PHOTOS: Settlement expansion leaves whole communities homeless and threatens their way of life

by Jenn, Jayyus team

Cranes dot the skyline of an East Jerusalem that is growing. It is growing upwards and it is growing outwards. For some. For others, their boundaries are set, and they are shrinking. It is a simple formula, settlement expansion for the Israeli population is equal to demolitions and displacement of the Palestinian population. In no place is this formula more stark than in the E1 one area and the space surrounding the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim located in the Jerusalem periphery.

The E1 area is located  North-East of Jerusalem and to the west of Ma’ale Adumim. Ma’ale Adumim is the third largest settlement in the West Bank and is home to almost 40,000 Israeli settlers. There are currently about 27,000 Bedouin refugees in the Jerusalem Area. 3,000 of which live in the Ma’ale Adumim area and 1,700 of these which lie in the E1 area. The expansion of Ma’ale Adumim and the plan for future Israeli construction in E1 threatens existing populations in the surrounding areas, but none more so than the Jahalin Bedouin community.

The year 2013, saw the rise of a new trend: that of demolishing whole communities and thus, displacing all their inhabits.  Last year, four whole communities were entirely demolished: Bir Nabala/Tel al Adassa, Az Za’ayyem, Makhul, and Ein Ayoub.  In total, 189 people were left without access to land.

This photo essay will focus on the Jahalin of Az Za’ayyem. Az Za’ayyem is home to ten Jahalin Bedouin families and is located in the E1 area.  In September of 2013, 8 homes in Az Za’ayyem were demolished as well as several kitchen units, sanitary units and animal shelters. 47 people were displaced, 20 of whom were children. Now, 4 months later, the town has yet to rebuild. Heaps of rubble, that were once homes, are piled around the wooden and sheet metal structures that are now the remaining homes of the Jahalin of Az Za’ayyem.

Unfortunately, whole communities facing displacement, demolitions and forced evictions is not a unique situation in Palestine. But in this case the very way of life of the Jahalin is threatened. Semi-Nomadic  herders, the Bedouin require open spaces and adequate pasture land for their flocks to flourish. The Jahalin are a people that value freedom and movement.  As it stands many have been forced to sell their animals and resort to work in nearby settlements in order to feed their families and maintain a living. Any suggested compensation for the displacement by the Israeli authorities, amounting to a small patch of land and minimal infrastructure in the Jericho region, is nothing more than an affront to their way of life.

“We must always remember that settlement expansion is a problem, but not just in itself, but  because expansion comes at the expense of the people, the families and entire communities that are displaced or made homeless.” ~Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Israeli human rights activist

In the case of the Jahalin and other Bedouin communities, continued expansion of Israeli settlements not only leave them homeless, but also threatens their livelihood and their very way of life.


Bedouins forced to choose education over work

During the last week, illegal Israeli settlements and the BDS movement against Israel have become one of the hottest topics across the world thanks to the viral outbreak of Scarlett Johansson and her promotion of the SodaStream brand. The SodaStream factory is located in the industrial park Mishor Adummim, which is part of the larger settlement of Ma’ale Adummim. Beside the some 500 Palestinians working in the SodaStream factory there are in addition many Bedouins working for various Israeli factories and settlements across the West Bank. EAs visited a Bedouin community, Khan al Ahmar-Wadi Abu Sidr, where the men have lost their work in the Ma’ale Adummim area after refusing to demolish their local school.

by Jerusalem Team 51

Eid Jahalin. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Eid Jahalin. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Behind a busy new highway between Jerusalem and Jericho lies the Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar – Wadi Abu Sidr which is home to 24 families, around 150 people. Originally refugees from the Negev desert, in 1951  they were forced to leave by the Israeli government and remain refugees until this day. All of the Bedouin from this community were born in the area where they now reside, except for one grandmother.

Bedouins are the poorest amongst the poor in the West Bank. Now bedouin villagers get most of their food from the United Nations.

“Life was easier for us till the 1980’s, but then the settlement of Kfar Adumim was built and our incomes came down”, Nasser Jahalin, one of the bedouin in his 50’s tells us.

Previously the Bedouins could sell animal products made from their sheep in Jerusalem and throughout the country. They used to take over 400 sheep to herd on the top of a high hill in front of their village, with a water source and lots of grass. Now, settlement houses cover that same green hill and private security forces patrol it. If animals get too close, settlers steal them.

Some 500 metres in the other direction there is a closed military area. There is a danger from unexploded bombs and additionally, army custody of their animals who graze too close to the area. Bedouins can only retrieve their property after paying a large fine.

In the daytime, around 3 o’clock, armed settlers from Kfar Adumim may come close to the village to threaten Bedouin families or to steal their animals. Eid Jahalin a 49-year-old leader of the community used to work construction in the very same settlement for 15 years.

Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals worked together to build the Tyre school in Khan Al Ahmar. After building, most men in the village lost their jobs in nearby settlements and factories. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals worked together to build the Tyre school in Khan Al Ahmar. After building, most men in the village lost their jobs in nearby settlements and factories. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

According to Eid Jahalin, everything changed for the Bedouin when they decided to build a school for their children in 2009. After building the school, all the  men lost their work in Israeli settlements and factories. Before the school Nasser Jahaleen worked for the Israelis for years, but like others, he lost his work. Nowadays, only two out of about 50 men from the village have work in Ma’ale Adummim.

Nasser Jahalin went on to say, “You get a  much better salary from Israeli employers than from the Palestinians. It is almost the same not to work if you travel to work in Jericho. From a very low salary you have to pay your travel and food of the day, and after that there’s not much left.”

Eid continues, after building the school, threats against the villagers increased . During night when the villagers are about to go to sleep,  Israeli military or civil police frequently enter the community for house searches, forcing people out from their homes. During the last week the  Israeli authorities entered the village on four different nights.

Each home in Al Khan Ahmar – Wadi Abu Sidr has a demolition order. According to Amnesty International, the Israeli army plans to evict and transfer 2300 Palestinian people from the Ma’ale Adummim area to the  Jerusalem municipal garbage landfill to make space for settlement expansion.

Ma’ale Adummim is located in what is known as Area C, which includes the E1 plan to build thousands of new settlements and commercial units in its expansion to connect the area with Jerusalem. It is planned that the whole area of Ma’ale Adummim and Mishor Adumim is to be surrounded completely by the separation barrier already under construction.

Eid Jahalin urges international companionship.

“We need all our  international contacts to support us or otherwise our village and our lives might get lost, international people are are our voice in the world”.