Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nabi Samwil, a Palestinian village surrounded by an invisible wall

By Hannah B. - February 26, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Jerusalem municipality]

The journey home from the West Bank for residents of Nabi Samwil is a difficult one. They must take a taxi through Israel’s Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah and into Israeli controlled east Jerusalem, down a highway and finally into the village. 

This difficulty in accessing the village lies in the fact that it is located in an area known as the seam zone. The seam zone is a strip of land located in the area between Israel’s separation wall and the internationally recognized Green Line. There are approximately 6,500 Palestinian residents living in the seam zone, an area which makes up 9.4% of West Bank land, according to statistics from OCHA.

Israeli law dictates that anyone with a green ID, the ID provided by Israeli authorities to all Palestinian residents in the West Bank, is barred from crossing into Israeli occupied Jerusalem without specific permission from Israeli authorities. Most of Nabi Samwil’s 300 residents hold green IDs. They are West Bank residents yet they live on the opposite side of Israel’s wall and are forced to drive along Israeli only roads to reach work, school and family members. 

This unjust situation has been created because of Israel’s illegal practice of building its separation wall almost entirely inside the West Bank, circumnavigating and de facto annexing many of the illegal settlements on the other side of the Green Line along with Palestinian villages like Nabi Samwil.

There are 16 other villages similar to Nabi Samwil in the Jerusalem area, according to the UN, although the very existence of green ID holders on the other side of the wall is illegal according to Israeli laws.

 “Israel refuses to believe there is an Arab history here,” said Aeed Barakat, a resident of Nabi Samwil, while showing the Palestine Monitor the home in which his father grew up.  

Israeli authorities have recently declared the area in which Nabi Samwil is located to be included in a 14,000 acre national park. This means that no construction whatsoever can be carried out in the village. Building fences and even planting trees are forbidden, and every single house but one has a demolition order placed on it.

Aeed Barakat’s home, for example, is currently under threat of demolition for the fourth time. 

Without any permission to build, residents live in extremely cramped quarters; twenty people share Barak’s home. 

Historically, most of the residents of Nabi Samwil were farmers, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to generate income as the Israeli military frequently demolishes barns and sheds used to house animals. 

The village is also prohibited from extending their one-room school, and is barred from building any health centers. Residents of the village are only permitted to 'import’ one bag of groceries each from the West Bank; all food must be registered and approved by the Israeli military before it is brought in. Residents are prohibited from shopping in any of the shops closer to home in Jerusalem because of their green ID’s. 

Ram Rahat, leader of the 'Park in a Cage’ campaign, explained to the Palestine Monitor that the policies are “geared toward creating a situation where it is impossible for people to live here.” 

No checkpoints stopping residents from entering Jerusalem 

Most of the residents of Nabi Samwil hold green IDs, prohibiting them from entering Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. However, there is nothing physically preventing their entry. There is no barrier, no wall, and no checkpoints. While Israeli authorities have physically cut Nabi Samwil off from the West Bank, the state has not offered residents the option of working in Jerusalem or Israel. If caught across the Green Line, green ID holders face fines and prison sentences, both increasing each time they are caught. 

Essentially, residents are “living in an invisible cage,” according to Daniela Telmon, a lecturer of Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University. 

Many residents of the village, most often the youth, take the risk in order to work in Israel, a there are extremely limited job opportunities in both Nabi Samwil and the West Bank. In 2013, the unemployment rate in the West Bank was 24%. 

“They do not want Arabs here”  

On top of this absurd situation, the village of Nabi Samwil is located next the controversial E1 area east of Jerusalem, home to a number of Palestinian Bedouin communities. Although the Israeli settlement enterprise has long been determined to build in the area, settlement construction in E1 has been frozen since 2009 due to international pressure. 

Were construction in the area to continue, Israeli settlements would complete a circle around East Jerusalem, essentially cutting off Jerusalem, the proposed capital of any future Palestinian state, from the rest of the West Bank. Furthermore, settlements in E1 would essentially cut the West Bank in two, bisecting large swaths of Palestinian territory between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. 

Nabi Samwil is surrounded by settlements, and although there appear to be good relations between Jews and Muslims that pray at the Tomb of Samuel, violence still exists. The small school has barbed wire around the top of the fence to stop Jewish kids throwing things from the house next door.  Har Sh’umuel, an illegal settlement located next to the village of Nabi Samwil, confiscated most of Nabi Samwil’s agricultural land when the settlement was constructed, leaving the residents of Nabi Samwil with very limited options to generate any income.

 “Israel wants the village of Nabi Samwil to move to Ramallah, they do not want Arabs here,” explained Manal Barak, Aeed’s wife. Many residents fear they will be forced to relocate to the West Bank, sooner rather than later. 

Soldiers often come into the village to count the residents, ensuring that no one has entered or exited the village illegally, as well as to monitor any construction work. 

As the number of Palestinian villages in the E1 area steadily decreases, Israel’s future plans for the area become more and more evident. In order to expand the settlement corridor, Israeli authorities are looking for ways to erase the remaining Palestinian villages in the way of expansion. 

Despite the clear attempts by Israeli authorities to make life in the area impossible, Aeed Barakat remains steadfast: “Like a fish in water, I belong in Nabi Samwil.” 

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