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Analysis: Many Palestinians Relocating Within Jerusalem For Fear of Being Sealed Off From the City as a Result of Israel's New Security Barrier

Morning Edition: April 12, 2004

Barrier Prompts Palestinians to Relocate to Jerusalem


At his home in Texas today, President Bush meets with Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. Later this week, the president will hold talks with Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Israel's security barrier is prompting thousands of Palestinians living on the outskirts of Jerusalem to move into the eastern, traditionally Arab side of the city. Many fear that the barrier eventually will seal off Jerusalem from the West Bank and separate the Palestinians from jobs, schools and hospitals in the city. From Jerusalem, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE McCARTHY reporting:

While there are no official statistics on the number of Palestinians flowing to Jerusalem, Palestinian authorities estimate that some 15,000 people have already relocated. In desperation, some have taken up residence inside the walled Old City in improbable places.

Unidentified Man #1: (Through Translator) Here on the street, it was a passageway for people from that part of the road to that part of the road. They closed it and made it into a house.

McCARTHY: How many people live here?

Unidentified Man #1: Six people.

McCARTHY: Locals say sealing this once narrow walkway in the warrens of the Muslim quarter is only a minor inconvenience. A widow, her son and family moved in to this damp spot three months ago to escape being trapped on the other side of Israel's barrier. This low-slung passageway is now a tidy, tiny, florescent-lit home. A pillow pokes from the ancient stone ceiling. Local activist Ahmed Taha(ph) pulls it down, revealing a drainage grate.

What happens when it rains in here?

Mr. AHMED TAHA (Activist): (Foreign language spoken)

McCARTHY: `To catch the water,' he says, `there are pots everywhere.' The family is out when Ahmed Taha invites visitors to see what Palestinians resort to in order to preserve their right to live in the city. Many new arrivals shun publicity for fear of jeopardizing their Israeli IDs, which are difficult to obtain and, they say, easily revoked. Israeli officials say their only concern in monitoring IDs is keeping potential suicide bombers out of Jerusalem.

After seizing East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israel extended its laws to the formerly Arab-held sector and issued Israeli IDs to 70,000 Palestinians there. The blue card confers permanent residency and entitlements such as health benefits and social security.


McCARTHY: Pulling bread from an oven, baker Abu Ali(ph) says he needs those benefits. Born in the Old City 66 years ago, Abu Ali left to raise a family in one of the more spacious, less expensive nearby suburbs. But now those suburbs are about to be cut off by Israel's barrier, and the prospect of being isolated on the other side sent Abu Ali racing back to Jerusalem, where his family now lives, eight to a room. Abu Ali decries the new boundaries he says the barrier is creating.

Mr. ABU ALI (Baker): (Through Translator) Everywhere to me is Jerusalem. Ramallah is Jerusalem. Bethlehem is Jerusalem. This is how we used to live. Now they're separating everything. Now they're putting walls separating everything, and this is something I cannot cope with.


McCARTHY: The family of Musa Ayub(ph) has had to trade the quiet of Bethany on the West Bank for the noise of the Old City. The daily commute to his job as a garbage collector in Jerusalem took up to seven hours after Israel's barrier isolated his village. Musa says he had to abandon his Bethany home or lose his job. He lives now in his grandfather's place, tucked among the jerry-rigged units of Jerusalem's Muslim quarter. As the call to prayer wafts through the window, Musa complains about the lack of privacy and space. Sixteen relatives share this apartment that is rotten with mold, making the children sick. With expenses now twice his salary, Musa watches his debts rise and his future sink.

Mr. MUSA AYUB (Resident): (Through Translator) The difference is catastrophic between before and now. Now I lost my dream of being a happy, free human being.

McCARTHY: Musa's wife feels less free. With no Israeli ID, she says she ventures out only rarely for fear of being arrested.

Musa's Wife: (Through Translator) I feel like I have a life sentence in this house.

McCARTHY: The new influx of Palestinians to Jerusalem is one of the unintended consequences of Israel's barrier, a trend that Israeli authorities are likely to watch with concern.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Jerusalem.

EDWARDS: The time is 19 minutes past the hour.

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