Friday 10 August 2018

A tightening grip

  A Tightening grip
Today we all went on a tour around Abu Dis which Abed had planned and our friends Mousa and Mosab came with us. We circled around the town taking in Bethany, also known as Al Eizariya, because it is here that John’s Gospel records the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and Sawaher.
As we completed the circle we encountered one dead end after another. The first was at the Zytunna (olive) Terminal which cuts a road that led from Abu Dis to Jerusalem. It houses the Civil Dept where people can apply for permits to walk across and is an army base.  From there we headed on to what was historically the road between Jerusalem and Amman, now crossed and closed by the wall. Nearby stands a large and impressive building which was to have been the ‘Palestinian Parliament’ but permission was cancelled by the Israelis when nearly completed because they found it to be in Area C and therefore under military control. There too is the Cliff Hotel which was owned by an Abu Dis family who decided to demolish and rebuild it. Work on the building was stopped when it was found to have “no owner”. A member of the family pursued the matter and an Israeli court confirmed that it was theirs, but the army would have a base on the roof. It is now part of the wall.
Perhaps the greatest mess is in Sawaher which has been divided in two. In this process many families have come to have mixed IDs – green, West Bank and blue, Jerusalem. It is illegal for them to live in one house together. They have either to separate or live on either side and often their children have no ID. Just a detail - the checkpoint in the middle of the town and cuts off the graveyard. Those who wish to attend a funeral have to apply individually for permits and cannot thereafter visit a grave.
From Sawaher we reached the south east corner of the area, where the north/ south road through the West Bank ran.  It is now the first checkpoint between Abu Dis and Bethlehem. That very morning a young man was attacked by the army for taking photos and over the past 3 years 7 young people have been killed at this checkpoint. It is often closed during rush hour, delaying students and people trying to get to work.  Students from the south attending Al Quds University often try to find accommodation in Abu Dis at times when they risk being prevented from taking their exams.
The last part of our tour took us to Khal Ahmar, the Bedouin village which the Israelis now want to move into Abu Dis in the process of clearing the Bedouin areas to leave ‘empty lands’ for settlements. This will complete the settlement ring around Jerusalem and make travel even more difficult. Our journey back takes us again to the old Jerusalem/ Abu Dis, Jordan road. In front of us is Maalodumim Settlement, the biggest in Palestine, built on land from Abu Dis, Bethany and Sawaher.  We return to Abu Dis on the only road open to the residents of those towns. Beyond is a new road which only Israelis and those they permit can use.

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