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Rubbish,walls & failing infrastructure in East Jerusalem

rubbish, walls & failing infrastructure in east jerusalem

Treated as foreign immigrants in their own city where Entry into Israel Law applies, and threatened with automatic revocation of their residency rights if they fail to prove that Jerusalem is their centre of life, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are forced to live in compromised housing conditions. Their numbers grew from about 69,000 in 1967 when Israel occupied and annexed East Jerusalem to about 324,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, Israel has failed to meet their basic housing and infrastructure needs. Only 13 per cent of the annexed 71 km² has been zoned for construction, much of which is already built up, while 35 per cent has been confiscated for settlement building, 22 per cent designated as green areas, and 30 per cent remains unplanned. 

The unmet rise in demand for housing, the racialised and unaffordable planning and zoning regulations, along with rendering the place of residency a prerequisite for retaining residency rights, meant that the available housing in East Jerusalem is unaffordable for the majority of Palestinian families, 79 per cent of whom live below the poverty line (2015). Many of those living in the Old City and its vicinity, for example, have been forced to live in severe overcrowding, inadequate, dilapidated conditions, build with no construction permits, thus risking criminalisation and demolition of their homes, or move to neighbourhoods behind the wall. 

 In 2002, the Israeli government approved the construction of a barrier, citing security grounds. The barrier, also known as the separation wall, is a complex of ditches, fences, patrol roads, barred wires, an electronic monitoring system and a concrete wall in urban areas. It runs along 708 km, more than twice the 320-km-long Green Line (1949 armistice line) between Israel and the West Bank. As of 2011, about 62 per cent has been completed. Only 15 per cent of the entire planned route will be on the Green Line, 85 per cent runs inside the West Bank. 

 The wall in East Jerusalem is 8-9-metre high. Its route includes all of East Jerusalem settlements and the land allotted to their future expansion on the Jerusalem side of the wall and leaves out large Palestinian neighbourhoods on the West Bank side of the wall where access to Jerusalem is controlled by military checkpoints.  

 It is estimated that a third of the Palestinian Jerusalemites live in Kafr Aqab and Shufat Refugee Camp area, both behind the wall but within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.  The neighbourhoods are forgotten about. Neglect and chaos are commonplace. Construction of high-rise buildings with little or no regard to health and safety goes unsupervised and unregulated. Density in the neighbourhoods is so high that in the event of an earthquake, UNRWA estimates that about 80 per cent of the buildings around Shuafat Refugee Camp will collapse. Infrastructure is overstretched and not fit to accommodate the rising number of residents. Sewage overflows in the streets, uncollected rubbish gets burned and water supply is irregular/insufficient.  

After years of repeated complaints by residents, the Jerusalem municipality subcontracted private businessmen to collect rubbish. The sanitation situation, nonetheless, is still far from being addressed accordingly and falls short of residents’ needs. “I have nowhere but the street,” said a young man who was coming out of his building on the main Kafr Aqab road, carrying in his hand a plastic bag full of rubbish, and accompanied by his wife and little baby. “Dustbins are either full, overflowing or a long distance away from the building. I can’t keep it at home. I’m left with no choice but to dispose of it in the street,” he complained. 

The series of photographs highlights the built conditions in the neighbourhoods of Kafr Aqab and Shufat Refugee Camp/ both within Jerusalem municipality but lie behind the wall.