Apr 29, 2017

Day 2 EFA Visit to Palestine: Jerusalem & Hebron

Jill Evans MEP reports on the second day of the visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem with EFA MEPs Ana Miranda and François Alfonsi.

Our journey began in Jerusalem itself - or rather in the hills above Jerusalem.

From an incredible vantage point over the whole city, including the Mount of Olives and the Dome of the Rock, we learned how vitally important planning decisions are. They can determine the very future of a state. We looked down on a vast area of land between Jerusalem and Jericho.

There are plans to build houses here for Israeli settlers - that is, people who move into the occupied West Bank to live, often in caravans or makeshift houses to start with, but then expand and grow the settlement into a village or town which soon gets connected to electricity, water and all other utilities.

They create new Israeli towns in the middle of Palestinian communities. It would be a disaster for Palestine if this particular area was built on because it would take even more of their land and prevent them moving freely between their communities. The road already built there is for the use of Israeli settlers only - local Palestinian people are not allowed to travel on it.

Our next stop was to look at the separation wall that has been built around the West Bank. It is a massive ugly concrete wall that often runs down the middle of the road, cutting villages in half, separating children from their schools, workers from their workplace, patients from their hospitals. I have seen the wall many times before, topped with its razor wire, but I still cannot believe that in the 21st century we have yet another wall which separates people and brings not security but misery. However, like the Berlin wall, the Israeli wall is quickly being covered with colourful graffiti messages of support and hope.

It was hope that I found in Hebron too. I have been here before - the city that has been described as having more restrictions on people than any other city in the world. There are streets that Palestinians are not allowed to walk down (although I could as a foreigner) and the are many checkpoints. People have to go through airport security type machines and metal turnstiles several times a day just going about their everyday business. Children have to go through them to get to school. Soldiers are a constant presence on the streets. It is heartbreaking to see such a beautiful ancient city scarred in this way. Hundreds of shops and other businesses have closed down and what was a thriving commercial centre is now a ghost town. But despite everything a few local glass makers have survived in business.

We left Hebron for Tel Aviv - an hour's drive - to meet two Israeli Members of Parliament. Ironically we were stopped at an Israeli checkpoint on the Road. We were ordered to hand over our passports, take our belongings and leave our mini bus to go into the terminal. We each had to be security checked and then wait while our bus was thoroughly searched by the soldiers.

We were very late arriving for our meetings in Israel. We could honestly say it wasn't our fault!

For more information: on the European Free Alliance (EFA) delegation to Jerusalem and the West Bank

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The Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) is an independent non-profit and non-partisan organisation registered in Belgium (BE 0828.629.725) with an office in London.

The CEPR is entered on the Transparency Register Joint Secretariat of the European Parliament and European Commission (No. 60576433-83).

We work to improve dialogue between Europe and the Arab world with the goal of restituting Palestinian rights according to international law within a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.