Separation Barrier surrounding al-Walajah to leave family isolated

Published: 
24 Jun 2013

The route of the planned Separation Barrier around the village of al-Walajah will separate the Hajajleh family from the rest of the village, leaving them isolated, on the other side of the barrier. The family’s home lies at the eastern entrance to al-Walajah, at the end of Karmizan Road. As of 7 May 2013, for unknown reasons, the road has already been closed off with a gate. The barrier being constructed around the village will run west of the house.

Hajajleh home. Visible at left: edge of cement wall of underground passageway. At right: Karmizan Road blocked by gate. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 13 June 2013.
Hajajleh home. Visible at left: edge of cement wall of underground passageway. At right: Karmizan Road blocked by gate. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 13 June 2013.

In his testimony to B’Tselem field researcher Suha Zeid, the father of the family, ‘Omar Hajajleh, described the early stages of the construction that will change his family’s life: “Things changed once they began building the Separation Barrier in April 2010. They dug up and cleared away a lot of land in the Karmizan area, about 200 meters away from my house. The Civil Administration came to inspect the area and informed me that my house would be on the Israeli side, isolated from every direction and enclosed by a chain-link fence.”

The underground passageway.  Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 13 June 2013.In early January 2013, an underground passageway designed to connect the Hajajleh’s home to the rest of village was completed, and work began on erecting a chain-link fence around the house. Consequently, the Hajajleh family decided to pursue legal action and, in early 2013, petitioned the court via their lawyer, Adv. Ghayyath Nasser. On 4 April 2013, Israel’s Supreme Court accepted the compromise that the State had reached with the Adv. Nasser, under which the house would not be surrounded by a wire fence. Instead, the underground passageway would be blocked with a gate and enclosed by a fence.

According to the compromise agreement, the family would be given a key to the gate to the underground passageway, subject to the following conditions: only the Hajajlehs may use the underground passageway freely; only their vehicle may go through the passageway; all visits to the family’s home must be coordinated with the DCO 48-hour in advance, including providing details of the number of visitors and the purpose of their visit; no more than ten visitors are allowed at any one time, and visits must end by midnight; the passageway may not be used for commerce or for transporting construction materials. In addition, construction in the house and its environs is absolutely prohibited.

Should the family breach any of these conditions, they will no longer be permitted to open the gate themselves. Instead, the gate will be opened three times a day, for an hour each time, and crossing will require security inspection.

Once the Separation Barrier around al-Walajah is completed, the Hajajleh home will be severed from the rest of the village. The family will be denied a normal daily life, including, for instance, receiving spontaneous visits at their home. In addition, they will live in constant fear of an arbitrary decision to take away their gate key on the grounds that they breached their agreement with the State. ‘Omar Hajajleh explained: “I had no choice, so I accepted the agreement... The underground passageway is already built, and soon, they will put up the fence and gate. My family and I will be living in a prison, with a gate just a few meters away from our house... I don’t know what sort of life that’ll be.”

Once the Separation Barrier around al-Walajah is completed, the Hajajleh home will be severed from the rest of the village. The family will be denied a normal daily life, including, for instance, receiving spontaneous visits at their home. In addition, they will live in constant fear of an arbitrary decision to take away their gate key on the grounds that they breached their agreement with the State. ‘Omar Hajajleh explained: “I had no choice, so I accepted the agreement... The underground passageway is already built, and soon, they will put up the fence and gate. My family and I will be living in a prison, with a gate just a few meters away from our house... I don’t know what sort of life that’ll be.”

Background: The Separation Barrier around al-Walajah 

The route of the Separation Barrier in the al-Walajah area is located entirely within the West Bank and has been amended several times over the years. According to the original outline, the barrier would have severed the village from its home district, Bethlehem District, on which the villagers depend for all services. After one amendment, the route was set to wind around the entire built-up area of the village, separating the villagers from their agricultural land. After the villagers petitioned the High Court of Justice, the State agreed to change the planned section of the barrier to the south of the village, and set ‘agricultural gates’ in the barrier. The current route, which is designed to separate al-Walajah from the settlement of Har Gilo, leaves the village with a single access road leading to the nearby Palestinian town of Beit Jala. Traffic entering and leaving the village will be supervised by a checkpoint erected at the village gate.

Village of al-Walaja behind the Separation Barrier. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 13 June 2013.Village of al-Walaja behind the Separation Barrier. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 13 June 2013. 

The planned Separation Barrier around al-Walajah will transform an agrarian village set among ancient agricultural terraces into a concrete cage and stifle any possibility of development. The construction work on the barrier has heavily damaged cultivated terraces and, once complete, the villagers’ access to farmland they have worked for generations will be subject to arrangements made by the military for crossing the agricultural gates. In addition, a future Emeq Refa'im National Park is currently being planned to serve the residents of Jerusalem. The park is to include farmland belonging to residents of al-Walajah and Beit Jala. Although Israel has pledged to build ‘agricultural gates’ in the barrier so that residents may reach their lands, past experience from other areas of the West Bank has shown that such arrangements generally enable only partial access to the lands, and at times access is completely prohibited. Furthermore, the checkpoint to be erected at the entrance to the village will infringe upon the residents’ freedom of movement and, as a result, violate their rights to work, education, medical care and family ties.