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A divided Palestinian neighborhood, torn in two by an Israeli highway

Beit Safafa is a Palestinian neighborhood just south of West Jerusalem, inside annexed and occupied East Jerusalem, all within the boundaries of Israel’s vast Jerusalem municipality. It is situated between the Green Line to its northern perimeter, and the Israeli settlement of Gilo on its southern perimeter. (To find Beit Safafa on Ir Amim’s map below, move your eyes directly down from “West Jerusalem” and you will see it, just below the Green Line.)

Greater Jerusalem Map (Ir Amim)

Until 1967, Beit Safafa was divided between Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank. Train tracks ran through it along the 1949 Armistice Lines. When Israel occupied East Jerusalem, Beit Safafa came entirely under Israeli rule and despite what Israeli governments will tell you, it was not united, but rather torn apart once again: most of its residents became permanent residents, but a minority in the northern part received Israeli citizenship, instantly giving the same neighborhood’s population very different political rights.

Beit Safafa, which has a population of just under 10,000, is now facing it’s third major bisection, this time by a highway being constructed by Israel that will literally cut through the neighborhood. Highway 4, or the Begin Highway, is a Jerusalem ring road intended to create one continuous stretch of highway from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of the city to the Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc in the north.

It would ultimately link the West Bank’s two most controversial highways: the Tunnel Road connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem in the south and Road 443, a.k.a. the Apartheid Highway, which routes settler traffic north of the city to Tel Aviv while denying access to Palestinians. The width of the road planned to cut through the neighborhood ranges from 33 to 78 meters. Part of it will exist as a six-lane highway and other parts could have as many as 10-11 lanes.

According to Ir Amim, which has published an excellent fact sheet on the issue, the municipality has found a way to bypass the necessary procedures that require public inclusion, making it impossible for Beit Safafa residents to formally object to the plans. As Nir Hasson recently reported for Haaretz:

The road is based on a general plan dating from 23 years ago, that the courts decided was detailed enough to enable construction to start. Under Israeli law, you can get compensation only if you prove that a specifically approved plan caused you damage. In this case, the villagers would have to have appealed against the plan back in 1990.

On December 12, 2012, 15 Beit Safafa residents filed an administrative petition against the Jerusalem Municipality and its construction company, Moriah, which was rejected last week. They plan on appealing to the Supreme Court.

For weeks now, residents have been regularly holding protests at the construction site, which police have been dispersing with force. Residents have also complained of harassment and collective punishment by the authorities, for example stepping up fines for illegal construction and arresting residents for organizing labor strikes.

Yesterday (Friday), activists reported that police exerted excessive force, using stun grenades gas, tasers and pepper spray, violently arreesting eight people and injuring 10. One of the eight arrested is a minor who has since been released. The rest are still being held in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. Here are several videos taken by protestors:

How can the Israeli regime really think building this highway in this manner on occupied Palestinian territory is safe for anyone? Is it really going to guarantee long-term security for Israeli Jews to safely and freely travel between Jerusalem and the settlements?

Does Israel really think it can unilaterally implement policies that violate human rights – not to mention the civil rights of its own residents and citizens – forever without paying the price?

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    1. Palestinan

      Israel is building facts on the ground ,tearing Palestinian neighborhoods and villages apart,turning the life of the unwanted non-Jewish indigenous population into hell to force them to leave and basically judaizing whatever can be judaized ,ignoring the Palestinian existence or more accurately working against it.They are finishing what their parents and grandparents have started a century ago.And its all done in the name of “secughity”.

      Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      For nearly 100 years Palestinian Arabs can’t come to a wide understanding of one simple fact – killing Jews does not pays off well.

      Obviously, you wouldn’t expect Jews to sit and wait while you come to such cumbersome realisation, would you?

      Reply to Comment
      • Zephon

        Monkey logic alert!

        Palestinian and Arab are antithetical definitions. Any ARAB Jew will tell you that – silly chimp.

        Still waiting to be proven wrong.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Article 1. Palestine is an Arab homeland bound by strong Arab national ties to the rest of the Arab Countries and which together form the great Arab homeland.

          You are wrong as usually, Mr. Tapeworm.

          Reply to Comment
          • Zephon

            Still waiting to be proven wrong.

            You have yet to provide what your definition of Arab is – silly chimp.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Proving you anything is waste of time, Mr. Tapeworm.

            Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        From your grammar and diction, I would guess you are an ex-Soviet emigre (or something to the effect).

        Have you ever considered returning to your native land?

        Reply to Comment
      • Rauna

        Why Palestinian Arabs have to pay the price? It was the nazis who slaughtered the Jews

        Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      There was a 20+ year old plan that was approved and discussed already with the residents of Beit Safafa. In the meantime the residents built houses illegally within close proximity to the future route of the highway. Now they demonstrate that their houses are going to be near the highway and get attention from the usual crowd that likes to demonstrate against Israel for any and all reasons.

      Nobody’s rights are being violated. This is all nonsense produced for the politically illiterate and gullible.

      Reply to Comment
      • directrob

        “This is all nonsense produced for the politically illiterate and gullible.”

        I assume this refers to your own contribution?

        Reply to Comment
      • Palestinan

        Illegal in the eyes of who exactly ?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Illegal in the eyes of the only sovereign that exists in East Jerusalem regardless of whether that sovereign is Israel or the IDF.

          Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        Yeah, Palestinians’ rights are totally not violated by a four-and-a-half decade military occupation. Okay.

        Reply to Comment
    4. rsgengland

      The term ‘Apartheid Highway’ is very interesting.
      What were the reasons for making it for Israelis only (that does include Israeli Muslims and Christians), but excludes Palestinians.
      Could it possibly have been restricted due to violent Palestinian actions against Israelis (stone throwing is a violent act that can and does kill).
      Apartheid means the legal suppression of people on the basis of race and/or religion.
      I would counter that this situation has arisen for security and safety reasons, mainly due to violent Palestinian stoning of Israeli vehicles on this road.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid


        It is against international law to build infrastructure in occupied territories that ONLY serves the citizens of the occupier. Unlike the other violations rightists make up some fuzzy distortion for, this one is plain and clear.

        It CANNOT be built only for Israeli citizens. Period.

        Also, the security excuse has been abused so thoroughly by disgusting colonialists it’s hard to credit anyone that brings up “security” anymore.

        Reply to Comment
        • labhras

          “It CANNOT be built only for Israeli citizens. Period.” Gearoid

          Clarification—as there are only Jews living in the Illegal sttlements these are Jews only Roads.

          Further proof of Apartheid Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Abe

            Well that’s not the most clever remark, is it? Beit Safafa’s residents who approved of this road (that will directly and positively effect the economy of all) is accessible to the residents of bet Safafa as well. So; absolutely no proof for the r i d i c u l o u s claim of “apartheid” . Let’s not accept this “s t u p i d-heid”

            Reply to Comment