Yesterday we participated in a protest in Issawiya, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They are experiencing what all the East Jerusalem neighborhoods are going through--strangulation and land expropriation. Issawiya is located just adjacent to Hebrew University on Mt Scopus. A number of years ago, the village submitted a zoning plan to develop according to their needs on a portion of their land. That plan was not accepted by the Israeli authorities. Over time, the village blueprint has been made smaller and smaller through land confiscation, lost court battles, etc. The only way they are allowed to build is upward with additional stories on their existing homes--despite having undeveloped land that belongs to the village. Like so many East Jerusalem neighborhoods, they have been stuck in court battles as settlements, highways, "archeological parks" and all other forms of infrastructure develop around them.
Some time ago (when exactly is not clear) the police blockaded 2 of the 3 roads that lead in and out of the village. It has created great hardship for the residents as they now must take circuitous routes to get to work, school, clinics, etc. All public transportation in and out of the neighborhood has had to be re-routed. One bus stops at one end of the neighborhood, then the person must walk through Issawiya, up the road to the next stone blockade and catch the bus to continue on their route. We asked why the closure was done. The only thing we kept hearing was "collective punishment"--the people have been resisting and going to court over the land confiscation.
Yesterday's "event" was meant to be a tour of the village by the local residents to help Israelis (especially Hebrew U. students) see what is happening. However, when we arrived, there were lines of heavily armed police at the entrance to the village. At first they prohibited the group of Israelis and local Palestinian residents, from marching. We did walk through a part of the village and were again met at the next exit road, by another line of police. There was a stand-off where we heard speeches telling what was happening (they nicely had someone translating to English for the small group of us exclusive English speakers!!), then we left. It felt a bit tense as we watched the police with shields, guns, tear gas shooters, etc. all lined up. Fortunately, I don't see news this morning of any violent confrontations.
Here are some photos--scenes of a very militarized city: