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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Israel to Cut Palestinian Village From Water Source in Order to Take Control of Farming Land

After a checkpoint moves deeper into the Palestinian area, residents of al-Walaja will no longer be able to visit the local spring or their fields beyond it.

by Nir Hasson      16 November 2017         Haaretz

Construction work on the Ein Hanya spring, April 8, 2016.Construction work on the Ein Hanya spring, April 8, 2016. Emil Salman

Israel has told residents of the Palestinian village of al-Walaja south of Jerusalem that they are to be cut off from their farmland and farming terraces because of the relocation of a checkpoint, shifting a large segment of land from the Palestinian side to the Israeli one.

A Jerusalem district planning panel said that the Ein Yael checkpoint on road between Jerusalem and Har Gilo would move deeper into the Palestinian area, where it will become part of the Jerusalem metropolitan park.

This land includes Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills; for the residents of al-Walaja, the site also provides recreation, bathing, and water for their livestock. Palestinian families from farther afield in the West Bank, such as Beit Jala and Bethlehem, regularly visit the spring and the two deep pools in the area for bathing and picnicking.

Part of al-Walaja falls under Jerusalem’s jurisdiction, but the recent completion of the separation fence has cut the village off from Jerusalem entirely. The fence also separates the village from extensive farming areas owned by the residents.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Development Authority have already started renovation work at the spring and the surrounding area. Now they plan on surrounding the spring with a fence, building a visitors center and a restaurant and turning it into one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s metropolitan park, which abuts the capital from the south and west.

Two days ago al-Walaja residents received letters telling them that the checkpoint will be moved closer to their village, some two and a half kilometers deeper into the Palestinian territory. It currently sits near the exit from Jerusalem, a mere one and a half kilometers from the Malha shopping mall.

A man walks past one of the pools at Ein Hanya, April 8, 2016.

Once the checkpoint relocated, Palestinians without Jerusalem resident papers will not be allowed to pass through it. They will not be able to visit the spring area or their fields and terraces beyond it.

The villagers were given 15 days’ notice to submit an appeal against the decision.

Ironically, the well-groomed, carefully tended terraces that al-Walaja’s residents have nurtured over the years were one of the reasons given by the Israeli authorities for setting up a park in the area. However, once the checkpoint is moved, the farmers will be denied access to them.

“The stone steps are one of the park’s outstanding features. This landscape has decorated the Judean Hills for longer than 5,000 years, since man started farming the land. The terrace agriculture was preserved in the Arab villages until the War of Independence,” the park’s information leaflet says.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim, a nonprofit that advocates for a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, said “relocating the checkpoint is another step in [Environmental Protection] Minister Zeev Elkin’s plan to move al-Walaja and the rest of the neighborhoods beyond the separation fence out of Jerusalem’s borders. In Elkin’s Jerusalem, Israelis will stroll among the beautiful terraces, tended to and fostered by al-Walaja residents, with the land owners locked behind a barbed wire fence a few dozen meters away, unable to come to the lands that were robbed from them.

“That’s the rightist government’s vision: instead of peace and justice, fences and increasingly brutal oppression,” he said.


Renewed Work on Separation Barrier to Cut Palestinian Villagers From Their Lands

by Nir Hasson  29 April 2017     Haaretz

The farming lands and local spring near al-Walaja are slated to become part of Jerusalem's new urban park, which the Palestinians will be prevented from reaching

The separation barrier outside WalajaThe separation barrier outside Walaja   photo:Lior Mizrahi



After a three-year hiatus, work has resumed on the separation barrier in the village of al-Walaja, south of Jerusalem. The fence is expected to almost completely surround the village.

The separation barrier erected around the West Bank has an unfinished section in an area south of Jerusalem, near the villages of al-Walaja and Battir. Over the last few years, several legal and public battles have been waged against erecting the fence there, partly to prevent damaging ancient terraces which are located between the villages and the Refa’im Stream below them. Even though the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the construction of the fence near al-Walaja, no work had been done there in the last three years, possibly due to lack of budget.

However, two days ago workers arrived in the village and resumed building the barrier, which will cut it and neighboring Battir off from Jerusalem. The plans call for surrounding the village on all sides and leaving one opening facing the town of Beit Jala. The barrier will also cut the village off from most of its residents' lands, which lie on the slopes between the village and the Refa'im Stream and cover around 740 acres.

Many of these plots will become part of Jerusalem’s new urban park; residents say the issues are connected. “I’m certain that they want to complete the fence so they can take whatever they want of our land,” says Omar Hajajle, one of the villagers.

The park’s highlight will be the copious al-Hanya Spring, which serves the area’s shepherds for watering their flocks and other villages for bathing and relaxing. The spring will now be on the other side of the barrier. Over the last year the Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority have been conducting a preservation and rehabilitation project around the spring, which will become an entrance point and major attraction in the park.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to move a roadblock into the area so that Israelis will have better access to the spring while Palestinians will be prevented from reaching it. The ministry committed to erecting a gate for farmers and shepherds in the area but villages are very worried. “We’re being closed in from all sides; all our lands remain on the other side of the fence. They promised a gate but so far we don’t see one,” says Hajajle.

“The completion of the fence is proceeding in parallel with the development of the national park, on beautiful agricultural land which the fence will cut off from the village,” says Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at the nonprofit organization Ir Amim. “The sorry excuse claiming security considerations cannot hide the robbery and blatant wrongdoing.”