East Jerusalem: Six Voices - 'Abd al-Fatah 'Abed Rabu
51, a Palestinian farmer from al-Walajah, southwest of Jerusalem
What’s the story
‘Abd al-Fatah, a 51-year-old Palestinian, was born and raised in Dheishe refugee camp, but his family hails from al-Walajah – a West Bank village that was annexed, in part, to Jerusalem's municipal boundary after the 1967 war. The family still owns some land there. Seventeen years ago, after Israeli contractors began to show interest in the land, ‘Abd al-Fatah decided to go live on it, to physically assert his ownership. He now lives on the land in an ancient Cana'anite cave, raising crops and hosting Palestinian, Israeli and international friends, not only but also through his activity in the peace initiative All Nations' Café.
Recently, a plan has been published to build a new settlement in the area that encompasses his land. During the same period, ‘Abd al-Fatah was charged with illegally building a shed, a chicken coop and an outdoor toilet by the cave, and the case is now in court.
Why does 'Abd al-Fatah walk all this way?
In the movie, 'Abd al-Fatah is seen travelling to Jerusalem for a court discussion in his case. He is barred from simply taking the straight, short road to Jerusalem that runs close to his home, which would take him about half an hour. First, he must go in advance to the Liaison Office and get a permit. Then, on the day itself, he has to walk along a dirt path to the town of Beit Jala, take a taxi to Bethlehem checkpoint, which is the only southern entrance for Palestinians into Jerusalem, and take another taxi to the court. The journey takes some three hours in each direction.
What's the problem with the Separation Barrier?
In 2010, Israel began construction of the Separation Barrier around al-Walajah. The planned route will encircle the built-up area of the village, severing it from most of the villagers’ farmland, grazing land, and the road leading to Jerusalem, and leave them with only one egress road, in the direction of Beit Jala.
In this innovative project, B’Tselem and the Guardian gave six Palestinians and Israelis cameras to create video diaries of their lives in occupied East Jerusalem, under the shadow of the settlement enterprise. The diaries offer a glimpse into the impact of the volatile reality on their lives. This is one aspect of B’Tselem’s video project, in which the organization has given some 200 Palestinian families cameras to document violations of their rights.