Five Minutes from Home

Five Minutes from Home takes a look back at a time when Jerusalem was open to the world, and locals and visitors from anywhere could freely come and go through Jerusalem International Airport.


Nahed Awwad and Al Jazeera Documentary Channel (Documentary, 2008, 52 min, Arabic)

Once a hub for the entire world, Jerusalem International Airport near Kufr ‘Aqab now lies forgotten and is threatened with replacement by the expanding Israeli settlement of Atarot. Built in 1924 under the Colonial British Mandate, the airport lies on the former (now-blocked) Jerusalem-Ramallah Road, 5 kilometers from Ramallah and 10 kilometers from Jerusalem. Although it handled international commercial flights before 1967, when it was the only international airport in the West Bank, after that time, since it was in an occupied area, it was banned from accepting international air traffic and relegated only to Israeli local and charter flights. In October 2000, Israel closed the airport to civilian air traffic, and in July 2001, it was turned over to the Israel Defense Forces. It was used as an Israeli military base until June 2003, when it was closed entirely, and the runway was deemed no longer fit for use.

Palestinians refer to it as Qalandiya Airport; Israel calls it Atarot Airport. The Palestinians envision developing this airport into their own hub within a future Palestinian state, and this possibility was discussed in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 1999–2000.

In late 2020, the Israeli District Planning and Building Committee in Jerusalem announced plans to build 9,000 new settlements in Atarot, on the land of the airport, which would eradicate it, along with the possibility of a future Palestinian airport. On February 9, 2021, the Israeli Housing Ministry submitted a building plan for this project.

Filmmaker Nahed Awwad set out to learn the story of the airport by finding those who used to run, staff, and use it. Her discoveries of a vibrant, open past pose a sharp contrast with the asphyxiating realities of closure, fragmentation, and isolation that define the Jerusalem region for Palestinians in the present. The viewer is left wondering, where has that Jerusalem, the vibrant hub of a growing and pulsing Arab region, gone?

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