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The story of a tree and a barrier
Abu Wajih, 69, lives with his family of nine in the village of Al Walaja. On 5 September 2011, Abu Wajih arrived on his land to find that the Israeli authorities had confiscated six dunums and had already begun levelling it. Abu Wajih lost about 60 olive trees, 18 almond trees, and eight hawthorn trees since Israel began confiscating his land.
In the 1970s, 120 dunums of Al Walaja lands were confiscated for the construction of the nearby settlements Gilo and Har Gilo. Since April 2010, refugees in the town have witnessed their lands confiscated and Barrier construction. If the route of the Barrier is built as planned, Al Walaja will become an enclave, connected to the West Bank through a tunnel, leaving its agricultural land lying on the other side of the Barrier, where villagers won’t have access to it unless they obtain a permit from Israeli authorities.
More recently, Israeli authorities have announced that Al Walaja’s agricultural lands located on the unilaterally expanded Jerusalem municipality borders – in the area that villagers will not have access to once the Barrier is complete - will be declared a national park, where the use of the land will be determined by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority.
After being forcibly displaced in 1948, residents of the village of Al Walaja, four kilometres northwest of Bethlehem, are now under threat of indirect forced displacement. Lack of building permits and land confiscation, exacerbated by settlement expansion and movement restrictions, have left Al Walaja’s residents in dire straits. The risk of a second forced displacement comes from the uncertain status of residency and housing rights in Jerusalem, the future isolation of the village by the construction of the Barrier and its associated permit regime, and the new plan to declare its lands as an Israeli national park.
This photo essay highlights one of the triggers of displacement – the construction of the Barrier in the West Bank – by illustrating the lives of Palestinians in Al Walaja. This village is just one example of a much larger issue – the threat of displacement – caused by Israel’s Barrier and settlement expansion.
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