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Palestinians in Jerusalem are struggling to sustain a march in the city they call home: Parallels: NPR



Raja Tamimi has to cross checkpoint Qalandia to commute to her job in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Daniel Estrin


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Daniel Estrin

Raja Tamimi has to cross checkpoint Qalandia to commute to her work in the Old City of Jerusalem

Daniel Estrin

When the US opens its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday and supports the city as the capital of Israel, it will also support a strange reality. About 38 percent of the city's inhabitants are not Israelis at all. They are Palestinians. And they want to build their own capital in the city.

Israel refuses. Instead, Israel has transformed Jerusalem so that many Palestinians have to gain a foothold in the city in which they live.

Since the mid-2000s, according to census figures, tens of thousands of Palestinians live in the city's concrete wall, which cuts through the city. It is part of the barrier Israel built during a wave of Palestinian attacks in the early 2000s to keep attackers out.

It is a complicated work path for Palestinians like Raja Tamimi, who works as a receptionist in the old town. First she gets into a taxi at 6 o'clock. On a recent morning, the driver was racing down the wrong lane, past a row of cars waiting to get through the checkpoint.

"It's very dangerous," says Tamimi. "But if he does not, he will not be here."

A sign at an Israeli checkpoint warns Israelis against entering. A Palestinian neighborhood is behind the checkpoint.

Daniel Estrin


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Daniel Estrin

A sign at an Israeli checkpoint warns Israelis against entering. A Palestinian quarter is behind the checkpoint

Daniel Estrin

"Here" is the Qalandia checkpoint with military watchtowers and a high concrete wall with "Free Palestine" graffiti and murals depicting famous Palestinian political and militant figures.

According to Israeli rules, the taxi driver is not allowed to drive through the checkpoint. And Tamimi says she can not take a bus through the checkpoint because she is under 45 years old. She could go through the checkpoint, go through a metal detector and show her ID to a soldier behind bullet-proof glass, but that would take too long while other Palestinian Jerusalem residents crowded the line during the morning rush hour.

So she flaps a ride from a private driver who has made it to the front of the line and drives her through the checkpoint to work.

She said that her one and a half hour commute would take 20 minutes if there was no wall or checkpoint.

"It's not fair," said Tamimi. "I have to hurry, it's not easy, it's not normal to go to the checkpoint, see this bad view, it's not good."

She did not always live behind a wall. She rented a house overlooking the old town, but she wanted to buy her own house. Israel has few building permits that would allow the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem to expand, and housing prices were very high.

She had few opportunities to move beyond the Israeli border to Qufr Aqab, a neglected district of Jerusalem (19659008) "I hate to rent and move from this house to this house – it's not easy and it is is not fair, you are not sure, you have been thinking about the future all the time, "Tamimi

Akram Tamimi, 79, moved to a neighborhood behind the wall to obtain his Jerusalem right of residence, but called it" one Jail".

Daniel Estrin


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Daniel Estrin

Akram Tamimi, 79, moved to a quarter behind the Wall to obtain his Jerusalem right of residence, but called it "a prison."

Daniel Estrin

She has considered applying for Israeli citizenship, which would consolidate her status as a citizen of Israel and not the lesser status of residents in the city. It is something that many Palestinians despise when surrendering to an occupier; Israel often rejects applications, sometimes relying on security reasons.

Her 79-year-old father, Akram Tamimi, also uprooted in the same area behind the barrier.

"We call it a prison, no life," he said

He lived in a four-story house with a garden on the outskirts of town. But in the mid-1990s, the geopolitics of the region changed. His house was considered part of the West Bank and under partial self-government of the Palestinians.

If he stayed there, Israel could deprive him of his Jerusalem residency rights – and his access to Israeli health insurance and hospitals in Jerusalem. 19659008] "That's why," he explained, "I came here, I'm just looking for future health."

He lives behind the Israeli barrier, where Israeli police do not often patrol where Israeli ambulances do not invade. If he had to rush to the hospital, a Palestinian ambulance would take him to the checkpoint, where he would have to be taken to an Israeli ambulance on the other side.

"The patient often died before he arrived at the hospital," he said.

He has Israeli friends, but they do not visit him – a big red sign on the barrier warns the Israelis not to go inside. This area is not a Palestinian-controlled area. It is still part of Jerusalem controlled by Israel.

"This is very good for animals, not for humans," he said.

President Trump has said that the final borders of Jerusalem are the subject of negotiations, suggesting that the Palestinians could set up their hoped-for capital in parts of East Jerusalem.

Israeli legislator Michael Oren suggests that President Trump's promised peace plan could force Israel to make concessions.

Palestinians go through an Israeli checkpoint at the Israeli Separation Wall, which cuts through some parts of East Jerusalem.

Daniel Estrin


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Palestinians go through an Israeli checkpoint on the Israeli Separation Wall, which cuts through some parts of East Jerusalem.

Daniel Estrin

"Let's discuss it, let's not refuse it, even if it has aspects that are difficult for us, including aspects of Jerusalem," Oren said.

Even without a peace plan, some Israeli legislators want Israel's Redraw municipal boundaries to remove Palestinian neighborhoods from East Jerusalem from the city limits, in an effort to lessen the Palestinian portion as part of the city and thus balance the Jewish majority the city.

What would happen These Palestinian neighborhoods vary according to the proposal. Some say they should become a new Israeli community – they should keep the area in Israeli hands, while not allowing their Palestinian population to outbalance the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Others say the neighborhoods should be handed over to Palestinian control and become a Palestinian capital.

When Israel withdraws from the Palestinian neighborhoods, like Raja Tamimi – she says she would move again to make sure she can stay in the city that is her home and they receive the Israeli residency rights you, as a resident of Jerusalem guaranteed, such as national health insurance and access to the Israeli labor market.

"We want to live in Jerusalem," she says, "because we want the ID, you do not want a good life?"


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