Israeli Settlements Divide Palestinian Village Settlement construction of Jewish housing in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is booming. The construction has a direct impact on Palestinians — especially in Walajah. The village falls half in and half out of the boundaries of Jerusalem, and it is nearly surrounded by settlements.

Israeli Settlements Divide Palestinian Village

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro visited a tiny village on the edge of Jerusalem.

LOURDES GARCIA: In Walaja's recent history, the village has been moved, its people scattered, its land eroded and now, they're facing isolation. Palestinians here say it's a microcosm of the conflict. And it shows no signs of abating.

MONTAGNE: My name is Ahmed Darash. My village is al-Walaja.

GARCIA: We are sitting near the village spring on a blustery winter day with one of the village elders.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Slowly, they began to rebuild the village on land located in what was then territory controlled by Jordan. Then, after the 1967 war, Israel took over the area. Land was slowly expropriated, Darash says. Houses were demolished. And then the settlements started to rise.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: And then, recently, came the news that more land was going to be confiscated to finish building a wall that will completely fence the village in.

MONTAGNE: (Through translator) This wall will eat up more than 2,000 dunams of Walaja land.

GARCIA: Land that has two important landmarks that are essential to village life. We walk down into the farmlands that nestle in a steep valley. Nadia Awadalah lives in al-Walaja.

MONTAGNE: (Through translator) All this area in front of you here is going to be confiscated by the Israelis. It includes graveyards - a graveyard here to your right and a graveyard here to your left. There's also a spring of water from which the whole village gets its water. They want to include it in the area which they want to confiscate.

GARCIA: Underneath a row of trees are several mounds built into the hillside. Among those buried here was a young man who was killed during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s. His father just died this past month but, says Nadia, they buried him in another part of the village.

MONTAGNE: (Through translator) One reason why we did not bury his father here is because of the risk that we take in burying a new one here. Imagine burying him, and then the Israelis coming and opening the grave and desecrating his grave. So we did not take a chance.

GARCIA: The villagers have petitioned the court to stop construction of the wall near the graves and spring. And while the case is being reviewed, building in this area has halted. But nearby, work is continuing on a new access road for settlers. It, too, is on land that was once part of Walaja. And above them in Har Gilo, new homes are being built. Meanwhile, the villagers say any new home they try to build is under threat of demolition by Israel.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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