Life Over The Wall In West Bank, Palestine

Abu Dis: Israel built the wall quite literally through Jerusalem. Abu Dis is a suburb of Jerusalem but is now separated from the city not by distance but by a wall that has created a completely different economy for those living in the West Bank.

Abu Dis: Children watch on in curiosity.

Abu Dis: Israel built the wall right next to a Muslim faith school, which was shut down after Israeli soldiers intimidated students from their watch post on the other side of the wall. They used guns, fire and other methods of intimidation. On the left side of the wall is Israeli run Jerusalem. On the right, East Jerusalem is run by the Palestinian Authority, who answer to Israel. 

Abu Dis: Inside the abandoned Muslim faith school.

Abu Dis: Palestinians are often forced to abandon their homes due to intimidation by Israeli soldiers from the other side of the wall, or because of eviction notices issued by the Israeli government claiming the occupants need to leave for ‘security purposes’.

Abu Dis: Children risk irritating the watching Israeli soldiers by playing in front of the wall as their garden is now separated from their house by the wall.

East Jerusalem: The wall divides landowners and farmers from their land. The land is then redistributed by Israel to ‘occupiers’ who farm the land for their own profit.   

Beit Sahour: Day 4 of the trip and  I cracked and cried. The day was filled with a peaceful walk through a beautiful village. The Palestinian women were happy because they had heard about its beauty but had never been. When we were at home in Bethlehem, chilling and chatting, my roommate and her sister got a call from her their other sister, letting them know that a girl had been shot dead at the checkpoint near their home. They knew that their other sister was passing through that checkpoint to pick the girls up. Everyone’s phones started ringing. They were parents making sure that their daughters were alive. It was tense. I tried to calm my roommate down, but the sisters were torn between feeling shocked and scared and frantic. Their phone rang again and they were told that the girl had been identified. It wasn’t their sister but a close friend. There was a split second of relief before panicked tears of anguish and terror and sadness. Then it was a rush to get them back to their village before the Israelis shut the border, barring them from getting home. Later, the Israeli news reported the story, claiming that the girl had attacked them with a knife. The girl had been travelling through the check point to get to an evening revision class because she had an exam. She was 17. This is lunch time earlier in the day, when the girls were happy. 

Hebron: The largest city in West Bank, Hebron used to be a thriving market town. However, due to severe violent intimidation from ‘illegal’ Israeli occupiers and sanctions issues by the Israeli army, the markets have all but shut down and the residents are often confined to the street they live in when the Israeli army shut down the checkpoints. It’s a very volatile city where violence could erupt between the occupiers and the Palestinians at any point. Army presence is heavy but the children still smile. 

Hebron: Here I am showing the smiling children their photograph.

Jericho: Jericho is home to the desert where Jesus allegedly wandered for forty days and forty nights. The girls in this photo are from all over the world, including the UK, Palestine – both sides of the wall, Belgium and France. For me, this photo just highlights the fact at the end of the day, all young women worry about money, boys and make up. 

Jerusalem: A family take refuge from the sweltering heat outside Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jerusalem: Me apparently dressing to match the beautiful Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jericho: My sister Chloë and myself found it a little overwhelming visiting all of the place we’d brought up reading about in the Bible.

Nabi Musa: These camels were parked up outside the mosque built where it is believed the prophet Moses (the one who parted the red sea) is buried. 

Monastery of Temptation: Me pointing out a sandstorm picking up in the city of Jericho. Right behind me is a monastery built into the wall of the mountain, supposedly built in the cave Jesus escaped to whilst he reflected for forty days and forty nights.

Jerusalem: The Wailing Wall. The Western wall is part of a fort built around Al-Aqsa Mosque. Centuries ago, the wall was part of the old synagogue that used to stand in Jerusalem. Nowadays, Jews travel from all around the wall to pray at the wall, which is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. 

The Pope’s Mountain: The Bedouin communities are persecuted by Israel due to their lack of permanent address. Their makeshift houses are demolished and they are left with nowhere to go. In this photo, the rubble are the remains of Bedouin homes. The built up city in the background is an ‘illegal’ Israeli settlement. Israel built these communities in the West Bank under the guise that they would be for displaced Palestinians to live. However, when they were completed, they occupied the houses with Israeli citizens and gated them off with armed guards. The United Nations have numerously named them illegal but what can you do to the people living there? Displace them?

The Pope’s Mountain: A Bedouin boy stands on the rubble of a home. 

Hebron: A child plays in the street in front of a heavily guarded Israeli settlement. The occupants of the new build are ‘illegal’ Israeli settlers who commandeered the building through intimidation. Now, the building is guarded by the army to protect the occupants from possible attacks.

