***image2***At the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the 1980s the call of the song “Senzeni Na – What Have We Done” was a common expression of exasperation at the cruelty and brutality of the apartheid regime. Across Palestine, the same words are uttered once again as the Occupation seeks to impose a final solution of apartheid, ghettoization and imprisonment upon the Palestinian people.

Beit Hanina has been part of the Jerusalem district since Ottoman rule. Located just 5 kms from the city, the village is woven into the economic and social fabric of Jerusalem. The village expanded to the east (what is now known as Beit Hanina Jadida) and is situated between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Beit Hanina is the home to Khaled Odetallah, an active member of the community for several decades. He has witnessed first hand the brutal effects of the colonial and Zionist occupation.

“After 1967 the Occupation annexed Beit Hanina in to its municipal boundaries. Occupation measurements and confiscations against the village’s lands has been a continuous feature ever since, reaching their peak between 1971 and 1995”.

“The confiscation served many strategies for the Zionists. The first was to build settlements on our land. The colony of Ramot, to the west, was constructed. The settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev soon followed. Originally the land area of Beit Hanina was 20000 dunums. It was the second largest village in Jerusalem after Lifta. Our lands reached Qalandiya village in the north, Lifta in the south, Hizma in the east, and Nabi Semuel and Beit Iksa villages to the west”.

Until the 1950s the residents of Beit Hanina relied on two main sources of agriculture: the eastern futum and the western futu. The name derives from the sustainable practice of cultivating the two areas of land in turn, during different seasons of the year. With the theft of over 80% of the 20,000 dunums from the villages’ original lands, Khaled recalls how the land has been gradually stolen:

“The twenty thousand dunums are divided as follows: 7164 dunums were confiscated for the settlements of Ramot Allon, Pisgat Ze’ev, Nabi Ya’acov, and Atarot. 3000 dunums was stolen for the park of the Har Samuel settlement. This is a “natural reserve” of 15000 dunums which is made up of lands from other villages too. The settler road took 45 dunums. This is not like any normal road but resembles an aircraft landing base. It is for Israelis only and we are not allowed to use it. The road stretches out 2kms in our lands. Now the Apartheid Wall is being built on 1400 dunums and isolates 7000 dunums of land. They have also installed a military base on top of the hill, confiscating 338 dunums of our land. What we have left is some 2000 dunums. The Wall surrounds Beit Hanina village from three sides, east, west and south, connecting it with Bir Nabala through a dirt road. Before, we used the road to Beit Hanina Jadida, on the Jerusalem Ramallah road. In our village the Wall when it is completed will annex double what it annexed from other villages in the same canton that we are being forced into.

“This Zionist attack on our land, the main source of living for the community has been devastating. The people from Beit Hanina living in the USA are 24000, and there are many thousands living in Latin America, Jordan and the Gulf. We have only 2000 remaining in our village. The Wall’s destruction will take thousands of olive trees. These are ancient trees which have been standing in our lands since Roman times. In addition our lands used for grain cultivation, and for grazing animals, they are all destroyed by the Wall or isolated behind it. Now they are promising us gates in the Wall to access these lands, but we know what that means - more confiscation. We have families who rely on their olive trees. We have trees each one of which needs two or three days to pick, and makes 3-5 gallons of oil. All is being destroyed or isolated. The western part of the village is called Khirbet Hazur and it’s an archeological site. It is rich in its soil and water resources. It is a beautiful ancient Canaanite site. This will be destroyed or stolen. This broader area is so rich with water - the older generations of our village remember 15 water wells, and three water springs: (Muzrab, Malqa, and Abu Ziad) all which were confiscated for the Nabi Semuel park.

Dividing the village, isolation from education:

The old and new parts of Beit Hanina have become cut-off from each other by the Apartheid project of the Occupation Forces. Khaled notes: “The road between the two parts has been closed since 2002. The Wall will reinforce this closure. 211 people became unemployed in the village after this closure. All used to work in the eastern part – Beit Hanina Jadida- and inside the old village 27 workshops and stores closed, and some 217 people lost their income source. The girl’s high school in the village used to receive students from Beit Hanina Jadida, Beit Ikssa and Jib villages. After the closure this changed, from 500 students to 150, and the number is decreasing everyday.

“With the Wall the school stands threatened. The new boy’s school is in the other part of Beit Hanina and the boys in the village will find themselves separated from their school. As for health services, all the medical institutions are in Beit Hanina Jadida, where the people in the old village cannot reach them. We have a clinic where the doctor comes once a week and the road to Birnbala is too long for an emergency case. If somebody has a heart attack the Wall forces us to travel through Birnabal to Ram to Hizma which is too long for someone who needs immediate medical attention. Before closing the road to the village it only took 10 minutes.

“The Zionist expulsion policy is obvious from what I have said about Beit Hanina. However, what is going on in the village is part of the overall project which is being carried out for all of Jerusalem. We don’t have any expansion potential. Much of what remains of the village’s lands are “green areas” where we can’t build because the prices for getting a building license are very expensive. This is deliberate to bar us from building. Taken with the Wall, the Occupation is trying to expel the people from the city, as part of the Zionist policy for the Judeaization of Jerusalem.

“There is no national plan for resisting the wall. Take the courts for example. People go to courts under the slogan “save what can be saved”. Personally I think that there is no use going to courts. Arguing about the Wall’s path and seeking modifications is ridiculous. When solidarity is undermined the people look for individual solutions. Yet these lawyers and NGOs are alien from the people’s despair, and our continued misery from the settlements and confiscations.”



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