Today I had my first trip out into the field to see the reality of the occupation and its affects. I went out to the field with the environmental department. The purpose was to visit Beit Duqqo to conduct an environmental impact survey with the village councillor on the impact of the wall upon the community so this information can later be used for advocacy.
Beit Duqqo is part of the ‘Biddu enclave’, which is an expanse of land that consists of seven villages encircled by the wall.
In order to get here we travelled on the ‘fabric of life’ road. This road has been built to connect these communities to Ramallah rather than Jerusalem. The road is surrounded by the wall on both sides and partly runs as a tunnel under the route 443 which is the main route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; Palestinians are not allowed to use the majority of this road.
‘fabric of life’ road
Upon approaching the village, looking over the valley I could see the Givat Ze’ev settlement which is located on the Israeli side of the wall. Israeli settlements are considered illegal by the international community under international law. International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory under the Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49.
Givat Ze’ev settlement
We interviewed one of the board members of the village council. The questionnaire covered issues of land lost due to the wall, the number of olive, almond and grape trees now in the seam zone, sewage disposal implications and legal action. It was evident that the community has suffered from the wall in terms of being cut off from their farming land and having to apply for permits to access their land which was once their livelihood. Many farmers still cultivate their land, but this is merely as an extra in their free time, they can no longer rely on their land as their main source of income. They also have issues with sewage from the nearby settlements flooding their land.
The agricultural gate which is open for land owners with permits only during March and November at 7am and 5pm for only half an hour.
This is Israel’s strategy; forcing Palestinians off their land by making access to their land difficult so they have to rely on other sources of income.
After we left Beit Duqqo we visited Bir Nabala. The Bir Nabala enclave is surrounded by the wall on four sides, meaning that they are now cut off from Jerusalem. In Bir Nabala, since construction of the wall, more than half of one thousand commercial centres have closed. I witnessed this when we visited the once industrial part of the community which is now almost completely deserted. Businesses were forced to close due to construction of the wall and most flats in this area are now uninhabited.
We saw a ladder which West Bank ID holders use to illegally climb the wall to get into Jerusalem.
Imagine, once being able to freely travel to Jerusalem for work, social or family reasons, then one day having your livelihood taken away by a wall blocking your way.
We also saw where some Bedouins had settled; positioned between the wall and a rubbish dump. Their sheep freely graze in the sewage and rubbish. Why would they choose to settle here one may ask? Maybe they hope this is a spot of land they will not have taken away from them due to its position.
What I witnessed today was only a small sample of the effect the wall has had upon once thriving Palestinian communities. It was a disheartening yet insightful experience.