Life and Death in al-‘Izariyya
The village of al-‘Izariyya has historically been connected to Jerusalem. Although it lies a mere 9 km east of the city center, al-‘Izariyya has been blocked off from Jerusalem by the Separation Wall, on the one end, and the massive Ma‘ale Adumim settlement bloc, on the other. This has impacted every aspect of life for Palestinians in the village, including access to healthcare services and education, business opportunities, and social development. Ahmad and Laith, two young men residing in al-‘Izariyya, had to contend with this while caring for their mother.
Ahmad,1 25, from al-‘Izariyya, expressed how narrow the scope of his life felt in the village after its full besiegement by the wall and surrounding settlements—“min el-duwwar lal-jidar” (“from the roundabout to the wall”).
He also described how local residents find it difficult imagining any future, when life is restricted to a zone alongside a wall, on the one end, and an ever-expanding settlement bloc, on the other. Locals would jokingly say, “biqdaru yea’eqdu wa-ysawu tabiq tani fuqna” (“they could just say the hell with it and build a second floor on top of us”).
The wall disrupts the social well-being of the communities it dissects, as it separates them from educational and health infrastructure. Ahmad described how, before construction on the wall began in 2004, he used to attend a good school in al-Tur, where he studied alongside classmates from diverse backgrounds from all around East Jerusalem. This, he said, made him feel part of a bigger society.
The wall forced families to move their children to schools within their own neighborhoods. For Ahmad, this meant attending subpar schools in al-‘Izariyya with limited resources and unqualified teachers. It also put an end to the diverse life he knew in al-Tur, and to socialization beyond the bounds of al-‘Izariyya more broadly.
Ahmad’s father, an air conditioning technician, also suffered as a result of the wall. He lost many customers, both Arab and Jewish, on the other side of the wall, and he had to work with the limited local clientele, dramatically reducing his income.
Ahmad also shared the story of his mother. In the late summer of 2019, Ahmad and his four siblings learned that their mother had cancer. They quickly applied for and obtained permits for her to enter Jerusalem to be treated in Makassed Hospital in al-Tur. They also requested and received permits to accompany her. While it is the only hospital that treats such conditions in the area, an ambulance sent from Makassed can take up to one hour to reach al-‘Izariyya due to the wall.
After receiving the permits, Ahmad and Laith were informed that their permits were revoked without explanation. Even though the hospital is only a 15-minute drive from their home in al-‘Izariyya, Ahmad and Laith were prevented from accompanying their mother to her chemotherapy sessions.
A few months into her treatment, their mother passed away in al-Tur, on the other side of the wall. She and her children did not get to say their goodbyes.2
Research for this story was completed in summer 2020.
For more on the story of Ahmad, Laith, and their mother, see Laith Abu Zeyad, “Why Is Israel Preventing Me from Accompanying My Mother to Chemotherapy?” Amnesty International, December 16, 2019; Amnesty International, “Israel/OPT: Amnesty Staff Member to Speak at UN Human Rights Council about His Punitive Travel Ban,” July 15, 2020.