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As in most Palestinian villages, residents of the Bethlehem-area village of Walajah are dependent upon agriculture for their economic livelihood. Walajah, renowned for its natural water springs, the most important of which is Eyen El Hiniyya, is situated partially within East Jerusalem, illegally annexed by Israeli authorities, and partially within the West Bank.

In 2016 the Israeli Nature Authority and Jerusalem Municipality commenced a rehabilitation project for the spring, with the aim of improving local infrastructure and building a national park nearby.

The Jerusalem Municipality, in cooperation with Israeli army, closed the area of Eyen El Hiniyya and erected a checkpoint. Dozens of farmers,whose land is situated on the other side of the checkpoint, subsequently lost access to the spring and now require difficult-to-obtain permission from the Israeli Civil Administration to access and farm their own lands. These farmers have thus lost their most important source of income. Israeli policies, which further include land confiscation for both the construction of settlements and the Separation Wall, are clearly intended to create a reality on the ground that isolates Palestinians, restricting their access to natural resources.

Walajah Mayor Alla Darras reports that his village has been under attack since 1948, when residents of the original Walajah village were deported to the current site and where they rebuilt their homes and lives.Yet following 1967 and the expansion of the Jerusalem Municipality boundaries to illegally include East Jerusalem, much of the new village became part of Jerusalem and land was subsequently confiscated. “And now the authorities, after taking over and confiscating Palestinian-owned land, close the water springs like Eyen Hiniyya, depriving residents of a necessary resource for their work.”

Walajah farmer Ali Barghouth noted that “we are calling on human rights organizations and the international community to monitor our situation and make effective pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to halt these violations of our right to live, and provide us access to our lands and water.”

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