My name is Khalid Al-Salfiti. Originally from Salfit, I have been living in Jerusalem since I was 12, when I was orphaned. I came to Jerusalem to find work, and at the time, in the year 1962, the city was bustling. When I grew older, an acquaintance who knew me well gave me money to buy a shop in Jerusalem -the Old City- and until today this shop is my work and my income. It has allowed me to care for my family and to buy a home.
Today, the streets of the Old City are almost empty, and as I look out at the Old City walkways, I can see the empty stone paths more clearly than I can see people moving up and down the marketplace. It is impossible for people to get here with the closures of the past years and now with the Wall that is closing off Jerusalem even more from the rest of the West Bank.
There used to be a time when I would go to Salfit to visit family, my sister. I could leave in the afternoon from the shop and get there in an hour to stay until the late hours of the night. Today, I cannot get there directly from the city and having to use public transportation the whole trip is a treacherous day; it is indescribable and tiring.
My sister and I have not seen each other for months; I have to buy apricots here for 15 NIS per kilo. In Salfit, they are plentiful but I cannot reach there.
My shop is empty and barely any one comes to it. My shop is not a shop for tourists but for the Palestinian market, and the goods that I sell are Arab-made goods, wood and mother of pearl, things made in Palestine and Syria. Now there is almost no one coming to the city and I can barely make ends meet. To survive in Jerusalem, with the unending taxation of the Occupation-housing tax, television tax, water, electricity, high rent, schools, and the perpetual fines -I have to make a significant sum. I am also the one paying for my grandchildren to go to private school. And, as you see, the shop is empty and I cannot make that much.
It used to be that people came from all over Palestine. There was a big market in the West Bank, as Jerusalem survives off of the West Bank villages. Today, no one can get to the shop. With the Wall, Jerusalem and its businesses are to be totally isolated.
I spent my whole life working and putting my children -my son and two daughters -in the best private schools in the city. They all went to university, and my daughter who just finished at Birzeit, was first in her class.
I did everything for them and to have a quiet life, and now it is my turn to rest, to have some time for myself, but life is more miserable than it ever was. Where? Where will I find rest?
***image2***I don't know what we will do. We live in Ar Ram, just before the Kalandia checkpoint, and the Occupation is building the Wall right now and will close off that whole area. How will my grandchildren get to school? One of my grandkids' schools is meters away from the house, but with the Wall it will take hours to go through checkpoints for him to get there. Transportation is more expensive, the checkpoints are closed in different hours, and the fear that the Occupation has forced to be our reality dictates so much, as at times I am afraid to leave the house to see what awaits. And what will be with the children stuck at the checkpoint. And the Iman school across the street, and the Rosary Sisters in Beit Hanina, how will my grandchildren get to school when this Wall is finished?
My daughter's husband does not have a Jerusalem ID. How will they move around? The police wait around our area to find a yellow-plated car with someone with a "West Bank ID" so that they can fine us 5000 NIS. They are waiting. And do you think I even want this Jerusalem ID? I don't, and I am no better than anyone else, I just need to be able to get to my workplace.
We have heard -people are talking- that they are sending out a unit from the Occupation Municipality in the next few months to check for so-called "violations". Just wait and see -come back in a few months, and you will see that half the shops in the Old City will be closed.
The olive wood maps of Palestine that adorn my shop are made in Palestine, and are handcrafted in Salfit, in my town, by someone I have hired there to do the work. You will always see on each map of Palestine all of our cities and towns, and there is Salfit, in each one.
***image1***Do you know Salfit? Have you heard of Baqa Gharbiya and Baqa Shariqiya? They too are divided by a Wall and my niece married a man from Baqa Gharbiya, and to visit from Salfit is now impossible. Much of Salfit's lands were taken by the Ariel settlement.
A bowl of rice from a local restaurant can reach up to 25 NIS, and if I calculate that both my son and I work in the shop and each day to spend 50 NIS, it is unaffordable. We just buy a Ka'ek (bread) and we eat it, not with a plate of Hummos, because that is too expensive as well. All of us here in the shops do the same, look at the guy sitting across in the shop, he too has a story; he is like an orphan.
They are looking to break us, to make us think just about the daily survival. And when my grandchildren look at me and say "Sido, we want to buy this or that," I will always say yes, and laugh at their dreams and their desires. And many times, I don't even tell them what is happening even when they ask, they are small and I don't want them to know and I think that maybe things will be different when they are older. But, things will not be different when they are older. One cannot think about the future because there isn't one.
The world is silent. The Europeans are silent and controlled by the US. The US media is Zionist and the US government has its interests in the region.
This whole "peace" was not peace but a worsening of our lives. Do not tell me that Israelis want peace. If they did, they wouldn't vote for Likud or Labor, both the same, and well they wouldn’t act the way they are.
I am not a religious person and never have been, and my friends come from all parties and persuasions, and I have no doubt that my religion would provide for us a better more humane life than this brutal Israeli occupation and US imperialism.
Look at how sad Jerusalem is. Jerusalem is an orphan that just watches what is happening to it, observes the passers-by and hopes that from here and there it can get what it needs to survive.