Welcome to Bir Nabala – a new video by B'Tselem

Published: 
8 Nov 2012

During the 1990s, the Northwestern Jerusalem suburb of Bir Nabala enjoyed an economic boom due to its central location and the fact that it had easy access to both Ramallah and East Jerusalem and, from there, to cities in central Israel. This central location made the town a meeting place for Palestinian merchants from the West Bank with Israeli merchants, and contributed to the prosperity of businesses and the commerce in the town.


The video: "Welcome to Bir Nabala"

The prosperity lasted well into the years of the second intifada, but ended almost overnight in 2006, with the construction of the Separation Barrier along a route that encircled the town and completely detached it from East Jerusalem.

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The short film "Welcome to Bir Nabala" tells the story of the town through two wedding halls that operated there until the construction of the barrier. The film includes rare archival footage of the wedding halls' glory days, before their owners were forced to abandon them when business plummeted.

The film was made by Yoav Gross and Ehab Tarabieh, of B'Tselem's video department. Tarabieh, a native of Majdal Shams, is a graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. His film "The Forgotten" was awarded the school's first prize in 2012. Gross, a native of West Jerusalem is a graduate of the Tel Aviv University Film School. His award-winning documentary film "Susiya" was shown in many festivals worldwide.

Background on the Bir Nabala enclave, from B'Tselem's Report "Arrested Development":

The Separation Barrier in the Ramallah area has created a closed rural enclave surrounded on all sides by the barrier. The length of the barrier enclosing this enclave is 18.3 km. Four communities are trapped inside, the town of Bir Nabala being the largest of them. Before completion of the barrier in this area, 6,090 people were registered residents of the town but the local council estimates that another 4,000 people, residents of East Jerusalem, were living in apartments they rented or owned in Bir Nabala while retaining their Jerusalem addresses.

Since the 1970s, the town served as a residential suburb of East Jerusalem. The Separation Barrier cut the town off from East Jerusalem; once the barrier was built in 2006, Bir Nabala was linked only to Ramallah via a new “fabric of life” road. The barrier almost completely severed the commercial ties between town residents and other West Bank cities and with business people in Israel, and likewise ended the extensive ties between East Jerusalem residents and the town. Bir Nabala lost nearly half its inhabitants after the barrier went up: By 2011, five years after construction of the barrier, there were 5,140 people living in the village, all of them West Bank residents.

The al-Mawahel neighborhood in the eastern part of the town, where about 250 families from East Jerusalem had been living and in which some 30 small businesses were located, lost nearly all its residents and became a ghost town. On the town’s main road, a-Latrun, which in the past was a major traffic artery, dozens of businesses have closed their doors, multi-story buildings stand with entire floors empty and others wait in vain for their construction to be completed. The mass abandonment by East Jerusalem residents has also led to a dramatic drop in both the extent of construction and in the rental and purchase prices for apartments in Bir Nabala.