For Palestinian Jerusalemites who live outside the Separation Wall and want to go to downtown Jerusalem or Bethlehem, a labyrinthine maze awaits.


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Blog Post

For Palestinian Jerusalemites Living beyond the Wall, Driving Anywhere Is an Obstacle Course These Days

Ever since the events of October 7, Jerusalem’s Palestinians living beyond the Israeli Separation Wall have faced huge problems simply traveling within the city limits of Jerusalem.

Palestinian Jerusalemites hold Israeli-issued permanent resident IDs, which in theory give them the right to travel freely in the country (unlike Palestinians holding Palestinian Authority IDs, who need military entry permits to enter Jerusalem and Israel—permits that for laborers were revoked after October 7, 2023). But the situation on the ground today is much more complicated and restrictive than it ever was.


Case Study The Ghettoization of Kufr ‘Aqab

The Separation Wall and municipal neglect have transformed the Palestinian village of Kufr ‘Aqab into an overcrowded, dangerous urban ghetto slum.

An interactive map of the checkpoints around Jerusalem that control Palestinian access to the city


Jerusalem Story Team

The Road to Bethlehem

Among all Jerusalemites, those who live beyond the wall south and east of the city face the most challenging obstacle course when they venture out into the city. If you live in Bethlehem, hold an Israeli permanent-resident ID, and drive a car with Israeli (yellow) license plates, your ability to drive 10 miles to Jerusalem, for example, is extremely limited. Huge cement blocks have been placed at the District Coordination and Liaison Office (DCO) checkpoint in Beit Jala. All other side roads are blocked, either with huge dirt mounds or similar cement blocks. Therefore, Palestinian Jerusalemites can travel from or to Bethlehem on foot, but not by car.

Palestinian Jerusalemites can travel from or to Bethlehem on foot, but not by car.

Another checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint, is completely closed, and the tunnel road built for the Jewish settler comfort is inaccessible to anyone living in the Bethlehem district. The only way a person can drive from downtown Jerusalem to downtown Bethlehem is to use the long and windy hazardous Wadi Nar Road, which turns what is normally a 10-minute drive into an unpredictable hour-long trip. The trip is unpredictable because it involves passing through the so-called Container military checkpoint near Abu Dis, which can be closed at any time without notice.

And even if it is open when you head toward Bethlehem, there is no guarantee that it will be open when you want to return home to Jerusalem.

Case Study The Road from Ramallah to Bethlehem

The Separation Wall blocked the road between the historically interconnected cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah, forcing Palestinians to use a long, roundabout, hazardous route.

Kufr ‘Aqab and Other Northern Neighborhoods

Jerusalemites who live in the northern tip of the city and beyond the wall (see Neighborhoods beyond the Wall) can enter the rest city after passing one of three checkpoints, and they also face long delays, especially during the morning and afternoon hours. 

The Qalandiya checkpoint, which was completely closed immediately after October 7, is the main checkpoint for all Palestinian entry to the city from points north. After two weeks, it was partially reopened for cars (yellow-plated only) but is extremely slow. Passengers’ IDs are checked, followed by a physical inspection of the car and especially the trunk, all of which cause hours-long delays.

Palestinian pedestrians wishing to pass through Qalandiya checkpoint to Jerusalem confronted a locked gate on November 23, 2023.

The gate that Palestinian pedestrians normally pass to move through Qalandiya checkpoint to Jerusalem is locked on November 23, 2023, as it has been most of the time since October 7, 2023.


Mahsom Watch

Some prefer to use the Hizma checkpoint (where only vehicular passage is allowed), which has fewer delays but is generally unreachable during the morning hours, because it is used by Israeli settlers driving in to the city from the surrounding settlements. The checkpoint at the Jaba intersection is off limits to Palestinian Jerusalemites coming from Kufr ‘Aqab between 5 and 7:30 a.m. every day, to accommodate Israeli Jewish settler traffic. During those hours, settler drivers coming from the areas east of Ramallah (and anyone driving an Israeli yellow-plated car) are given priority. Palestinian Jerusalemites who would normally have access to the same road that settlers use are unable to reach it, because the Ramallah DCO checkpoint near Beit El has been closed since October 7, 2023.

While Jerusalemites can still manage to drive to downtown Jerusalem albeit with delays, those who rely on public transportation have a much bigger problem. Two weeks into the war, the Qalandiya checkpoint was finally reopened to pedestrian traffic; however, only for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. This meant that all residents needing to get to and from work or school had to arrive en masse at the same time, creating hours-long delays.

Otherwise, the checkpoint is closed to pedestrians, forcing commuters to use the single bus route connecting downtown East Jerusalem to Kufr ‘Aqab. Commuters must wait in line—and the lines are long—to find a bus seat.

Most Israelis and the international community have no interest in the welfare of Jerusalemites living beyond the wall. Palestinians cannot legally challenge these clearly discriminatory practices because Israel has declared war and therefore emergency war laws are in effect. Such laws give the Israeli security services wide-ranging freedom to execute the policies they choose without regard to the right of travel or the rule of law and the principle of equality—rights, rules, and principles that Israel has never implemented in this arena in any case.

All residents needing to get to and from work or school had to arrive en masse at the same time, creating hours-long delays.