Bethlehem, Tue 25.5.10, Afternoon
From 12:30 till 4:30 PM
Wallaje: worried by the situation in Wallaje and especially near the home of our elderly friend A. we had made an appointment to take a journalist to his house. We met him at the Ein Yael CP and first went to inspect how far the damaging tracts had proceeded - we actually already saw the razed countryside from the street in the Katamonim on our way.
At the entrance to Wallaje a second electrified fence with coiled barbed wires was being installed under the new housing construction of Har Gilo and in the middle of the village was a huge earthmound that had never been there before. Where the tract of the fence will continue the archeologists are conducting some excavations and we saw amongst others a beautiful press. The surveyor who was measuring the land was unwilling to show us the head of the expedition, but when we found him he turned out to be very familiar with Y. and her publications.
We went to A's house and as we were offered cold water and apricots fresh from the trees two men (a journalist and a photographer) from Zman Yerushalayim (of Maariv) walked in - maybe invited by A's brother who is a journalist in Beit Jalla. A. explained to our guest the history of the fishy land dealings dating back to 1983, pertaining to the plans of the future settlement of Givat Yael and how he feared for his land and the graveyard of his family on his plot.
Just then he was called to speak to some officials of the Ministry of Defense and we all climbed up the road to see what this was all about. The officials, Shlomo and Zion came equipped with maps called ‘Plan of Har Gilo Nuisances'. They were well protected by a great number of armed civil security guards in ceramic vests.
With the help of a polite Druze officer called Nabil who did the translating and the support of a high-ranking officer called Robert it was explained to A. why he would have to give up some more land including 80 olive trees and his family cemetery. We were afraid that this nice 63-year old man would have a heart attack in the heat of the day. He and his sons used to work in Jerusalem, but since they are denied permits, he tries to make ends meet by cultivating his land. He begged for special permission to reach his land and the graves and was promised a gate in the fence, but we unfortunately have experience with those gates that never open. It was suggested they replant the trees, but he said that in the middle of the summer they would not survive the ordeal. One of the men told us that the width of the wall is a hundred meters, but depending on the topography it may be much less. He told us that on the top of the village where it borders Har Gilo the fence is less than 20 meters wide, but even so, the newly built houses had to give up a part of their gardens to make room for its construction. One of the guards asked us whether we had been as supportive towards the inhabitants of Gush Katif when they were evacuated, but as we tried to explain the tiny difference in circumstances the man was called away by a colleague - we are not allowed to talk and he is not allowed to listen!
A. proceeded to show the journalists the location of the cemetery and it turns out that despite the promise that it would not be destroyed an oak tree giving shadow to the graves is slated for destruction. He then insisted we have coffee and provided the journalist with some more info and data. We left very heavy-hearted and hope against better wisdom that a piece in the newspaper may alleviate the damage somewhat.