Bethlehem area - Wallaje, 30/12/2010 Afternoon
Bethlehem area - Wallaje
2:30 -5:30 PM
Since the four of us were available and a visit to our friends (where we all have to go and not just a part of our team) was long overdue, we decided to visit the families of the older A. and the younger A.
As we approached we noted that the stretch up from the CP had been widened and evened. The extension of Har Gilo is moving even faster than before and it usurps all the empty space till Wallaje. The wall is longer and therefore looks more ominous.
The older A. approached us smiling like always and told us that everything was just fine, despite the fact that his land had been taken away from him. The road leading to his house had been destroyed and the olive tree saplings planted by the army in the middle of the summer (as a compensation for his uprooted old trees) had of course succumbed to the heat of the long summer as A. had predicted. Only from another source we learned that his older son (a diploma-ed electrician, fed-up with the 90 NIS (Shekels) a day income in Bethlehem) had tried with a friend to earn some real money before the holidays and had been picked up in Jerusalem without a permit. The result was 30 days in prison and a fine of 1,500 NIS, his friend had stayed another two weeks in jail, since he was unable to raise the sum required for his release. Needless to say, they could not be with their families during the feast. We were served tea with honey, the last rest of the meager yield of his beehives and fruit he had had to buy. There are no longer weekly demonstrations against the wall; it depends on whether the Internationals initiate it. The villagers are sure that the huge `holy' tree near their water sources where the ultra orthodox Jews take their baths will soon no longer be accessible to them and be annexed to Israel. The future for Wallaje looks bleak, but he didn't complain and was pleased with the fact that his Israeli friends remember him.
The younger A. looked thin and sad. His children are a delight; the oldest is finishing high school this year and wants to study nursing, since there is no possibility for him to become a vet. His parents have instilled in all the children the importance of studying. A. has a permit to work in Jerusalem and usually is able to make 200 NIS a day. He said that unskilled laborers like him in Bethlehem hardly make 60 NIS a day and he spends 30 NIS alone on transportation for his four children to get to school. He cannot even envisage how he will pay tuition fees next year for his oldest son. All the children speak English fluently, taught by their mother who had had a superb education in Kuwait. She longs to visit Jerusalem again. The inhabitants of Wallaje in possession of a valid work permit used to be able to cross the Ein Yael CP without problems until two weeks ago. According to A. it is just a whim of the commander of the CP, but all have been told to pass through Bethlehem - CP 300, a tremendous detour which involves an extra hour both ways and additional costs.