Paul Goldman / NBC News
Abu Nidal, 70, stands on his land in the Palestinian village of Al-Walaja. Construction of the Israeli security barrier can be seen in the background.
AL-WALAJA, West Bank – Palestinian activists are calling for a “Global March to Jerusalem” this Friday to mark Land Day, an annual event that commemorates the killing of six Arabs who were protesting the Israeli practice of expropriating Arab land to build Jewish settlements on March 30, 1976.
Since then Palestinians have commemorated March 30 as Land Day and have turned it into a general day of protest against what they see as discriminatory practices by the Israeli government.
But 70-year-old Abu Nidal doesn’t need a special calendar day to remind him of the Israeli occupation and their confiscation of his land. Nidal just needs to wake up every morning and look outside his window to see how the Israelis are confiscating his land.
He lives in the village Al Walaja, nestled in the hills between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Half of the village of just over 2,000 is considered to be part of Jerusalem and the other half is part of the West Bank. So now the Israeli security wall snakes through the village.
“Land Day is like a music record being played over and over,” he said. “I live out of despair with no future in sight, I see no light only darkness.”
When the Israelis sent huge yellow bulldozers to the village in 2010 to start working on the separation wall, no one bothered to check on whether or not the wall ran through Nidal’s farm land – which it does. And it has not only been 86 olive trees that were up rooted by the approximately 26-foot high concrete barrier, but also Nidal’s family graveyard.
Paul Goldman / NBC News
Parts of the Israeli security wall are still under construction, while others are already snaking through the West Bank village Al-Walaja.
It was his grandmother’s wish that every family member be buried on their 11-acre farm land. But the Israelis have a different plan for the confiscated land. They are planning to build not only the wall, but a recreational park for Israelis on the other side of the wall.
As it stands now, Nidal can only look at his mother and grandmother’s graves from a distance with the dreadful knowledge that soon the wall will be his only view.
“It’s not only a question of land confiscation, but also of making our life so miserable that we will have to pack up our lives and leave,” Nidal said. “But, of course, I want to be buried alongside my mother.”
This Friday when demonstrators take to the streets commemorating Land Day, Nidal won’t join them; his battle is being waged in the Israeli courts. But he pointed out that his case doesn’t have much of a shot. “The court is Israeli, the judge is Israeli and the lawyers are Israelis. It’s a losing battle.”
Nidal’s story is just one out of many. There are approximately 2,300 Palestinians living in the village of Al Walaja and everyone I talked to had a similarly desperate story. The common theme to all the stories is the feeling they live in a prison surrounded by a wall and Jewish settlements.