Amoula il Majnoona

Amoula's blog from Ramallah

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bus No. 23

Two kilometers outside Bethlehem coming in from Jerusalem is Jebel Abu Ghneim which was once a green forest with 60,000 pine trees, and hundreds of animals and plants. The land's owners are from Bethlehem, Bayt Sahour, Sur Baher and Um Tuba. In 1997, the Israelis began destroying the forest by uprooting all the trees in order to build Har Homa settlement. Now I see there is new construction on the bottom of the mountain as well.

I could not continue on the historical road which connects Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Hebron ( bus number 23's route) because the wall chopped it here.

Standing in front of the wall and looking to the right I saw the wall criss-crossing across the landscape and cutting Bethlehem off from her agricultural lands.

In order to enter Bethlehem, we had to make a left and get off the Jerusalem-Hebron Road. Here we are stopped at the first checkpoint and we are looking ahead. Soldiers are checking our passports.

After passing through the first checkpoint, we made a right and we were able to enter Bethlehem through the large gate. You can see a tourist bus on its way out exiting the city. Palestinian I.D. holders can not enter or exit from here.

In case you didn't notice in the other picture, the Israel Ministry of Tourism strung up a poster about "peace" ON the wall which has turned the city of Bethlehem into a ghetto. This is one of the most vile ironies of a tourist poster I have ever seen.

Once inside Bethlehem, I made a right to try to get back to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road.

We got lost and ended up in what seemed like an endless maze of wall.

Everywhere I looked I saw the wall, in all directions.
Here we got out of the car and had to walk. I wanted to get to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road and examine the area around Rachel's Tomb and we couldn't drive since the road was blocked, chopped and split in several places.

This is Claire Anastas' house. It is surrounded all all three sides by the wall.

Back on the Jerusalem-Hebron Road businesses have been shut down as the wall has completely shut them in (or out). As you can see there is no road here, it is more like an alleyway - the rest of the once wide road is on the other side of the wall - part of Rachel's Tomb.

Here facing the direction of Hebron, the Rachel's Tomb complex on the right behind the wall. The road to the left of the house leads to Manger Square. Rachel's Tomb and the surrounding area which they have enclosed behind the wall is all Bethlehem's land. In September 2006 the Israeli government offically annexed it as part of Jerusalem.

This is the southside of Rachel's Tomb. Rachel's Tomb now has two settler families living in it. They are building a yeshiva and plan to have 400 apartments for Israeli settlers. It won't be long until we end up like Hebron...

This is the view from the northside of Rachel's Tomb, and the Llama Brothers souvenir shop cut off from the rest of Bethlehem.

Along the side of the wall and the Llama brothers souvenir shop.

We backtracked and walked along the road in the direction of Jerusalem until we reached the wall. (This is what the other side of the Jerusalem-Hebron Road which I couldn't stay on looks like. See second picture.)

This is where Palestinian I.D. holders have to line up to enter or exit. There will only be two entrances in and out of Bethlehem.

We went back to the car and found our way back to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road past Rachel's Tomb, but to get to Hebron we made a right at Bab Al-Zaq and headed to Bayt Jalla instead of going straight. There was no way to stay on this road as the road was cut off again before Dheishe Camp. We stopped at the top of Bayt Jalla to see the olive trees the Israelis had chopped down. This marks the route of the wall as it snakes its way up here. All of Bayt Jalla's agricultural lands will be on the other side cut off from her people. The next time I stand here I will not be able to see this vista, I will only see grey concrete.

This is Hebron's old market. The last time I was here was 2000. It was a bustling commercial and cultural area then. Now it is a ghost town. The city of Hebron is surrounded with checkpoints, road blocks and military barriers cutting roads leading to other parts of the city. The most violent settlers in the West Bank live in the center of Hebron in homes they stole from Palestinians. They routinely attack Palestinians in an effort to get them to leave. They are heavily guarded by 2000 members of the Israeli Army.
Please see:

Is this Bethlehem's future?


At 5:36 AM, Blogger Teletronics said...

Hi Emily,

The photographs were very informative, and gives me a good perspective as to how bad the situation is for Palestinians living in Bethlehem and the rest of Palestine are.

Uncle Alex.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Mary said...

these photos speak 1,000 words!

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Bintelbalad said...

Hi Emily,
Thank you for your excellent photo-essay entitled "Bus No.23." Do you know if the Jacir Palace was ever a school in the 30's or 40's? I have tons of photos of my husband's great-aunt on the palace's premises, balcony and courtyard with her students and her scouts.

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