The Palestinian village of Nabi Samwil is being strangled by Israel. Within a few years, it could disappear altogether.
Nabi Samwil overlooks occupied East Jerusalem on one side and Ramallah on the other. With approximately 300 people in no more than a dozen houses, the village is located in the “seam zone” — an area separated from the rest of the occupied West Bank by Israel’s apartheid wall.
The residents of Nabi Samwil are enclosed by settlements, the wall and by an Israeli park that is encroaching onto their land.
The national park comprises an archaeological site, which includes the tomb of the Prophet Samuel, an important religious figure for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. The tomb is surmounted by a mosque which Palestinians can only access on Fridays. It can be closed at any moment to let Israeli settlers access the tomb.
The inhabitants are considered West Bank residents and even though they are on Jerusalem’s side of the wall, they are only allowed to go to the nearest West Bank city, Ramallah, for necessary activities such as buying food or accessing medical care.
Required to submit to a tight regime of permits, everything in their lives is monitored: from the quantity of groceries they bring to the village to the people visiting. Each and every movement of people or products is being controlled by an Israeli “liaison office.”
Villagers have to regularly pass through a military checkpoint.
“Entering the village is very difficult; it’s only possible when the Israeli liaison gives us permission,” says Nawal Barakat, a resident of Nabi Samwil.
As they are being restricted to a small amount of products per person and theoretically not allowed to import any product to the village for commercial purposes, Barakat explains that “there are only very simple things” in her local shop — “not enough for the villagers.”
By regularly ordering the demolition of Palestinian property and by gobbling up the village’s land, Israel has made it impossible to plan any long-term economic activity. As Barakat says, “Our life has become a tragedy that nobody can imagine.”
Text by Julie Couzinet, a photojournalist based in the occupied West Bank and present-day Israel.
Video by Linda Paganelli, a visual anthropologist based in Palestine.