About Al-Walajah Village

About Al-Walajah Village

The original land of the Palestinian village Al-Walajah is located to the south-west of the centre of Jerusalem. During the Nakba -the 1948 war- the Palestinian community lost about 70% of its land to Israel. Some of the displaced inhabitants rebuilt their homes on remaining village lands in the West Bank (occupied Palestinian territories oPt), around 2 km from the original village, while others fled to neighboring refugee camps inside the West Bank and beyond to Jordan, Syria and other neighboring countries. Today, there are around 3000 people living in Al-Walajah, nearly all of them are registered as refugees according to UNRWA.

After the 1967 war, approximately 50% of the remaining land of Al-Walajah was grabbed through the construction of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Later, the Wall, separating the lands grabbed by Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories, next to the illegal Israeli by-pass road connecting the Har Gilo settlement to Jerusalem was also built on village lands. The Palestinian village is today encircled by the two above-mentioned Israeli settlements and the Wall while access is limited to the one road, adjacent to the Har Gilo settlement’s entrance.

Since 1948, the land of Al-Walajah shrank from 18 sq. km to less than 6 sq. km, of which 0.113 km2 are in Area B and 2.192 km2 belong to Area C, where Israel retains full control. In order to construct or renovate houses here, people need to obtain permits through the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA), which are practically impossible to obtain.

The northern section of the village, Ein Juweza (about 2.7 km2) was formally annexed by Israel into the Jerusalem municipality. However, the inhabitants of this part of the village are denied basic services and the ability to request building permits due to the absence of formal urban planning. In addition, many of them are also denied residency rights. Although there have been several attempts to draw up an urban plan for the village, until now, no urban plan has been officially approved by the Israeli authorities.

Detailed information: 

Two thirds of today's Al-Walajah belong to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt, occupied by Israel in 1967), while one third was annexed by Israel shortly after the 1967 war and is administered until today by the Municipality of Jerusalem.

On its east and south side, Al-Walajah is confined by the illegal[1] Israeli settlements Gilo and Har Gilo respectively. In the north, it borders the so-called Green Line[2].

During the 1948 war, which preceded the founding of the State of Israel, the inhabitants of Al-Walajah fled to neighboring refugee camps and countries. Some few inhabitants from Al-Walajah settled close to the UN-endorsed Green Line on the village's remaining land and founded what is today Al-Walajah, approximately 2 km from the original village. Today there are around 3000 people living in Al-Walajah. 

Areas ABC[3]

Based on the Oslo II Accord from 1995, the West Bank was divided into 3 areas: A, B and C.

Area-A (17% of the West Bank) is under full Palestinian civil and security control[4]

Area-B (24 % of the West Bank) under full Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.

Area-C (59 % of the West Bank) is under full Israeli control regarding security, planning and construction. 

In the continuous process of occupation, Al-Walajah‘s land has been reduced from its original 18 km² to less than 6 km² of which 0,113 km²constitute the village center. This center is considered Area B and is administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA), but under military control of the Israelis. Another 2,192km² belong to the so-called "Area C" and are under Israeli military and administrative control. To build or renovate houses in this area, one needs permission from the Israeli administrative body, the Israeli Civil Administration, which, however, is rarely granted. 

Already shortly after 1967, Ein Juweza, the third part of Al-Walajah, was annexed to Jerusalem by the Israeli government, and has since then been under the administration of the Jerusalem Municipality. Ever since, the so called structural or master-plans, which are needed to get building permits, have neither been drawn up nor accepted by the Jerusalem Municipality. As a result, almost no building permits have been granted. 

Al-Walajah‘s agricultural land in “Area C“, has been significantly decreased in favor of the advancing construction of the illegal Israeli Separation Wall since its construction in 2002.

Risk of wide-scale displacement and mass house demolitions:

Today, Ein Juweza consists of roughly 150 homes, most of which were built after 1967 and therefore considered illegal under Israeli law. Since 2016, as a result of increased enforcement against building offenses in Palestinian residential areas in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have demolished 20 structures located in Ein Juweza. Currently, there are 38 Juweza homes that face demolition orders. On the 30th of March 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled for an extension of the injunction preventing their demolition until the next hearing at the end of November, which could subject approximately 300 residents, including more than 120 minors, to wide-scale displacement and mass dispossession.

Overview of changing land ownership and shrinking access to land in Al-Walajah:

1948 (“Nakba” – (Catastrophe) / Founding of the State of Israel): Approximately 1800 inhabitants flee from the original Al-Walajah village after attacks by the Israeli brigades. 75% of Al-Walajah‘s original land is declared Israeli territory and therefore out of reach for the original inhabitants. From the original 17,793 km², only about 6 km² remain in Palestinian hands. 

1960s: Some of the former inhabitants return to the area of Al-Walajah and found today's village, which is then under Jordanian rule.

1967 (6-Day-War / “Naksa”[5]): Israel occupies the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Al-Walajah, during the 6-Day-War. Al-Walajah is administratively divided into two units. About a third (2,1 km²) becomes part of the Jerusalem Municipality and is de-facto annexed – only a few of the inhabitants were offered Israeli citizenship or so-called Jerusalem IDs.[6]

1970s: An additional 0,123 km² is confiscated by the Israeli authorities to build the illegal Israeli settlements Gilo and Har Gilo.

1990s: After signing the Oslo Accords, the remaining two thirds of Al-Walajah are further divided into 2 parts. 2,192 km² are declared "Area C" (under full Israeli control), and 0,113 km² as "Area B" (under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control).

1996: Further agricultural land of the village is confiscated for the construction of the bypass road for the Har Gilo settlers. 

