Living in the Shadow of the Wall (Jerusalem District)

Early September 2003. Two Palestinian schoolgirls cross a part of the Wall in Abu Dis, Jerusalem district. The holes have since been sealed. (PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign)

The 40-100 meter wide, 8-kilometer-long northern Jerusalem wall is designed to isolate the Palestinian community, not to encircle the city. About 800 dunums of land were confiscated from Palestinian owners to build that portion of the wall.

QALANDIA

Qalandia, north of Jerusalem, is a major checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The wall isolates 30,000 Palestinians in Kafr Aqab and Qalandiya who hold Jerusalem ID cards from the city as well as from family, workplaces, and social and public services.

Fatima Asaad

I am a teacher in Jerusalem, and I live in Qalandia. In the past, it took me no longer than 7 minutes to drive to work. But after they put their separation barrier up, our home became beyond the fence. Now I can’t drive my car. I have to wait at the checkpoints an hour or two or three. So I have to walk. I walk to the Qalandia checkpoint and then cross it on foot. Then I take public transportation from the Qalandia checkpoint to the Dahiya checkpoint. I have to walk about 1/2 kilometer to get to the checkpoint. At each checkpoint, I wait in line. Sometimes they add another checkpoint beyond the usual one. Sometimes I have to walk all the way to work. I leave home at 6:15 and I arrive around 8. The distance is no more than 7 km. In the morning, I have no time to do anything for my kids or in the house. I rush and barely make it to work on time. When you go through these hardships just to get to work, what state are you in when you finally get there? I’m tired, I take 10 minutes or so to get something to drink. When I look at my students, many face the same struggles that I face, so I feel very sorry for them. Nevertheless, we try, and I’m sure all schools try, to get something positive out of all this struggle.

The fence has harmed us a lot at home. The Israelis took about 1.5 dunums from our land. We also had 6 dunums planted with trees — olives, almonds, figs, grapes, apples — anything you might desire, we had. At the beginning of the intifada, they bulldozed about 1.5 dunums. Their excuse was that kids throw stones at them and then hide between our trees. So the kids went to a different area to hide from them. So 1.5 years ago, they bulldozed more of our land. That left a third parcel. About 2 months ago, at the end of June, and I remember it was a Friday, soldiers came and stayed on our roof for 2 nights. We said, this is part of the Jerusalem district, we pay arnona, why are you doing this? You should have official orders if you are going to do this. They said, we have military orders, so we don’t need written official papers. Having soldiers on your roof is very disturbing.

One morning, at 10:30, we saw a big army bulldozer. It is very loud. It was uprooting our trees. We went crazy. I went out and started to yell at them. They said, we have military orders. They uprooted about 300 trees. My husband and I have 5 kids, and we are part of a large family. My husband’s brothers and sisters and their families, all of us ate from those trees. When you raise a tree all your life, you raise it like your own child, imagine your feelings when they uproot it right in front of your eyes. This upset me a lot, and I yelled and cursed them. I felt that they intend to uproot even the tree that ties us to the land.

We responded quickly. The next day we hired a bulldozer and we smoothed the land and we dug 50 pits and we replanted the trees they uprooted. The olive trees in particular, the others couldn’t be replanted. We planted 50 big trees, the small ones can’t be replanted. We watered them and most are doing well. The Israelis were surprised. We’ve had some journalists come by, they were surprised by our determination and the positive action we took. Resistance isn’t just a matter of confronting the army. We are rooted in our land. No matter what they do, we won’t leave.

Every day, there is shooting in the neighborhood. Little kids come and throw stones or get close to the fence. So the army comes. There are continual battles going on here. In the afternoons, we don’t leave our home. I tell my sons to wait in Ramallah until evening, when things quiet down. If you want to step outside, first you have to check to see whether there is any shooting. We could get shot at any moment. We’ve had to replace our windows several times. Our water tanks are bullet marked, we’ve put screws to close the holes, and our satellite dish has been shot at, too. There is a lot of damage. My 11 year old boy likes sports, and in the present situation there are no clubs where he can play. So he wants to go outside. In the afternoon, he can’t even go outside the front door. So he bounces his ball indoors, and he is upset. He asks me, check to see whether the soldiers are here, so that I can go outside if they’re not.

Life is difficult, very difficult. People living abroad have trouble imagining just how difficult it is. Even in this interview, I am giving you merely a glimpse of what we suffer. Our suffering is day in, day out.

Last night, there was shooting. For about half an hour, we all hid in one room. We were afraid to get close to the windows. We live in terror. But we have no choice. Where should we go? Even in your own home, you aren’t safe. They shoot and they take our land and bulldoze our land. And sometimes, they enter our homes and start searching. That scares me because my sons are young men.

Life consists of more than just eating and drinking. But we can only dream of living an ordinary life. The simple things that an ordinary person doesn’t think about, we feel how dear they are, because we lack them.

The problem in our neighborhood got worse after they put the fence. It is a provocation. Kids come to this fence, and they throw stones and they burn tires. What more can they do? And then all hell breaks loose, and the army chases them. And then they close the checkpoint and punish people.

Interviews

  • Introduction
  • Bethlehem District
  • Qalqiliya District
  • Tulkarem District
  • Jenin District

    Ida Audeh is a Palestinian from the West Bank who works as a technical writer in Boulder, CO. She went to the West Bank in August for three weeks to visit family and to learn more about the effect of the wall on the lives of ordinary people. She is the author of “Picking Olives and Removing Roadblocks as Acts of Resistance: An Interview with Ghassan AndoniCounterpunch, 28 October 2002 and “Narratives of Siege: Eyewitness Testimonies from Jenin, Bethlehem, and Nablus,” Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 124 (Summer 2002).