Omar Hajajla may have a private gateway to his home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but it is hardly a sign of luxury: it runs beneath an Israeli barrier that cuts him and his family off from the rest of their nearby Palestinian village.
Israel began building its illegal West Bank Separation Wall in 2002, saying it was to protect its national security.
But the wall’s circuitous route along and through the West Bank, which Palestinians call a land grab, slices through Palestinian communities and stops farmers from accessing their land.
In Hajajla’s case, it boxed him off from his village of Al-Walaja, near Bethlehem, part of the occupied West Bank.
Prison may be better than this, because even though I am at home, it feels like prison
said Hajajla, 53, who lives in the house with his wife and three children.
After appealing to Israel’s Supreme Court, Hajajla in 2013 reached a settlement under which the Israeli Defence Ministry built a tunnel and a remote-operated gate under the barrier, he said, giving his family access to their village.
That underground bypass road, strewn with graffiti, is now the sole entrance to Hajajla’s home.
The family needs permission from Israel’s military to use their remote control to open the gate and take their children to school or go to the grocery store, Hajajla says.
Israel could take away his remote access if he violates a series of conditions, Hajajla says, including having guests over without coordinating their visit in advance with the military.
“My wife and I try as much as we can to keep our life normal,” Hajajla said. “We try to give our kids a break from this routine, to teach them that this is our land, our country, and we will never let it slip away.”
US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stalled in 2014. A new US peace plan, unveiled by President Donald Trump last month, was seen to be hugely in favour of Israel while not providing Palestinians even the most basic rights.
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