2003: Construction Plan of the Separation Wall               

The inhabitants of Al-Walajah receive a military order for land confiscation for the benefit of the Israeli Separation Wall. The construction plan of the Wall foresees the encircling of the village with a 7,9 km long Wall leaving only one access road with a checkpoint for people to enter and exit the village. The Wall is supposed to consist of 3,5 km barbed wired fence and a further 3,4 km long and 8 m high cement blocks. It encloses the houses while the agriculture land is behind the Wall, and thus cut off from the village. If the village inhabitants are not working their land for 3 years (no matter for what reason), then, according to an old Ottoman law, the land can be given to new owners, e.g. Israelis, who have access to the land.

2012: The Israeli government builds 797 housing units in the illegal settlement of Gilo, which are constructed on Al-Walajah land beyond the Wall encircling the village. At the same time, 50 houses of Al-Walajah are demolished as they do not have building permits, and a further 56 houses receive demolition orders from the Israeli military authorities.

2015: The construction of the "Refa'im Stream National Park[7]" starts, for which a further 1,2 km² of Al-Walajah‘s agricultural land between the Wall and the "Green Line" will be confiscated and become inaccessible for the villagers after the construction of the Wall is finalized.

2017: The Jerusalem Municipality officially requests moving the Ein Yalu / Ein Ya'el Checkpoint 5 km closer to Al-Walajah, entailing the confiscation of an additional 60 acres of agricultural land. 

2018 The Israeli army together with the Jerusalem Municipality move the Ein Yalu / Ein Ya’el Checkpoint, 1,5 km further South / West, blocking the access for Palestinians to the Ein Hania Spring on Al-Walajah land[8]

2020 The Israeli Civil Administration delivered final confiscation orders to the landowners for Tanateer Hills and Rweisat Mounting to the south/west of the village. 

2022 In July, the Israeli Civil Administration announced a final confiscation order to the Al-Walajah Village Council declaring part of the seized lands for settlement expansion under the name of Givaat Y’el- an expansion of Har Gilo settlement. 

2023 The Jerusalem Municipality has formally announced and started working on relocating the Israeli checkpoint leading to Al-Walajah. Moving the checkpoint approximately 2,5 km closer to Al-Walajah will prohibit Palestinians to access even more of their formerly owned land - approximately 1200 dunums of agricultural land, including the water spring Ein Haniya[9].

Significance for the village:

Al-Walajah shows the effects of the continuous confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli government and the repression of Palestinians, which are both integral parts of the occupation:

  • Reduced income opportunities through reduced agricultural land and access to markets and workplaces; Unemployment in Al-Walajah amounts currently to 40% compared to 18% in the remaining West Bank.
  • Insufficient medical care: Al-Walajah has one health centre with daily services from a nurse and a doctor who is available twice a week. If the only remaining access to Al-Walajah is closed, the inhbitants are cut off from further medical care and are dependent on coordination with the Israeli military authorities.
  • Inadequate access to education: there is a primary and middle school in the village, but secondary schools and universities are located outside of the village and are therefore difficult to access.
  • Lack of building permits and demolition of houses (due to lacking building permits) lead to planning insecurity and a life under constant threats and in fear.
  • Reduced access to social and cultural life, and to relatives and the extended families, which play an important role in the Palestinian society.
  • Imminent isolation of the village and alienation from the rest of the West Bank.
  • Due to this repression under occupation, more and more people cannot withstand the pressure and leave the village.

Women are the ones who are especially affected by this situation, as they are the ones who traditionally take care – and are expected to take care - of the family's well-being. Their tasks range from education and ensuring that there is sufficient food available, up to health care and especially psycho-social well-being. The outside pressure and circumstances of the occupation are mirrored in the community and the families and put a huge burden on the collective and individual mental well-being. The women are the ones who, on top of traditional work, have the burden to also try to alleviate this pressure, often at the cost of their own personal health. 

The confiscation of land and the continuous displacements prevent not only the emergence of a just peace, but instead increase the risk of violent escalation. 

[1] Art. 49, Geneva Convention, explicitly prohibits an occupying power to deport the local population or to transfer its own population to the occupied territory. 

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287. 10 April 2018.  >http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b36d2.html<

[2] Green Line: the 1949 Armistice Line, marked in green, is the internationally accepted border between Israel and the oPt (occupied Palestinian territory). Al-Haq, Annexation Wall and its Associated Regime, 2012, pg.7 http://www.alhaq.org/publications/publications-index/item/the-annexation-wall-and-its-associated-regime (Accessed: 09.04.2018)

[3] ibid

[4]„Since 2002, Israel has retained responsibility for overall security in all areas of the West Bank, and does not abdicate full authority over „Area A““, ibid

[5]The Palestinian term “Naksa” means “setback”.

[6] Palestinians who are allowed to live in Jerusalem but without having an Israeli Citizenship.

[7] B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: Refa’im Stream National Park, 2014; https://www.btselem.org/index.php/jerusalem/national_parks_refaim_stream (Accessed: 09.04.2018)

[8] “Flouting courts, Jerusalem pushes ahead with new West Bank checkpoint to keep Palestinians out of park”, In: Haaretz, 24.02.2018; https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-flouting-israeli-courts-work-on-new-jerusalem-checkpoint-goes-on-1.5824744 (Accessed: 09.04.2018)

“Moving West Bank checkpoint to block Palestinians from spring is illegal, state admits in court”, In: Haaretz, 06.03.2018; https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-state-admits-illegality-of-moving-west-bank-checkpoint-1.5883894 (Accessed: 09.04.2018)

[9] Ir Amim - “Israeli Authorities set to begin worlk to relocate Al-Walajah checkpoint” https://mailchi.mp/ir-amim/israeli-authorities-set-to-begin-work-to-relocate-al-walaja-checkpoint?e=f7e1245427