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Razan Wazwaz, Student, Bethlehem University , R2E Campaign, Bethlehem University , 15 December 2008
As a Bethlehem University student who comes from Jerusalem, my journey to university is much longer than other students who come from Bethlehem and the West Bank, even though it’s just 10 Kilometers. It normally takes 20 minutes by car, but it takes me two hours. Everyday I have to go through Israeli checkpoints, I have to go through inspection, and my body must be exposed daily to X-ray machines and radiation, where I stand in queues waiting to be checked.
Sadly, as I have noticed, people from the West Bank forget this part and usually consider us to be more privileged, calling us so ‘damn lucky’ to be living in Jerusalem with an Israeli ID. As well, some refer to us as ‘Israelis’, and others accuse us of not feeling the real suffering of the Palestinians. And no matter how hard I try to explain that this Israeli ID means nothing, and that we also suffer in other ways, I always get the same answer that never changes: ‘At least you will be employed after you graduate’.
Ok, I will not try to deny this part, here in Jerusalem we have better job opportunities. But that doesn’t mean our life is just perfect. We also have our share of suffering which may be different from what people from the West Bank go through, but it does affect us and make our life in Jerusalem very hard and challenging
Here are just a few of our issues:.
You don’t have to be incredibly perceptive to understand that the infrastructure of the Arab neighborhoods is extremely bad and totally neglected by the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem. Just take a walk in an Arab neighborhood, you will see uneven, rough, potholed streets and a stifling traffic crisis because the roads are just too narrow. In addition to that, the sewage systems in the Arab areas are normally damaged, and the municipality takes too long to fix them, sometimes years.
High Taxes and Discrimination
If you live in Jerusalem this means that you will have to pay taxes. Taxes like Arnona which is a discriminatory residential tax imposed on the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. It’s normally very expensive and not everyone can afford it, therefore, it jeopardizes the existence of the Palestinians in the city and their ability of maintaining a decent living. And even though the Arabs and the Israelis pay the same service taxes, we are treated differently, as second-class citizens. The western part of Jerusalem, which is populated by Jewish Israelis, is cleaner, more organized, and receives better services, including medical services.
Building permits are rarely issued to Palestinian citizens in East Jerusalem who have to wait years to get one, sometimes more than five years. Moreover, it’s very expensive, it and can cost millions of shekels, which means not everybody can afford it . And, in East Jerusalem, some fed-up and impatient citizens often decide to build houses without this permission. When this happens, the Israeli Municipality is suddenly awake. They immediately decide to demolish the house and, to add to that, the citizens usually have to pay large fines as a punishment. This has been the case for so long and thousands of houses in Jerusalem and its suburbs have been demolished.
Just last week, another house was demolished in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood (The Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem was built by the UN and the Jordanian government in 1956 to house Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war). The family which had lived in a house there since 1956 was forced to evacuate the house. Afterwards the house was demolished by Israeli forces
Jerusalemites who study or work in the West bank have to go through checkpoints daily and get inspected and checked, which can take hours every day. This is where the Israeli ID certainly doesn’t do any good. The Israeli ID doesn’t give us any advantage or make our lives any easier. After all, we are Arabs, and according to the Israeli government, we might be very dangerous to the safety of Israel and that’s why we should be inspected. At least that’s what they tell us, but sometimes it feels like much more. Sometimes it feels like discrimination.
Now I wonder if anyone from the West Bank would look me in the eye and say that our lives as Jerusalemites are just perfect.
But what I know very well is, that being a Palestinian no matter where you live, you will have to suffer. At least according to the Israeli Rules!