Hebron: In Hebron, illegal settlements have been built inside the city, preventing the Palestinian people from living there. The newly built white building in the background at the end of the staircase is an Israeli settlement. People living in that building are encouraged to throw chemical bombs, rubbish and hurl verbal abuse at the Palestinians in the street below. You can see metal grids and verandas have been put up outside the doorways to protect the residents when they leave their house. 

The Pope’s Mountain: A child plays on the gate that guards his Bedouin home that he shares with his mum and sisters near The Pope’s Mountain. The Pope’s Mountain is an area of land that was given to the Pope as a gift from Jordan in 1964 when Palestine was under temporary Jordanian rule. This land now stands in the way of the wall joining together. Israel want to continue their building work so the Bedouin community are once again being forced out. 

Jerusalem: The Wailing Wall where Jewish people come to pray. Palestinians and Muslims are forbidden from traveling in this quarter of the square. 

Jerusalem: The Middle East sell some of the most beautiful incenses. Frankincense or myrrh anyone?

Refugee camp: According to the latest figures from the United Nations, the West Bank is home to nearly 775,000 registered refugees, with around a quarter of whom live in 19 camps. Some  of the camps are located next to major towns and others are in rural areas. Some children don’t know any different.

Refugee camps: Around 750 000 Palestinians became refugees following the Nakba (Catastrophe) between 1947-1948.

Refugee camps: It’s always good to see the bigger picture. Here, someone snapped me being snap happy.

Refugee camps: The United Nations recognises the plight of the Palestinians and provide food bundles are needed by the people who can’t afford to live under Israeli Occupation.

Jerusalem: The four green doors on the right flying the flag of Israel are occupied by illegal settlers. One day, the Palestinian residents left their homes for the day, only to return to find their front doors barricaded with these hefty, green military doors and the locks changed. The settlers refused to leave. Although people who do this are deemed illegal by the Israeli government, they are very rarely persecuted. The Palestinians are forced to leave and find somewhere else to live, which is difficult as they are banned from building any more homes and there aren’t enough existing places to live. 

Bethlehem: It’s not what it looks like on the Christmas cards.

Bethlehem: Israel control the West Bank borders, and with it the imports and exports of Palestine. Many shops supply Israeli products, who’s packaging is written in Hebrew. Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza are encouraged to take part in the boycott Israel movement, by refusing to buy Israeli products. 

Hebron: Not many years ago, these shop fronts in Hebron were open and brimming with customers. Now, they are subject to the laws of Israel who dictates when they can open, which isn’t very often. Some shopkeepers are forced to closed because they just can’t afford to stay open. 

Hebron: Below the tin canopies are the shops in the market. Shopkeepers have been forced to put up the metal to protect themselves from the things the settlers throw at them from above. Rubbish, bleach and dirty water are just some of the things thrown at the marketeers. 

Hebron: Jewellery seller at Hebron market. 

Hebron: However, some parts of the market are thriving. 

Hebron: A market seller who’s produce ranged from spices to live poultry in cages.

Hebron: The Palestinians are being forced out by Israeli settlers, room by room, house by house. 

Hebron: Residents have been forced to put bars on their windows to protect themselves from things being thrown through them, or even from people getting in to squat when they leave to go about their daily business. 

Abu-dis: It doesn’t matter how horrendous and frustrating life can be for the Palestinians, you’ll always find someone smiling. Someone told me it’s because if you don’t smile, you’d cry. 

Hebron: Children living behind bars for their own protection. 

Bedouin community: Some of the huts on the land where the nomads are forced to live are funded by the United Nations. 

Jericho: The views of the desert are breath taking. 

Hebron: Driving through the ram-packed streets of Hebron, Palestine.

Bedouin community: When Palestine met France. 

Bedouin community: When Palestine met England. 

 

Checkpoints: You’ll probably have noticed the lack of photos of the checkpoints in the elephant in the room in this blog post. It’s because taking photos of them are an arrestable offence. And considering the most murders of Palestinians living in West Bank happen at checkpoints, you don’t want to piss off the Israeli soldiers. Instead, I drew this illustration of what I saw. Checkpoints are horrible places. This woman was taking her son to hospital which was on the other side of the wall. He was motionless and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. Ambulances are forbidden to drive through the checkpoint and you have to apply for a pass to get through, even if emergency care is needed. These can take hours, days or weeks to be approved. Israeli soldiers did nothing to make her passing through the checkpoint quicker – if anything they made it longer, making her walk back through the detectors just because. No one was permitted to help her. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t screaming, she was just a mother trying to save her son. It was heartbreaking. 

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