Se­cu­rity bar­rier stran­gles Jerusalem neigh­bor­hoods

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Karin Laub

JERUSALEM—The­m­an­agerof a clinic switches from car to mo­tor­cy­cle to speed blood sam­ples to the­lab.Ahome­own­er­a­ban­don­shis sub­ur­banvil­laforas­mall­citya­part­ment.Acol­leges­tu­dentleaveshome two hours early for what used to be a 30-minute trip to class.

The lives of tens of thou­sands of Jerusalem Arabs have been changed in ways big and small by a 60-mile, $465 mil­lion ring of walls and fences — Is­rael’s big­gest un­der­tak­ing in the city since it cap­tured and an­nexed the Arab sec­tor in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The bar­rier — part of a larger West Bank divider meant to keep out Pales­tinian sui­cide bombers — slices through the city’s Arab neigh­bor­hoods. The 100,000 left out­side it — about 40 per­cent of Jerusalem’s 240,000 Arabs — have to cross ter­mi­nals with watch­tow­ers, lug­gage scan­ners and lines for ID checks to reach down­town jobs and schools.

The re­sult is a mi­gra­tion into Arab neigh­bor­hoods inside the bar­rier that is push­ing up hous­ing prices. Some Arabs are even mov­ing into Jewish neigh­bor­hoods.

It also flies in the face of Is­rael’s claim to have united a city that un­til 1967was­di­vid­ed­byawall­be­tween its Jewish west and Arab east, and the new in­ward mi­gra­tion is un­der­cut­ting Is­rael’s stated goal of main­tain­ing a solid Jewish ma­jor­ity in the heart of Jerusalem. In the name of se­cu­rity

Is­raeli of­fi­cials por­tray the bar­rier as tem­po­rary. They say its ce­ment slabs, up to two sto­ries high, could be pulled up by cranes in a mat­ter of days, if the city’s fi­nal sta­tus was worked out in an Is­raeliPales­tinian peace agree­ment.

The bar­rier went up in a hurry, start­ing in 2002, af­ter a wave of sui­cide bomb­ings aboard buses, in restau­rants, out­side syn­a­gogues. In the first four years of the Pales­tinian up­ris­ing that started in 2000, 172 per­sons were killed in sui­cide bomb­ings in ar­eas where Jerusalem’s 470,000 Jews live.

The route was sketched hastily with lit­tle pub­lic de­bate, said Jerusalem’s for­mer chief plan­ner, Is­rael Kimhi.

“It might help pre­vent sui­cide bombers­fro­mentering­in­tothecity, but it’s go­ing to cause a lot of in­con­ve­nience to many thou­sands of peo­ple,” he said.

The bar­rier also is turn­ing Jerusalem from a me­trop­o­lis into a “dead-end city” — cut off from its West Bank hin­ter­land, weak­en­ing its econ­omy, bankrupt­ing busi­nesses in its shadow and threat­en­ing to rad­i­cal­ize a mod­er­ate Arab pop­u­la­tion, said Mr. Kimhi’s Jerusalem In­sti­tute for Is­rael Stud­ies, a think tank that ad­vises the gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment in­sists that any draw­backs are out­weighed by a re­duc­tion in at­tacks.

“The main is­sue is to pre­vent bombs from blow­ing up in the mid­dle of Jerusalem,” said Net­zah Mashiah, chief bar­rier plan­ner at the De­fense Min­istry.

He promised more cross­ings and smart cards for com­muters to re­duce de­lays.

The Pales­tini­ans and some Is­raelis think se­cu­rity wasn’t the only mo­tive. Be­hind the Jerusalem bar­rier are more than 180,000 Jews liv­ing in East Jerusalem hous­ing built af­ter the 1967 an­nex­a­tion, but the wall me­an­ders to take in about 45,000 Jewish West Bank set­tlers.

A part of the bar­rier is planned to thrust east­ward, tripling Jerusalem’s mu­nic­i­pal area while nearly cut­ting the West Bank in half.

Pales­tini­ans who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip see East Jerusalem as their fu­ture cap­i­tal, but the bar­rier cuts it off from the West Bank.

“The of­fi­cial text is se­cu­rity,” said Me­nachem Klein, a Jerusalem an­a­lyst and for­mer Is­raeli peace ne­go­tia­tor. “The sub­text is to de­mol­ish East Jerusalem as the me­trop­o­lis of the West Bank.” Mov­ing out

The city does not have num­bers on mi­gra­tion, but of­fi­cials think thou­sands have moved.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, 64 of 981 Jerusalem-area fam­i­lies ques­tioned in a sur­vey this sum­mer said they moved in the past four years be­cause of the bar­rier.

In A-Tur, an Arab neigh­bor­hood of 28,000 on the bib­li­cal Mount of Olives, dozens of fam­i­lies have moved in ev­ery year for the past four years, Arab of­fi­cials said. The in­flux has strained the al­ready over­bur­dened lo­cal ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly schools, said Nazeeh An­sari, a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer.

Mr. An­sari, who speaks flu­ent He­brew, es­caped the over­crowd­ing by mov­ing his fam­ily to the Jewish neigh­bor­hood of Pis­gat Zeev. He ob­tained a mort­gage on a $170,000 three-bed­room apart­ment — cheaper than in a nearby Arab neigh­bor­hood, where hous­ing prices have dou­bled and all trans­ac­tions are con­ducted in cash.

Jerusalem his­tor­i­cally has tended to seg­re­gate it­self into re­li­gious and eth­nic quar­ters, and the An­saris are just one of a few dozen Arab fam­i­lies in Pis­gat Zeev, but the trend is ac­cel­er­at­ing, Mr. Kimhi said.

