to construct a portion of its separation wall on al-Walaja’s land. The wall will completely surround the village leaving only one entrance to be controlled by an Israeli military checkpoint which will isolate the village from Jerusalem, a main area of employment for many villagers. In some portions, the wall will be as close as five meters from houses of al-Walaja residents.
The residents of the beleaguered Palestinian town are teaming with international activists and peaceful Israelis to protest the wall that will essentially doom the village. Peaceful protests have been staged in an effort to call attention to the injustice and to redirect the wall and save the village. In what seems to be an ongoing dance with the IDF, protesters stood up for justice today only to be met with violence, pepper spray and tear gas. A spokesman for the IDF claimed that “there was nothing peaceful at all” about the demonstration. Clearly, as you can see from the video, the only aggression used was perpetrated by the IDF.
Unfortunately, this video does not represent an isolated incident in Al Walaja or anywhere else in the West Bank. Settlements continue to expand despite the ‘construction freeze’ and Palestinian land is consistently confiscated for various Israeli ‘state uses’ (it is typically turned over or sold to settler groups). In the Jordan Valley alone – an area that in 1966 had no Israeli presence – 95% of the land (according to a report by Ma’an Development Center) is now settlements, closed military zone or restricted ‘Green Zones.’ The Palestinian population has decreased from 300,000 – 320,000 in 1967 to 53,000 today—of which 70% live in the city of Jericho. During this same period, the settler population has increased from zero to around 11,000 living 36 different settlements on confiscated Palestinian land.
The current protests in Al Walaja are a last ditch effort to prevent Israel from effectively cutting the village off from the rest of the world. If the apartheid wall is built, many villagers will have no choice but to relocate, slowly killing what was once a proud and historic town. As you watch the heroic attempts in the video above, know that similar atrocities have been occurring on Palestinian land for years and continue today.