Living in and around a combat zone like the Occupied Territories in Israel is complicated and extraordinary. Interviewing people from both sides to understand how this conflict impacts their daily lives. It tough looking for answers to this complicated conflict. Everything depends on what side of the conflict you are on.
In Jerusalem, you are either an Israeli or Palestinian. Both sides claim this small piece of land as their “home.” This land is divided by walls of hatred, fear, anger, and concrete. I wanted to understand why. I am going to try and put some cracks into those almost impenetrable walls.
The State of Israel was established in 1948, in an area known then as Palestine. The new nation’s borders almost immediately exploded into a war. The War of Independence led to a Palestinian Exodus into two territories: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on either side of Israel. Today some Israeli settlers are staking claim to land in the West Bank by building communities there called settlements.
With the settlers come the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) that protect them. There also come the Palestinian protestors that want the settlers out. I was curious to find out why anyone would want to live in such a volatile place. Usually, Palestinians are not allowed into the settlements for security reasons. This decision is very controversial because the settlement is technically in Palestinian territory.
Most Israeli families want to live a normal life, away from all the controversy. To an outsider, all they hear is that the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories are the reason that there is no peace agreement.
An American-Israeli settler named Tomer says, “When we came here there was nobody here, so we didn’t take anybody’s land. The hill we live on had nobody around it, and nobody was using it.”
For some Israelis, the settlements offer an affordable place to raise a family. But for the Palestinians is about getting land back they already claim as their own. Refugee camps are where many Palestinians came to live after they were displaced from their homes after Israel became a nation.
The camps started out as communities of tents for displaced Palestinian families. Now, over the last 70 years, they have grown into makeshift housing for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israeli settlements are being built up all around the camps.
Mazin, a Palestinian activist, says, “The settlements affect my daily life. Most of the time in the summer we are without water. Most of the time in the winter without electricity. This happens because every month there is an increase in the number in the settlement.”
As the settlements push deeper into the West Bank the tensions increase. Roads leading into the settlements become battlegrounds.
“The bus stop near my house has been bombed three times,” said Udi, an Israeli student. “You can get blown up just going to school. We are restricted to living inside the fence of our settlement. The Palestinians can go wherever they want. It’s scary to be afraid all the time.”
Israel says that this increased violence is the reason they built the walls and checkpoints that surround the Palestinian territories. Many Palestinians cannot pass through these checkpoints at all. Mariam, a Palestinian refugee, living in the West Bank cannot visit her son living in the Gaza Strip on the other side of Israel.
The settlements force the Palestinians and Israelis to live closer and closer together and pulling them further and further apart.