In A-Tur, many of those re­turn­ing have squeezed into their par­ents’ homes, leav­ing be­hind apart­ments in the satel­lite com­mu­nity of Az­zaim on an ad­ja­cent West Bank hill, now cut off by the bar­rier. About one-fourth of Az­zaim’s 4,000 res­i­dents have left, said Mayor Ad­nan Subeh, who also re­set­tled in A-Tur.

Ac­coun­tant Ali Abul Hawwa, 68, used his re­tire­ment ben­e­fits to build an apart­ment in A-Tur af­ter aban­don­ing his home in Az­zaim.

He said he moved to avoid bar­rier has­sles and to se­cure the ben­e­fits that come with Jerusalem res­i­dency sta­tus, such as na­tional health in­sur­ance. Tarek Muna, 35, a U.N. em­ployee, cited the same mo­tives in lock­ing up his villa in the sub­urb of Bir Na­bal­lah and mov­ing into a $500-a-month two-bed­room apart­mentin­noisy­down­townWadi Joz. Fend­ing for them­selves

The bar­rier has been per­haps hard­est for about 60,000 Arabs who live within city lim­its but have been “walled out.”

About 25,000 res­i­dents in Kufr Aqeb on Jerusalem’s north­ern tip have to cross the Qa­lan­dia ter­mi­nal, built into a 25-foot wall.

Iden­tity cards in hand, they wait at metal turn­stiles. When green lights come on, the turn­stiles un­lock to al­low a few peo­ple to pass at a time. Af­ter plac­ing their be­long­ings in scan­ners, pedes­tri­ans pass through metal de­tec­tors, show ID cards to in­spec­tors in glass booths, go through two more turn­stiles and come out on the “Jerusalem” side.

The cross­ing can take from a few min­utes to more than an hour. One morn­ing, a large crowd amassed dur­ingrush­hourbe­cause­a­woman set off the metal de­tec­tor. She had no doc­tor’s cer­tifi­cate to ver­ify that she had a steel rod in her leg.

Kufr Aqeb res­i­dents think it’s onlya­mat­terof­time­be­fore­the­yare com­pletely cut off.

“Peo­ple are con­vinced the state is about to throw them out,” said com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer Samih Abu Romeileh, 32.

Is­rael in­sists that the bar­rier does not change the le­gal sta­tus of the res­i­dents.

How­ever, the sep­a­ra­tion has in­ten­si­fied what Is­raeli city of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edgeare­decades­ofne­glect and­has­forcedKufrAqebtofend­for it­self.

Tired of wait­ing for Kufr Aqeb’s mu­nic­i­pal­ity to act, Mr. Abu Romeile­hhashelped­se­tu­paschool for 500 stu­dents, hooked the neigh­bor­hood into Ra­mal­lah’s sewage sys­tem and or­ga­nized a 30-doc­tor clinic, now un­der con­tract with Is­rael’s na­tional health ser­vice. He has bought a mo­tor­cy­cle to by­pass Qa­lan­dia’s lines of cars when de­liv­er­ing per­ish­able blood sam­ples.

The bar­rier is at least forc­ing the KufrAqeb­mu­nic­i­pal­i­tytofind­ways to de­liver ser­vices, said Ziv Ayalon, an Is­raeli city of­fi­cial in­volved in set­ting up a sep­a­rate lo­cal coun­cil for the walled-out res­i­dents.

“In the past it was quite ne­glected,” he said. “Para­dox­i­cally, af­ter the fence peo­ple will get more than what was be­fore.”

At the end of Novem­ber, the Qa­lan­dia ter­mi­nal was to get a ser­vice cen­ter with a post of­fice and branch­esof­sev­er­al­go­v­ern­ment­de­part­ments, in­clud­ing those for na­tional in­sur­ance and mo­tor ve­hi­cles, Mr. Ayalon said.

He said the city also is try­ing to find so­lu­tions for stu­dents; since last year, about 3,500 have been bused daily from out­ly­ing neigh­bor­hoods to 27 schools. Mr. Kimhi said so­lu­tions will have to be found for a to­tal of 15,000. Eco­nomic ad­just­ments

On the West Bank side, the bar­rier is knock­ing the life out of the city sub­urbs.

In A-Ram, most of whose 62,000 res­i­dents have Jerusalem res­i­dency, one in five apart­ments is empty and lo­cal tax rev­enues have dropped by two-thirds, said Mayor Sarhan Sal­imeh.

A-Ram strad­dles what was once the main road be­tween Jerusalem andthenorth­ernWestBank,acom­mer­cial strip crowded with bar­gain hunters. The wall now runs in the mid­dle­oftha­troad,and­many­s­tore­fronts on its West Bank are shut­tered. Wa­heeb To­rani’s pas­try shop is scrap­ing by with 15 per­cent of its for­mer clien­tele.

On­theJerusalem­side­ofthe­wall, a gym has lost two-thirds of its cus­tomers, and an auto shop paints one car a week, in­stead of two per day.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge the vast changes that the bar­rier, even if it turns out to be tem­po­rary, has set in mo­tion. Neigh­bor­hoods be­yond the wall al­ready are re­garded as “al­most abroad,” said Mordechai Levy, a se­nior city of­fi­cial, while Pales­tini­ans liv­ing on the inside should re­al­ize they are opt­ing for a fu­ture with Is­rael.

“They should be clear about it, and we should be clear about it,” he said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pales­tini­ans took the quick way over the se­cu­rity bar­rier (above) sep­a­rat­ing the West Bank vil­lage A-Ram from Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Is­rael erected what it calls a tem­po­rary bar­rier in 2002 to keep sui­cide bombers away from Jerusalem’s Jewish ar­eas.

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