Palestinian Profile: Nahalin, A Village in Danger

The story of the inhabitants of Nahalin is a story of marginalization and isolation. Surrounded by Israeli settlements, by-pass roads and military bases, the residents of this village, which lies 10 kilometers south-west of Bethlehem, have been deprived of more than 60% of their lands. Nevertheless, they continue resisting.

A view of the Beitar Illit settlement, from Nahalin (photo: Marta Fortunato, AIC)

“We don’t have a vital space for living, we are squeezed between the Green Line, the  settlements and the Israeli military camps.” Dib stares at his native village from the top of the hill, his eyes are sad, hopeless. “Nahalin is in danger, the Israeli policy of land confiscation and the settlement project have completely isolated Nahalin from the rest of the West Bank.”

The village is located in the Bethlehem governorate. This is a land full of orchards and olive trees, a land targeted by the Israeli army since 1967. In 40 years the geography of the area has been completely changed and distorted since large areas of land have been confiscated and others have been replaced by settlements and Israeli military camps. According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), Nahalin has lost more than 60% of its original area since 1967. “In the East we can see the Neve Daniyyel settlement, in the South there are a military camp and the Gush Etzion settlement block, in the West we see the growing Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit”, Dib N., 45, born and raised in Nahalin, told the Alternative Information Center. (AIC). His expression is sad, his words leave little hope for the future. In this area the Palestinian population has been gradually reduced to 7,000, while the number of settlers has been growing and already exceeds 30,000.
The first settlements of the area were established in the 1970s. In the 1980s, additional settlements including Geva’ot (1984), Beitar Illit (1985) and Rosh Zurim (1986) were built on lands confiscated by Israel from the inhabitants of Nahalin and the neighboring villages,  Wadi Fuqin and Hussan. In 1989, during the First Intifada, Nahalin was the center of violent clashes: 6 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army and numerous others injured and arrested.
Under the 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement, Nahalin territories were divided into two areas: 91% of the total area of the village was classified as Area C, under full Israeli security and administrative control, while the remaining 9% was classified as Area B, administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA) but under Israeli security control.
“This division has worsened our problems”, Dib continues, “as it completely blocked the urban expansion of the village and forced us to live in a tiny and limited area”. In fact, building in Area C is virtually impossible. Permits are issued by the Israeli Civil Administration, the building license policy of which is rigid and the approval rate for Palestinian building permits applications is extremely low. According to the Israeli Civil Administration data, between 2000 and 2007 the approval rate was just 5,5%, while the rejection rate reached 94,5%.
In 1995 Israel started to build the bypass road connecting the settlement block of Gush Etzion with Beitar Illit. Not only did this cause irreparable environmental damage, but Israel also confiscated hundreds of dunams of Nahalin land and uprooted more than 2,000 olive trees. Since then, the isolation and the marginalization of Nahalin’s inhabitants have worsened. Today, if you want to go from Bethlehem to Nahalin, you must cross two small underpasses to avoid the by-pass roads, then you must drive on a small dirt road until you reach a narrow road which zigzags among the Israeli settlements.

There is no other connection between Nahalin and the rest of the West Bank. Since the Second Intifada broke out, the direct road to Hebron has been closed by the Israeli army with road blocks of stones.


Stones blocking the direct road from Nahalin to Hebron (photo: Marta Fortunato, AIC)

“Before the year 2000, driving from here to Hebron took us twenty minutes, but now we must first go back to Bethlehem and this takes us more than one hour. This is apartheid”, Dib continues, sad and wretched.
As a result, Nahalin, a rural community in the past, has been forcedly turned into an urban community, with all the ensuing problems. The figures speak for themselves: 25% of the population is unemployed, only 15% of its inhabitants work in the agriculture sector while 40% of its labor force has got sucked into the Israeli labor market, in both Israel and the  settlements around Nahalin.

Ethnic Cleansing – Topic | Settlement Construction – CategoryPictures

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