Background

Background

Beit Jala is a growing Palestinian agricultural town (whose name in Aramaic means "grass carpet") spreading over an area of 14,000 dunums (dunum = 0.1 hectare). It is located 5 kilometers away from the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. The town lies on the slope of a hill covered with olive trees, vineyards and apricots. Beit Jala is reputed for its master stone-masons. Sharafat and Beit Safafa villages lie to the north of this historic town, Bethlehem to the east where the Jerusalem-Hebron road is considered the town's eastern border line, El Khader village to the south, and Battir village to the west).

From 1940 until the beginning of the Israeli Occupation in 1967, Beit Jala was a beautiful summer resort frequented by tourists because of its good weather, attractive scenery, and its location on top of a mountain (930 m.) overlooking Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other places.

Soon after its occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, the Israeli government strictly controlled all aspects of life in the cities and villages of the West Bank. Beit Jala was one of these West Bank towns which has been subjected to a continuous wave of aggression by the Israeli occupying authorities which led to its fragmentation.

Over 30 years of Israeli occupation, many colonization schemes were implemented in Beit Jala which shred the town's agricultural infrastructure into segments. So far, three colonies called Gilo, Har Gilo, and Giv'at Hamatos have been created on Beit Jala's cultivated land. Two tunnels and two by-pass roads were also constructed on the town's confiscated land.

The Oslo II Interim Agreement had resulted in a division of the West Bank into three types of areas which are distinguished by a different level of control, Areas A, B, and C. Several Palestinian built-up areas were assigned as Areas A or B, yet portions of their community lie in Area C (under complete Israeli control). In the case of Beit Jala, Area A comprising approximately 3,500 dunums of about 25% of the town's land is under Palestinian control.On the other hand, the remaining 75% (Area C) is under Israeli jurisdiction, and 7% of the total Area C is located inside the Municipality border. Thus, many neighborhoods in a town or village are physically separated from the core part of their communities.